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Welcome to the learning4housing blog. I will be posting my thoughts and opinions on a range of issues facing the social housing sector. You are more than welcome to post your comments, whether you agree or disagree on the points. The aim here is to stimulate some debate on these issues, whether they are about current government policy or about best practice in housing management or strategy.

is an independent training provider for the social housing sector. We cover a wide range of subject areas, including anti-social behaviour, homelessness, resident involvement, void control, choice-based lettings, and complaints management, as well as personal skills development around communication, negotiation, assertiveness, influencing, managing people, etc. Please visit the main website for more information at

Please call David on 07986 246406 to discuss your training needs and how we can help, or email at

Thursday, March 29

Some Thoughts on Tenant Panels

With the recent publication of the new post-TSA regulatory framework for social housing,  many landlords are beginning to think about how this will affect their services and their relationship with tenants. Tenant panels have been proposed as a 'catch-all' mechanism by the government, as a way of filling the gap left by the TSA and the Audit Commission. The spirit of co-regulation, or tenant-led self-regulation, will, it is argued, flourish under a system involving tenant panels which will hold their landlords to account and have the power and ability to scrutinise services and policies against the regulatory standards. But will tenant panels have the required power and ability to achieve this aim? The question of power is one which is to be resolved between landlords and tenants themselves. There is little government guidance on how the power relationship will operate in practice, and as I have said on previous occasions, this could lead to some landlords being reluctant to facilitate genuine empowerment of tenant panels, leaving them to become mere talking shops or weak 'consultative' bodies. Ability is another important question. For tenant panels to emerge as bodies that can challenge poor services, they will need a range of skills which may need identifying and developing in a strategic manner.

Having said this, I do think that the emergence of tenant panels could herald a new dawn for tenant empowerment. Opportunities to develop a relationship between landlords and tenants which is based on being open, honest and challenge can only be a positive move. Panels do however need to be independent, with power to decide what their role is and what they should examine or scrutinise. I have heard one example where the chair of the board was also the chair of the scrutiny panel - which perhaps goes to show the work that still needs to be done in this area.  

Issues that need to be addressed by landlord organisations include how to go about recruiting to panel membership. This subject requires careful thought and open dialogue with tenants who are already involved through other means. Some landlords have decided to transform already existing bodies such as customer panels or tenant forums, into a scrutiny or tenant panel. This has the benefit of having a 'ready-made' solution, with members who already have a good level of knowledge and skill for carrying out their new role. Others have decided to adopt a very different route, by recruiting to panels by approaching tenants who are brand new to any involvement activity. The reasoning behind this is that the new panel is a clean sheet of paper and members are not tainted by any previous involvement. There are obvious disadvantages to this approach, and if this is the preferred route then a clear strategy must be agreed to ensure that the required skills, knowledge and capacity are rapidly put in place. 

There are of course several other issues that need to be agreed between landlords and tenants in order to make sure that panels operate in a meaningful and positive way. All parties must enter into an open discussion about what they want tenant panels to achieve and what role they want to play in the organisation, and if necessary to seek appropriate support to enable genuine empowerment to become a reality.

For more information on what learning4housing can offer to assist you in developing tenant panels, visit

David Wardle  March 29, 2012.

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