If we take time to train tenants and encourage landlords, the right to manage can be a very attractive model
Step by step
More than 200 tenant management organisations exist in England managing around 70,000 homes. The evidence is that they do an excellent job. Not only do they manage well, they tend to be in it for the long term and therefore help stabilise neighbourhoods, generating community pride and self-confidence.
New regulations governing council tenants’ right to collective management of their homes will be introduced this autumn. The aim is to simplify the process in the hope that this will encourage more tenants to take up the option.
The right to manage for council tenants has been in place since 1993, yet despite the evidence of success and national political support from all parties, backed up with regulations and financial help for TMO development, take-up in recent years has been low. Why is this?
Those of us involved with tenant management over the years have always known that it is not for all tenants. It requires commitment and skills from at least a few tenants - though with anything other than very small TMOs, these skills are about setting strategic priorities and employing the right staff, rather than in the detail of housing management.
The process does take time. I was involved in the 2008 changes that sped up the process, and the new regulations aim to take this further. But it’s right and proper that tenants take time to develop their management agreement and fully understand what they are taking on, as well as consulting all tenants about the proposals. Tenant management is never going to be a quick fix.
I suspect that the real reason for low take-up is that most tenants don’t know about tenant management, and ones that do are often discouraged by their landlord from taking it further. Few landlords actively promote tenant management, many don’t promote it at all, and some do their best to put off tenants at an early stage.
So if we want to give more tenants the opportunity to benefit from tenant management we need to look not just at regulations and processes, but at how we encourage and support social housing landlords to promote and actively support tenant management. We need to allay their fears and help them overcome their professional reluctance to ‘hand over to amateurs’, giving them access to advice and support to enable them to trust tenants and take advantage of what is a tried and tested model of good management.
Richard Crossley is former chief executive of the National Tenant Voice and a housing consultant