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Tenants & Residents Organisations of England (TAROE) Confederation

By Lester Jackson,2014-04-19 17:02
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Tenants & Residents Organisations of England (TAROE) Confederation

    JOINT RESPONSE

    TO TSA

    CONSULTATION “BUILDING A NEW

    REGULATORY

    FRAMEWORK”

Tenants & Residents Organisations of England (TAROE)

    Confederation of Co-operative Housing (CCH)

    National Federation of Tenant Management

    Organisations (NFTMOs)

    This submission is signed by the three chairs of the national tenant organisations as follows:

Michael Gelling Terry Edis Nic Bliss

    TAROE NFTMO CCH

    CCH Fairgate House, 205 Kings Road, Tyseley, Birmingham B11 2AA www.cch.coop Chair Nic Bliss

    NFMTO Burrowes Street TMC, Resource Centre, Burrowes Street, Walsall WS2 8NN www.nftmo.com Chair Terry Edis

TAROE Jackson House, 2nd Avenue, Runcorn WA7 2PD

    www.taroe.org Chair Michael Gelling

TAROE, CCH, NFTMO joint response to TSA consultation “Building a Regulatory Framework” 2

    Joint response to the Tenant Services Authority consultation “Building a New Regulatory Framework”

    1 Introduction

    Since it was launched last year the Tenant Services Authority has given a high priority to the task of introducing itself to tenants around the country, not just through the National Conversation but also by providing speakers at many events where tenants of councils and housing associations have gathered. This initiative has been welcomed by tenants and seen as an indicator of a refreshingly new approach.

    A constant and key message from TSA speakers has been that the TSA would be „working for tenants‟, as compared with previous regulatory regimes which may have been seen as built around the needs of the landlords. This sea change would, said the TSA spokespersons, transform the relationship between social landlords and their tenants. Tenants would have an important role to play in regulating their landlords and, as a result, would have more influence and more choice they would be empowered!

    This message has been well received by tenants at all the events organised by or with the national tenants‟ organisations. Tenants were

    encouraged by the prospect of change, albeit some may have been understandably wary of „another false dawn‟.

    So the TSA, having engaged directly with tenants, has deliberately raised expectations and encouraged tenants to see the possibility of radical change. It is in that context that TAROE, NFTMO and CCH

    the three national tenants organisations recognised by government, respond together to the TSA discussion paper „Building a New Regulatory Framework‟.

    On behalf of our members and tenants round the country we expect real change. The TSA has created a climate of interest and expectation. We are ready to respond and work with other stakeholders to make the change effective and longlasting. We are not interested in rebranding policies that have consistently failed to genuinely empower social housing tenants for generations.

    TAROE, CCH, NFTMO joint response to TSA consultation “Building a Regulatory Framework” 3

    We agree that the co-regulatory approach is theoretically welcome as a means of empowering tenants to shape the services they receive and hold their landlord to account. However the reality is the current tenant constituency is largely disempowered. It is not realistic to expect effective co-regulation without a considerable and properly resourced process to empower tenants. Effective and mature co-regulation is dependent on the TSA‟s Empowerment Standard and requires buy in from landlords and a major empowerment culture change amongst landlords, tenants and all other stakeholders.

    2 Defining tenant empowerment

    Tenant empowerment means landlords enabling tenants to take power, either collectively or individually, over their lives. In the regulated housing sector, this means enabling tenants to have access to a spectrum of possibilities, including the strongest possible options for getting involved both across the whole landlord and in local neighbourhoods in decisions about their homes, neighbourhoods, communities and landlords wherever possible - to the extent of their choosing

    3 Developing and accrediting tenant empowerment strategies

    Landlords should be required to agree with their tenants, not just tenant involvement structures, but a strategy to build and empower a democratic constituency of tenants (using the word democratic in its broad sense to mean building a constituency that potentially involves all tenants and the diversity of tenants with active steps taken to be inclusive). This strategy should particularly include landlords providing adequate empowerment resources for tenants that should include reasonable access to out of pocket expenses and independent advice for tenants. In all cases, the strategy should be agreed with tenants and independently accredited, in accordance with a policy agreed by the National Tenant Voice, the three national tenant organisations and the TSA. Accreditation should be carried out by an organisation which has been approved by the National Tenant Voice to accredit empowerment strategies.

This proposal responds to a number of concerns:

    a) empowerment strategies must be actively agreed with tenants. It

    is not acceptable for landlords to determine on their own how

    tenants will be engaged with

    TAROE, CCH, NFTMO joint response to TSA consultation “Building a Regulatory Framework” 4

    b) the development of a tenant constituency that can properly

    engage in a co-regulatory process is a process that needs to be

    carefully developed and managed in a partnership between

    tenants and the landlord

    c) we have deliberately referred to the phrase democratic

    constituency of tenants, because landlords and active tenants

    need to jointly take responsibility for aiming to engage with and

    empower all tenants. Simply having a few tenants without any

    active relationship with the wider tenant constituency on a panel

    or a forum can potentially be as disempowering of other tenants

    as having no tenants involved at all. In particular tenants should

    not be excluded because they disagree with the landlord and

    landlords should not hand pick the tenants they engage with

    d) there is a need for landlords to properly resource the

    empowerment process. Tenants should be provided with

    resources to enable them to participate, including expenses.

    Tenants should be empowered to decide in partnership with the

    landlord how empowerment resources should be used. This

    should usually include bona fide tenants‟organisations being able

    to have access to independent advice where necessary

e) some landlords have shown themselves to be adept at

    producing off the shelf empowerment policies that meet

    regulatory requirements, but which do little to empower tenants

    to be involved in decision-making. The TSA‟s co-regulation

    approach is reliant on real tenant empowerment taking place.

