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?
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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.