55,000 silent voices.
15/05/2011 6:03 pm
Last week my 55,000 home social landlord outlined to the Government it's plans on how it will use the new Affordable Rent Model.
This is arguably the most radical change in social housing policy for a generation.
The chief exec of England's leading national tenant participation body wrote in this very publication that she expected landlords to have carried out extensive consultation of their tenants on 'affordable rents'.
You can imagine my surprise when a senior member of staff from my landlord wrote and told me: "We are not consulting our existing residents because.. existing residents will be unaffected"
I am totally bemused by my landlord's approach on this. What do the experts think? Is this a regulatory matter in respect of tenant involvement?
Sort: Newest first | Oldest first
15/05/2011 7:17 pm
My understanding from my current employer is that we will introduce the market rent / affordable rent for new tenants from Sept/Oct this year, it will only affect a current tenant if they transfer to a new property, signs a new tenancy agreement and therefore comes under the new Market Rent for the property. So largely it wont affect the majority of my tenants.
The interesting point will come with mutual exchanges, as they are not technically new tenancies, rather deeds of assignment it will be interesting to see what happens with regards to Market Rent.
Should the residents be consulted? In an ideal world I would say yes, but then again if you truely disagree with the rent you are likely to be paying then you can always appeal it to Valuation Officer Agency, will this still hold water when Market Rent is introduced, only time will tell.
Without wishing to put the cat amoungst the pigeons, what would you bring to the table on such a discussion? Beside the obvious request for a measured and transparent introduction to the new rent charges?
Is it regulatory matter? Unless the government has said "thou shalt consult" then there isnt a requirement to legally do so.
15/05/2011 7:31 pm
You're lucky -- ours is saying beggar all to the 'involved tenants' -- something which started co-incidentally after inspection, giving rise to a perception of 'mushrooming'.
Everything is now being perceived as state secrets with many tenants keeping things to themselves and not 'spreading the word' yet whinging when others do not pass on info.
Strangely, I am often whinged at/about when I pass on info gleaned (not confidential stuff, naturally) and even when I don't pass it on.
Mushrooms are kept in the dark and fed a diet of manure!
15/05/2011 9:35 pm
Will 7:17pm - I think social landlord's such as the one you are employed by ought to tread very carefully on this issue.
As I see it the first thing that needs to be done is to get the basics right. I'm sure the Courts will have a firm view on who can be classed as an existing tenant, and thereby not subject to the new affordable rent tenancy if they happen to move to another social rent property. I eagerly await the outcome of a test case.
Of course social landlord's such as the one my tenancy is with, also ought to tread carefully. Since the legal contract between us actually says I have a right to be consulted about 'matters which are likely to have a substantial effect' on me. I think its only reasonable of me to expect to be consulted if there is a potential, however far in the future, of my tenancy being changed to a fixed term.
Once all these matters are clear then I am happy to have a fair debate around the particular pros and cons of the policy.
Rick 7:31 - I personally don't count myself lucky that my landlord has gone to the trouble of telling me they don't care what their existing tenants think.. It's an insult. We have a right to be consulted. On the topic of privacy, I don't believe a tenant representative should be bound by confidentiality. It's not as if you are negoiatiing changing their rent or terms of tenancy.
15/05/2011 9:56 pm
Confidential infiormation about tenants is not mine to be bandied around -- I won't breach confidentiallity.
The 'your lucky' was meant as a comparative term to indiicate that some tenants may be told nowt (as they say up north).
A landlord, in this context, has a board and a company structure and they don't HAVE to tell existing tenants BUT this demonstrates a particular prevailing mindset.
It may be that 'Company Members' could exert pressure and possibly be entitled to have been told but the ordinary 'cash cow' tenants wouldn't fall into that category as far as I can see.
Crikey, we're tenants and should be used to being mushroomed (kept in the dark and fed a diet of manure) by now -- we don't like it but we can do nowt about it.
