Social housing landlords should offer their residents a range of options for being involved as required by the Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard. They should also provide residents with information about their performance and publish annually (from April 2024) data relating to the Tenant Satisfaction Measures.
A Resident Association is a group of people who live in a neighbourhood, and decide that they want to get together to deal with issues that affect their local community. The group can include tenants, shared owners, leaseholders and homeowners.
Resident Associations set up with a set of simple rules, usually known as a constitution which sets out the aims of the group and how it will work towards achieving those aims. The constitution will cover at least the following key issues:
- membership – which should be open to all residents in the defined area which the group is representing
- voting – all members will have an equal vote
- representation – all members should actively seek to represent the various needs of the area and must not discriminate on the grounds of nationality, political opinion, race, religious opinion, gender, age, sexuality, disability or any other basis
- conduct – members should at all times conduct themselves in a reasonable manner when attending meetings
Your landlord will have examples of ‘model’ constitutions.
Groups of residents might start an Resident Association for a variety of reasons, including:
- campaigning for something positive (e.g. a better play area)
- campaigning against something or to get services improved
- giving their community a greater voice than it would have as a collection of individuals
- creating a better sense of community and belonging
- organising social activities or to get involved in local events
- keeping residents informed of what’s happening in the local area neighbourhood
- taking positive action to tackle problems to improve the local area you
Effective Resident Panels involved in decision-making usually need to:
- be about partnership working with the landlord
- have a means of being accountable back to the wider resident constituency
- have routes by which they can influence decision-making and services
- be about practical issues that matter to residents.
The wide array of Resident Panels involved in decision-making makes them difficult to define. The brief descriptions below give some impression of the diversity that exists.
Co-governance: Some Resident Panels involved in decision- making have been defined to have a specific involvement in governance (in some cases in the landlord’s rules). They could be described as “co-governance” panels, working alongside housing association or ALMO Boards or the Council’s cabinet.
Joint management: Others involve residents as part of a body that also includes other members, such as senior staff, Portfolio Holders for housing or other councillors.
Resident management and control: Resident controlled housing organisations (e.g. co-operatives and tenant management organisations) are examples of Resident Panels who manage and/or own their homes.
Advisory panels: Whilst not formally part of the governance structure, some panels have been set up to perform similar functions with direct relationships with Boards and senior staff.
Residents federations: Residents federations are a long-standing means by which residents have been represented. Usually independent of the landlord, they have had various relationships with landlords and operate in different ways.
Area and specific panels: Larger landlords often have area based Resident Panels that operate locally. Some housing associations formed as a result of mergers have Resident Panels set up in different parts of group structures. Some Resident Panels have been set up to consider particular service areas, such as communications, major repairs, resident involvement, diversity, and many others. Some Resident Panels have been set up to represent particular demographic groups in relation to landlord’s Residents.
This function is carried out in many different ways in landlords. Governing bodies (Boards of housing associations and ALMOs and Cabinets in local authorities) scrutinise the way their staff implement policies. Sub-committees scrutinise particular aspects of services. Various groups scrutinise performance information. External and internal auditors independently scrutinise particular activities (most notably the landlord’s accounts). Resident Panels can be involved in many of these activities.
Effective resident scrutiny is driven by:
- independence from landlord governance
- there must be accountability, openness and transparency
- it must integrate with the strategic and performance management frameworks of a landlord
- there must be clear responsibilities that are agreed from the beginning
- there must be a capacity to deliver against expectations
- decisions must be made freely and based on access to a range of information from different commissioned sources
- an ability to shape the parameters of the information the landlord collects
- embedding resident scrutiny into formal performance, operation and assessment frameworks
- raising the profile of scrutiny and making as many residents aware as possible of what it is and how to get involved
- an effective approach to deciding what areas are scrutinised and what evidence will inform decisions
- establishing an appropriate recruitment process and systems for managing conflicts of interest
- agreeing scrutiny report formats and processes for conveying recommendations to the Governing Body
Most landlords have panels that have been set up to enable residents to be involved in reviewing particular services. These may be permanent or temporary task and finish groups. Effective systems to review services might include:
- a systematic plan to review frontline services so that residents are clear when particular elements of the service will be reviewed
- leadership of the review by a team including residents, staff and possibly governing body members
- gathering evidence that feeds into the review (such as survey data, evidence of dissatisfaction, focus groups, the use of resident sounding boards, resident inspection and mystery shopping reports, performance data, benchmark information and information on best practice used elsewhere)
- collating this evidence in a resident friendly fashion to enable residents to challenge emerging conclusions and to enable informed debate between members of the review team
- changes to policies, procedures and systems that are then fed back to residents to show how their input made a difference.