    Therefore there is no alternative to landlords being required to

    have their empowerment strategies independently accredited.

    This process needs to be done and agreed through the NTV so

    that the process is credible to tenants.

    4 Getting the basics right & going the extra mile

    We welcome that landlords are to be expected to get basic services right, and want to see steps taken to reinforce getting services right. However, it needs to be clearly understood that service excellence does not necessarily equate to tenant satisfaction. This is because the tenant-landlord relationship is far more complex than a basic customer/provider relationship. This is clearly demonstrated by the loyalty recorded in the TSA‟s research shown by some tenants to their landlords, as well as by the frustration of some active tenants. People generally feel better if they have more control over their own lives. The

    TAROE, CCH, NFTMO joint response to TSA consultation “Building a Regulatory Framework” 5

    benefits of an empowerment strategy cannot be measured simply by using management performance indicators. Any approach that restricts the tenant/landlord relationship to a basic customer/provider relationship is doomed to failure.

    5 Security of tenure

The TSA‟s standard on tenure should require all landlords to give their

    tenants the strongest possible security of tenure, regardless of considerations about the needs of potential tenants as suggested in clauses 4.96 to 4.99. There are no circumstances where the needs of potential tenants should outweigh the provision of full security of tenure for existing tenants - Government should fulfill its housing strategy responsibilities through other means. The three national tenant organisations will oppose and campaign against any proposals to dilute tenancy rights, either for existing or future tenants within the regulated housing sector.

    6 Tenant control

    The TSA should take active steps to ensure that tenant control options are available to a much wider body of tenants than is currently the case and that tenants are made aware of tenant control options available. These options should include tenant management, ownership housing co-ops and community gateway as well as any other available options. We are disappointed that the consultation document does not refer at all to the TSA‟s research conclusion that the most satisfied tenants live in housing co-ops.

    7 The “tenant trigger”

    Tenants should be empowered in their relationship with the TSA as well as with their landlords. The TSA should set out a clear protocol and policy about whether and how it will exercise its powers following representations from tenants. This protocol and policy should be agreed with the National Tenant Voice & the three national tenant organisations. The “tenant trigger”, previously advertised and promoted by TSA officers, has raised expectations amongst tenants that they will be in a position to require the TSA to investigate poorly performing landlords, and it is disappointing the Government has chosen not to take this proposal forward at this time. In the absence of a tenant trigger, the three national tenant organisations consider that there needs to be an open and transparent process, accountable to tenants through the NTV and the three national

    TAROE, CCH, NFTMO joint response to TSA consultation “Building a Regulatory Framework” 6

    tenant organisations, that determines how the TSA will respond to tenant representations.

    8 Property disposals

Given the disquiet recorded in the TSA‟s research from tenants of

    merged and large housing associations, the TSA should not agree to the transfer of tenants homes from one landlord to another without being satisfied that a full programme of consultation has taken place with all tenants involved similar to the process used when transferring homes from council to housing association ownership.

    The TSA acknowledges that there will be circumstances where a strong case can be made for „rationalising‟ the housing stock social landlords by arranging transfers from one landlord to another. This case may arise, for example where a housing association decides that some of its housing would be best managed by another RSL. Such approaches should not be restricted to the landlords. Tenants will often be better placed to identify the need for such a change. Accordingly we also propose that tenants should be able to petition the TSA to initiate a discussion about the transfer of their homes to another landlord, and that such a petition should lead to the TSA instructing the landlord to properly consider a transfer proposal, with tenants having access to independent advice as necessary.

    9 Local standards

    We welcome the fact that the TSA acknowledges that services and policies should be shaped at a local level in consultation with tenants. Tenants should take the lead in defining what is meant by „local‟ and

    landlords should be required to work with tenants in tenant defined local community areas to address local priorities. This approach will lend itself to local solutions, for example in multi-landlord neighbourhoods, and acknowledges that what is right for one community is not necessarily right for another. Once local standards are agreed then landlords should be judged against those local standards as well as national standards. If a community is being poorly served by a large national housing association, it is no consolation to be told that on average the association is meeting standards nationally.

    TAROE, CCH, NFTMO joint response to TSA consultation “Building a Regulatory Framework” 7

10 Communications

    Poor quality communication with and provision of information to

    tenants can be the source of considerable frustration for tenants.

    Either there should be a Communications Standard that sets out that

    landlords are expected to provide information on their performance,

    operations and strategies in a tenant friendly fashion to all tenants,

    and provide all non-confidential information to active tenants as

    requested, or communication issues need to be threaded through

    other standards. We also expect that landlords should be required to

    pass on information from the National Tenant Voice to their tenants.

    Landlords should also be required to work with tenants on clear

    standards of customer care that require that they respond

    constructively within reasonable timescales to tenant issues.

11 Promotion campaign

    Once the TSA standards have been agreed, they should be presented

    in a tenant friendly fashion clearly explained with appropriate

    language marks used. An easy to read guide should be produced

    setting out what tenants should expect from their landlords, and the

    TSA should work in partnership with the National Tenant Voice and the

    three national tenant organisations to plan and carry out a

    promotions programme aimed at as many tenants as possible.

    NB. our organisations are submitting additional submissions that deal with specific points relating to our relevant memberships.

TAROE, CCH, NFTMO joint response to TSA consultation “Building a Regulatory Framework” 8

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