Any tenant who actually seriously thinks they are there to be consulted (as opposed to insulted) on everything (or anything the landlord is a bit wobbly about) may be in for a bit of a shock I think.
Landlords, apparently, if posts on IH are owt to go by, have had enough of this consultation lark now they have their 'remit' set by local offers.
15/05/2011 10:17 pm
Rick 9:56pm Sorry for any misunderstanding - but I was referring to confidentality specifically relating to your landlord's policies; i.e. affordable rents. This should not be privliged information. And on the same token I wouldn't expect a tenant represenative to be privy to any confiential information on individaul tenants.
15/05/2011 10:34 pm
Anon @ 10-17pm
Most of my landlord's policies are on their website -- not so sure about the more recent ones though. I shall enquire tomorrow though -- thanks for the prompt.
Board minutes appear on the website ... eventually (usually well after they have been passed by Board -- they, or so it appears, like to keep a wrap on things using 'governance as an excuse. Board papers are not made available to interested tenants which ultimately leads to no governance scrutiny at all.
Part of our service improvement requires contractors to detail complaints from customers and this contains addresses -- we recognise these as confidential and have signed a confidentiallity agreement to that effect.
Our landlord (who reads these threads, particularly my contributions) may well be separating scrutiny from service improvement functions but the 'state secret' culture which, by accident or design, is being perceived as 'mushrooming' and is rousing up much in-advance opposition.
16/05/2011 8:56 am
Nonny. Why should they consult you on something that won't effect you?
16/05/2011 9:18 am
all tenants should be consulted on policies affecting tenants whether directly, indirectly or in any other manner.
Having said that the real scandal if not whether the landlords should or should not consult, but the fact that even when they consult, consultation is just a sham and they will still do exactly what they want to do whatever their residents say.
16/05/2011 10:31 am
I do not remember old soldiers being consulted by the MOD on wether the SA80 was a good option for new soldiers...
Probably because it did not them.
Just as New tenancies will no effect existing tenancy holders...
Do you see?
16/05/2011 10:36 am
anon @ 9-18am
There will be those who would say that consulting. in the case in point, 55,000 homes (and, probably there would be more than 1 tenant in many of yhose homes), would cost a lot in this day of VFM?
VGM, greater involvement and other phrases could well be used to smokescreen a true objective of sidelining the vociferous, experienced and knowledge tenants in order to slide 'yes (wo)men' into place to facilitate 'officer control' over the allegedly supposed-transparency of governance and operation of RSLs.
Cynics may say that each new regime should be given a chance and others may oppose change just for the sake of opposing as a principle and most tenants probably can't be bothered with it all until it affects them personally.
In the end, little will change but I pose the question ...
IF a home, next door to an existing home owned by the same landlord, attracts a significantly (or otherwise) higher rent, which home will receive the better service? Would the existing home's service be the base standard or would the all-new more expensive home be the 'favoured' one?
Final question (rather cynically put to me over the weekend) -- and who actually cares?
16/05/2011 11:32 am
As the new policy will not affect exxisting tenants or their rights under their existing contract (tenancy agreement) then why should the landlord be obligated to consult?
On second thoughts they should become almost like a commune consulting on eveything - whether to use red or blue pencils in the offices and paper or plastic cups from a drinks machine, or should that be a tea lady - and another consultation on should she (or maybe a he) serve coffee as well.
Be interesting to see how far existing rents would need to rise to cover the costs of the consultation exercises nd the cost of money while work was stalled during the conssultation
Tenants get real
16/05/2011 12:51 pm
I have to admit to being on the 'do not consult' view simply because it won't affect current tenants, it's a bit like asking tenants how they feel about replacing the lift in the block of flats next door to to theirs: they won't use it, they won't pay for it and it wont affect them so whilst they may have a view, the consultation is likely to divert time and resources from the group who will be affected.
