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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.

Wednesday, March 28

Regulation, standards and independent arbitration

I have previously blogged about the changes to the way social landlords are regulated, and some of the potential problems that I can see developing in the future. This is mainly around the lack of any robust checks on those landlords who do not deliver services in line with standards or who fail to comply with requirements to engage with their tenants in a co-regulatory regime. The 'serious detriment' test will not pick up any failures that do not result in serious harm to tenants, which effectively means that those landlords that continue to deliver poor services will not be challenged, either by their tenants or by a regulator. A gap that should be filled, but in what way?  Hopefully, this debate will develop throughout the social housing sector in the coming months, perhaps when there is a general realisation amongst tenants and responsible landlords what the impact of deregulation could actually mean.

I have heard one very sensible suggestion that there should be an independent arbitration service which tenants could approach in the event of a dispute around the meeting of standards or the willingness to embrace co-regulation and tenant scrutiny. Clearly, this would have to be funded, and this should be by the government. They have removed the protection of tenants' interests and now they should be willing to provide funding for an independent body which could give some reassurance back to tenants.

David Wardle March 28, 2012.