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Donald Rumsfeld famously set out that there are known knowns; the things we know we know. Known unknowns; the things we know we don’t know. And unknown unknowns; the things we don’t know we don’t know.

It’s the latter category that strikes fear into housing management professionals.

Across the sector, landlords have well-developed processes to ensure that their stock meets the decent homes standard and that any complaints are addressed appropriately. There are also ambitious plans to retrofit ageing stock to meet modern sustainability standards.

But without comprehensive and accurate data about the condition of every property that they manage, social landlords are operating in a climate of unknown unknowns. They simply do not know to what degree of risk they are exposed in the future. In the long term, this could result in under- or over-estimating the cost of capital works programmes. In the short term, it could mean overlooking critical maintenance and exposing tenants to harm.

Against this backdrop and following a bruising couple of years for the sector, housing providers across the country are revisiting their approach to stock condition surveys.

However, an official stock condition survey shouldn’t be the only time we collect data. Every time someone visits a property is an opportunity to update the data, and this should be used whether that be a housing officer attending or a gas service or electrical test.

It is important to upskill teams to identify issues while they are looking at other things and make sure that this is properly recorded.

But whether collected through a stock condition survey or a home visit – with each home containing hundreds of individual data points, there is also a fine line between collecting not enough and too much information.

At Procure Plus, our secret weapon in navigating this challenging debate is our people. With a longstanding history of working with landlords to put together, manage and continuously improve commercial arrangements, we are able to share best practice at every stage.

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