16/05/2011 2:03 pm
I think I know the landlord your talking about and I am suprized you got the response you did. Consultation is a very high priority on the list of tenant involvement goals. I am sure you will hear more about it in the future.
16/05/2011 2:42 pm
Of course it effect existing tenants . It has major implications for income and funding streams for development that was the whole point of shifting to "affordable" rents. I would imagine than any estate or neighbourhood is impacted on by investment or the lack of it in a very fundemental way.
16/05/2011 4:49 pm
the fact that consulting tenants is either assumed to be unnecessary by landlords, and the fact that even if they consult there is very little - or nothing reisdents can do to make sure their views are upheld - it is a clear demonstration for those few naive residents who still believe in involvment and so called participation, that tenants have no say in their homes. the fact is professionals decide everything for the residents and if the residents do not like it they can go and rent privately.
16/05/2011 7:12 pm
4.49p.m. a strange remark to make that they can go and rent privately.
If you work for a living you have rights. - employment rights
If you buy good's you have rights - consumer rights
If you rent your property from any kind of Landlord you have rights
Whether PSL/RSL like it or not these's our services and goods so like any Consumer - I like million's/thousand of people - I/we have rights.
Stop telling people to go into privately renting. What's that got to do with anything.
16/05/2011 7:36 pm
I am glad you find it a strange remark... Maybe you have not read properly or I have not been clear. This is the answer I have been given as a resident, that if I do not like it I have the freedom - because the housing professionals have also told me that we live in a free world - I should go and rent privately or buy my own home... You might find the same answer if you roam this website fora from some social housing professionals posting here.
Of course social residents have rights (well at least some rights). But rights are nothing without the means to enforce them. You deserve a lot of admiration, at least you are trying to get some respect.
16/05/2011 9:08 pm
Anon 2:03pm - so if its the case that you know the landlord in question and tenant consultation is genuinely such a high priority, then its clear something has gone demonstrably wrong.
The facts speak for themselves:- TPAS say 'extensive consultation' should have already happened with existing tenants; it's no use tenants hearing 'more about it in the future' as you put it.
Actions speak louder than words...
16/05/2011 11:08 pm
I'm completely lost. Why on earth would this be something you would wish to consult with existing tenants on. There are a million different examples of how ludicrous that would be. I suppose the most obvious is if my mortgage lender decided that they were going to consult me on what rate they were going to charge a new customer. I don't care. It's none of my business.
I wouldn't even bother going into questions on value for money, bureaucracy etc. It's just irrelevant.
What is this consultation going to consist of? A questionnaire that says "Do you think us charging someone else, somewhere else a different rent to you is (a) good (b) bad or (c) don't care? PS Whatever you say it's Government policy and we can't change it". Hardly a useful exercise.
17/05/2011 8:54 am
Sancho, I might change the PS to 'Whatever you say it's the only way we can afford to keep building new homes and if we can't do that we may have to concentrate more on our existing 'customers' rather than looking to keep getting bigger and floating on the stock market in a couple of years'!
Development isn't conducted in isolation as part of the housing 'business'
17/05/2011 9:07 am
No need to consult exisiting tenants as it does not effect their tenancy...
They'll want consulting on executives having gingernuts or bourbons next.
17/05/2011 9:10 am
Everything a landlord do effects existing tenants. Building new homes will mean a new way or new personell or lack of personell of going about repairs which will affect the current quality of repairs; new rents levell will influence in pushing up exitsting tenants rents; etc/ etc/
A landlord becoming bigger or smaller will also affect old and new tenants.
everything is connected and will have repercussion somewhere on old and new tenants.
consultation is all about social landlords being accountable, But they will do anything and will come with the most ludicrous excuses not to have consultations or if they have them to bypass whatever tenants say that gets in their ways.
17/05/2011 9:32 am
Why would forcing RSL's, that already have a stupidly short time frame to submit their rent strategies, to consult with exisiting tenancts be a suitable use of limited resource, it is one sure fire way of wasting personel time and could cause the issues you are concerned about above.
