This guide was originally developed in 2005 to provide good practice advice and support to those working in Tenant Participation (TP). It has been updated in 2018 by the Social Housing Services Team, within the Scottish Government to cover developments in Tenant Participation including tenant scrutiny and the Scottish Social Housing Charter.
1.1 Who is this guide for?
This Guide will be useful to tenants, tenant groups, Local Authority (LA) and Housing Association (HA) staff who want to know more about TP and who would like to develop their involvement and scrutiny activities further. It is designed for all staff and will be of particular use to staff with strategic responsibility for TP and scrutiny front line staff who work with tenants.
The case studies at the end of this guide demonstrate how effective TP can deliver quality services, involve tenants in assessing landlord performance and encourage improvements.
1.2 What is Tenant Participation?
The “National Strategy for Tenant Participation – Partners in Participation (1999)” describes TP as being “about tenants taking part in decision making processes and influencing decisions about housing policies; housing conditions; and housing (and related) services. It is a two way process which involves the sharing of information, ideas and power. Its aim is to improve the standard of housing conditions and service”.
The housing sector’s approach to TP in Scotland is underpinned by the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 (‘the Act’), which created a legal requirement for landlords to actively develop and support TP. The Act introduced requirements for Landlords to have a TP strategy in place, register tenant and resident groups who meet prescribed criteria and to fund and support TP. It also gave tenants and Registered Tenant Organisations (RTOs) rights to be consulted and involved in landlords decision making on housing and related services.
Effective participation gives tenants an opportunity to influence decisions about the housing services they receive, and it helps landlords deliver better services that focus on tenant priorities. Effective participation is, therefore, an important component of meeting the expectation to continuously improve landlord performance.
1.3 The benefits of Tenant Participation
When working well, TP delivers clear benefits for tenants, staff and landlords alike.
- better service delivery and improved outcomes for tenants which give value for money;
- working together for common goals with respect and understanding;
- informed and knowledgeable tenants who have the skills and confidence to influence decisions;
- increased tenant satisfaction with their home and neighbourhood;
- identifying actions for service and performance improvements and working together to implement these recommended improvements.
The benefits of TP and the improvements in service delivery they bring will evolve over time as effective information, communication and participation structures strengthen. TP and scrutiny can only be effective where landlords are committed to, and have a culture of involving tenants in their decision making process and where the principles of TP are adopted throughout the organisation.
Its success very much depends upon landlords embracing TP at the most senior level, including elected members and committee members who are responsible for setting the strategic direction of the organisation and its culture.
1.4 The legal framework for Tenant Participation
The Act introduced a legal framework for TP. It introduced rights for individual tenants and registered tenant groups to be consulted by their landlord on issues affecting them. Landlords have to take account of their views within a reasonable timescale. The Scottish Secure Tenancy (SST) and a Short SST, further gives tenants’ rights to information and consultation.
Under the Act Landlords have to:
- have in place a TP strategy and review and monitor its effectiveness regularly;
- have a registration scheme for tenant organisations to register with them and keep a publicly available register of these RTOs;
- consult with tenants and RTOs on a range of housing and related services;
- provide a range of information to their tenants.
For more information about the TP requirements of the Act go to: www.opsi.gov.uk/legislation/scotland/acts2001/20010010.htm
1.5 The Scottish Social Housing Charter
The Housing (Scotland) Act 2010 introduced the Scottish Social Housing Charter (The Charter). This sets out the standards and outcomes which landlords should be delivering to all social housing tenants, wherever they live. The Charter came into effect in 2012 and was reviewed in 2016 with a revised Charter in place from April 2017.
It focuses landlord activity on services that are important to tenants and other customers, and encourages a culture of involving service users in the design, delivery and performance of services. To ensure this succeeds, tenants are empowered to work in partnership with their landlords to monitor and challenge decisions and performance.
The independent Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) (see 1.6) is responsible for monitoring, assessing and reporting on how well social landlords, achieve the Charter’s outcomes.
The Charter sets out the following specific outcomes and standards for Communication and Participation:
Social landlords manage their businesses so that:
- tenants and other customers find it easy to communicate with their landlord and get the information they need about their landlord, how and why it makes decisions and the services it provides.
Social landlords manage their businesses so that:
- tenants and other customers find it easy to participate in and influence their landlord’s decisions at a level they feel comfortable with.
The Charter makes it clear that the outcomes on communication and participation should be reflected across the whole of a landlord’s activities. It is clear that where these outcomes are being achieved a landlord’s overall performance is better.
1.6 Role of the Scottish Housing Regulator
The SHR is the independent regulator of Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) and Local Authority housing services in Scotland. It was established on 1 April 2011 under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2010. The SHR has one statutory objective, to: “safeguard and promote the interests of current and future tenants of social landlords, people who are or may become homeless, and people who use housing services provided by local authorities and housing associations.”
The SHR monitors and reports annually on landlords’ performance in achieving the outcomes and standards in the Charter. Landlords are required to provide information each year to report on their performance against the Charter. The SHR’s landlord reports show every landlord’s performance on the areas that matter most to tenants such as on repairs and quality of the home. In relation to Tenant Participation, each landlord report details – for example – how satisfied tenants are with their landlord keeping them informed about their services with the opportunities to participate in their landlords decision making processes. Tenants and landlords can access these reports and other information on the SHR website, and compare performance between landlords and against the national average.
More information on the SHR’ s responsibilities and landlord annual reports on the Charter can be found at: www.scottishhousingregulator.gov.uk
1.7 Tenant Scrutiny
Housing providers have been involving and consulting with their tenants for many years. As a result of the introduction of the Charter, they are increasingly going further by giving tenants and other customers formal opportunities to analyse and challenge their performance and decision making through tenant scrutiny.
The aim of scrutiny is to improve organisational performance and the quality and standard of services that landlords provide for their tenants. Successful organisations share a common way of working: they know, understand and respond to their current and future customers. They do this by developing approaches and mechanisms to engage with service users and involve them in decisions about their homes and the services they receive. Through scrutiny, tenants and other customers can make a substantial contribution to services and standards and the assessment of their landlord’s performance. There is more on Tenant scrutiny at 2.6 Levels of Tenant Participation and scrutiny.
1.8 Ensuring equal opportunities
The Act was a major landmark in re-enforcing and promoting equal opportunities in Scottish housing. The Act requires landlords to approach TP in a manner that encourages equal opportunities and observes equal opportunity requirements laid out the Equalities Act 2010.
The Charter also includes an outcome on equalities which states that: “every tenant and other customer has their individual needs recognised, is treated fairly and with respect, and receives fair access to housing and housing services.” landlords should be meeting this outcome in all their activities.