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29 May 2019

This month we spoke to Chris Ford, director and founder of MyHomePassport, about how digitisation is changing the tenant experience and how housing associations, the private sector and tenants alike can embrace technology to improve tenant empowerment.

What is MyHomePassport?

MyHomePassport (MHP) is a digital platform that enables would-be-tenants to be fully pre-qualified (references, background and credit checks) prior to viewing a property and paying a holding deposit. It empowers the renters to tick the pre-qualification boxes by using multiple and highly credible sources - delivering a ‘legal document’ with referees fully ID checked. Ultimately it takes the headache out of renting a property (privately or via a housing association) so that all the administrative work is done up-front and both landlord and tenant have peace of mind.

What’s the history behind it?

We devised the concept because increasingly letting agents have been charging tenants increasingly unfair sums of money (up to £300 per person) to take up references. On June 1st, 2019 it will become law that tenants cannot be charged for referencing and background checking which means that letting agents will pass this cost back to the landlord. Renters will have the option for a nominal charge (under £20) to own their own passport – making them a preferred choice for landlords by reducing risk, time and costs.

It links to a tenants Experian rating - tell us more?

We are developing the MHP app that enables tenants to raise their MHP rental rating during their tenancy by simply paying rent on time, looking after the property and being responsible and neighbourly. We are enabling tenants to link up to Experian's rental exchange which uses rental payments to boost their Credit Score in the same way that homeowners benefit by repaying their mortgages. The MHP rental rating works alongside this and uses algorithms and technology such as time, date, location stamped video in the app to involve them with property care and maintenance.

What can the tenant do themselves to improve their ‘rating’ on the system?

Our system is designed to work for all demographics – it doesn’t matter who you are, what type of property you’re renting or who from, good rental history of full rent payments, property care and an absence of anti-social behaviour will enable the rating to grow. A pre-approved guarantor or tenant liability insurance will also feed into the algorithm as well as a legal reference document from a neighbour or character reference for example. During the tenancy, using the app, the tenant will be prompted to become involved with some self-inspection tasks and reporting of maintenance issues and the quality of repairs and compliance in these areas will also boost their rating.

How can housing associations incentivise their tenants?

The MHP system is designed specifically to incentivise tenants. Previously a lot of time and resources has been spent on dealing with the consequences of rent arrears, property damage, anti-social behaviour and evictions while there has been no real reward for those who act responsibly – MHP turns that upside down.

Nowadays, the 'gamification of life' is commonplace and becoming more accepted, ratings exist everywhere from Uber, Airbnb, TrustPilot to the Credit Score, people respond well to having and building their own ratings.

How can a HA make tenants feel involved and empowered? 

Our app includes many communication features that encourage involvement such as local news, community events and information or suggestions for improvement. It can be branded for each Housing Association and configured to each specification. The main property maintenance and repair reporting section, using video technology, allows the tenant to take ownership of any issues with the property and surrounding areas. Being responsible for self-inspections improves health and safety compliance and that creates a sense of empowerment

Reminders can be set to check smoke alarms and the evidence that they have been checked. A periodic time/date/location stamped photo of the rear of the property, garden, oven, hallways or side passages, for example, will ensure the property is being kept in good order and that reduces repairs, and redecorating costs.

How do you believe your ‘tech’ helps?

Anything that helps improve communication and trust between landlord and tenant helps the relationship. Our app enables the tenants to benefit by incentivising compliance, it helps reduce rental arrears, property damage, and other reasons why a tenant/landlord relationship may breakdown. The MyHomePassport platform is cloud-based and designed to integrate with any housing management system – and we’ve been working closely with MIS AMS.  

How much can a HA expect to save if their tenant takes more ownership of their property?

We know that an average HA spends around £1000 per property per year to keep it in order (not including the cost of rental arrears and staff time). Often repair and redecoration needs are not known until the tenant vacates. Our app will cost less than one twentieth of this average yearly cost. We believe the savings to be significant and to answer the question directly, if a tenant takes more ownership of their property, the HA should only be spending on natural 'wear and tear'.

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