17/05/2011 9:49 am
A slightly sobering thought for today -- RPI is 5.2% giving us (if the figure remains the same until autumn) a rent hike og 5.7% next April.
17/05/2011 10:13 am
I wonder if the consultation didn't take place because of possibly the landlord not being fully prepared. I refer, in particular to the following :-
"A significant drawback with fixed term tenancies is that if they are for a duration of three years or more, they need to be executed by deed. Execution by deed is not practical in day to day housing management. Most housing officers undertaking tenant sign-ups would not have landlord authority to execute by deed and so would find themselves unable to complete tenancy agreements. These issues can be overcome, but it does not make for straightforward or smooth housing management.
A three year plus fixed term tenancy executed under hand rather than by deed, would take effect as an equitable tenancy. There is probably no significant legal detriment in this to either the tenant or the landlord – however social landlords will not want to explain to tenants what exactly the differences are in the two forms – and so again the fixed term model leaves landlords with practical difficulties.
The difficulties multiply with tenancies for fixed periods of seven years or more. As well as being executed by deed, these documents must be registered at the Land Registry, with all the administrative burdens this entails – and the longer the fixed term period, the greater the risk of being caught by SDLT thresholds and the tenancy becoming stampable."
Source: Implementing affordable rent (Inside Housing 17th May 2011)
17/05/2011 12:27 pm
'A slightly sobering thought for today -- RPI is 5.2% giving us (if the figure remains the same until autumn) a rent hike og 5.7% next April.'
Cheer up Rick. Remember the year you had a rent reduction...
17/05/2011 12:38 pm
Melvin -- I remember the rent reduction well. In this life things cost -- everything costs.
Council housing round here used to be cheaper than housing association rents and housing associations got a darned sight better deal.
The government decided that social housing rents for similar properties and, as such, council tenants would be paying the ame and getting an inferior deal AND government was whipping one-third of the rent kitty away. This was a prime reason to transfer.
Very close to me, my landlord charges around £350 per month (48 weeks in the year) for a house. In the same terrace of 8, a private rented house is around £750 a month.
Everything has a cost and only rarely (comparatively) do things get cheaper.
17/05/2011 5:18 pm
A private business is not required to consult its customers - and it is recognised that RSLs are now defacto private businesses. However, a business that intends to be around for a while will carry out market research to ensure that they do not pig off their customers with poorly chosen or disagreeable changes. That is where RSLs can still claim to not be like private businesses, because you can't go and shop elsewhere without extreme grief and cost.
Yet another reason why tenants should apply for a transfer of management to a cooperative - tenants will then be the shareholders and the ones deciding such matters.
Tenants of landlords taking this path - unite and take control!
18/05/2011 9:33 am
Chris : While I agree with your approach to co-ops, if only enough people were able to see teh benefits of taking control, you are a bit off the mark to suggest that RSLs are defacto private busineses. In some respects they are being seen by the law as closer to public bodies - thats what all the fuss about the Weaver and LQ case was all about
18/05/2011 12:25 pm
The affordable rents issue could affect existing tenants. For example, if an exisiting tenant exchanges with a 'new' tenant, who took a property at 80% market rent, then the existing tenant will be subject to the higher rent.
I predict exchanges between 'old' and 'new' tenants becoming a rare thing. So, one potential side effect of affordable rents could be a smaller pool of people to exchange with for all tenants.
However, while the issue may affect existing tenants, I see little value in consulting on it. The government's vision is of funding future new developments through increased/affordable rents. This means organisations will have to introduce an element of affordable rents if they want to develop.
Finally, just becuse TPAS say they expect organisations to consult, doesn't mean organisations have to - or necessarily should do. Recommendations made by TPAS are hardly objective.
18/05/2011 1:38 pm
Anon @ 10-17pm on 15th
Just to update you about my landlord's policy on affordable rents -- off I toddled (not being confined by the use of my Zimmer frame on that day) and asked the question and was told -- it's still being mulled over.
