Heka has been working on a unified debt collection process for more than four years now. Customer orientation has been the central theme of the collection process from the start of the development work. Heka has had relatively few evictions due to rental debt, and fewer and fewer cases of rental debt have to be taken to the district court. We are now placing particular emphasis on reaching young tenants with rental debt in order for them to be able to take care of their debts before they lead to eviction.
The purpose of customer-oriented debt collection is to support the customer in a difficult debt situation by means such as plain language and timely communication, payment agreements, a detailed process and housing consultation.
“We appreciate customers’ initiative and taking an active role and provide them with several opportunities to remedy the situation in the different phases of debt collection. We advise customers not to try to manage on their own in a debt situation, telling them not to hesitate to contact the lease control department or a housing consultant,” says General Counsel Sanna Auressalmi.
Those working in Heka’s debt collection service have achieved magnificent results with a humane yet firm approach. Rental receivables have decreased and fewer cases of rental debt have to be taken to the district court. The annual eviction rate has remained low at Heka. Heka has 50,000 rental apartments, and only 86 tenants were evicted due to rental debt in 2020.
The results have encouraged Heka to continue developing its collection practices. In 2020, Heka was involved in the national ASTA project organised by ARA and the Guarantee Foundation to prevent tenants’ financial problem. The target group of Heka’s part in the project was young tenants with rental debt residing Heka’s north-eastern area, as Heka’s collection reports had indicated an increase in young tenants’ rental debts. During the project, Heka introduced intensified communication during voluntary collection and at the beginning of district court proceedings. The easy-to-read messages worked: young tenants contacted Heka and got their rental payment problems under control better and at an earlier stage.
A text message from Heka instructs a young tenant taken to court due to rental debt to take care of their rental payments
Since the end of the ASTA project, Heka has continued its intensified communication practice as an integral part of the debt collection process. At the beginning of 2021, Heka introduced a message function aimed at customers aged 18–29. If a young customer is taken to court due to rental debt, they receive a text message or e-mail from Heka regarding the beginning of the district court proceedings. The message describes the serious situation in a stern manner, yet gives hope – the situation can be resolved even at that stage by contacting the lessor. The messages have reached young tenants.
“Approximately 75% of young tenants who have received the message have contacted us and wanted to resolve their debt situation. This means that timely communication is immensely important. It is great that we are able to reach young tenants and they are able to take care of their rental payment problems,” says Auressalmi happily.
Heka’s communication regarding debt collection has also been diversified by introducing plain language letters for different debt situations, the target group of which is all tenants with rental debt. The goal of these new letters is for the recipient to change their payment behaviour by means such as making a payment agreement with Heka.
The work on customer orientation and humaneness continues: the aim is to expand the intensified communication to cover all age groups, and another goal is to increase digitality.
“As a responsible lessor, we want to find the best ways to reach and motivate customers to prevent them from losing their homes and help them take care of their rental payments. This serves the lessor’s best interests as well,” concludes Auressalmi.