I always believe that it is far better to get it right than to get it done.
I was explaining (gently) to someone who was convinced that ratepayers were subsidising council renters in our town that there had been a transfer, government used to take millions, and so on ... he was amazed at the actuallity of the situation and thought that AR, whilst soundish in principle was flawed and someone 'at the top' has failed to address the practical issues relating to driving rents up.
18/05/2011 1:52 pm
Rick @ 1:38pm - The repsonse you got from your landlord is quite suprising considering the Government deadline for submitting bids to be part of the Affordable Rent programme was 03 May.. So I'd guess they'd know by now whether or not they're taking part. But hey perhaps they're still ironing out the fine details.
I agree with Usual Suspect @16/05/2011 2:42pm comments are along the right lines.
18/05/2011 2:12 pm
Anon -- it could be that the member of staff who told me may not be aware of the most up to date situation'
As my landlord is looking to build 300 homes over the next 4 years and have borrowed £2om towards that objective, I think that they will pli=ump for the AR model.
I sincerly hope they ARE ironing out the details and that staff who are properly trained will be the ones sorting it all out especially, as is being promoted on IH, there are legal 'nicities, (as per my post of 10-13am on the 17th) to be gone through.
Can you imagine an 'old00ashioned/anti-tenant' housing officer explaining to a new tenant why their rent is £30 to £50 a week more than next door?
18/05/2011 2:16 pm
Sorry, I was so busy having a giggle about loads of 'good' housing officers having a go at me that I dropped a clanger -- it should read ...
"Can you imagine an 'old-fashioned/anti-tenant' housing officer explaining to a new tenant why their rent is £30 to £50 a week more than next door?"
And before anyone bursts a blood vessel -- I know there are very sensitive and brilliant ly helpful housing officers in the business but nonetheless they are 'officers' by name if not by nature.
18/05/2011 2:26 pm
Thanks Steve - the public private monika is as confusing as it is varied. Consider the privatised public utilities - they provide a strategic public service, yet are private companies (except for those which in their own countries are public companies but own our assets as if private companies)
Whilst RSLs are performing public duty they operate as if private companies. The exception to the latter was the scrutiny of regulation and inspection - but how much of that now remains?
I agree that it is not possible to make the sweeping statement 'they are private' just as it is not possible to say 'they are public' - but regardless, it is good business to at least measure the views of customers/tenants before making major changes.
The way to avoid the confusion in purpose, and to ensure tenant input, is for tenants to take control. My view is that the best mechanism for this is a cooperative.
31/05/2011 6:02 pm
Better landlords have agreed their approach to "affordable rents" and "flexible tenancies" with their tenants, and those that have not had a dialogue with their tenants are the second rate bog standard landlords.
To suggest that tenants have no interest in these matters is crass and an arrogant assumption that tenants have no interest in their communities or their landlord and its activities. Of course the fabric of communities will be significantly affected by neighbouring tenants in the same sorts of properties paying vastly different rents.
The Government's intention behind affordable rents and flexible tenancies was that landlords should agree their approach with tenants, and it certainly could be argued that a lack of dialogue constitutes a regulatory breach of the Involvement & Empowerment Standard.
31/05/2011 6:26 pm
An Affordable Rent programme does not affect the rights or tenancies of existing tenants. This means that there is not a statutory duty to consult existing tenants.
But there are many issues that arise with an Affordable Rent programme particularly for prospective tenants. For example higher rents bring greater welfare reform vulnerabilities. Large family units in high value areas will be expensive. New tenants are likely to be on the proposed new tenure.
But Affordable Rent is the main grant supported programme for new homes. These are badly needed. So boards of larger providers will want to try and make it work but will have many issues to take into account. The board of a prudent provider will want to ensure that it has an informed tenant perspective on these issues. This will help it plan and implement programmes in the interests of both its existing and prospective tenants.