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Setting up tenants' and residents' associations

Tenants' and residents' associations provide a collective voice and some powers for people who live in the same area, or who have the same landlord. Members work together to improve housing and environmental standards in their neighbourhood and increase a sense of community. This page looks at what tenants' and residents' associations can achieve, and how to set up a residents association in your area.

What is a tenants and residents' association?

A tenants' and residents' association is a group of people who live in the same area, who work together to represent the views of all tenants and/or home owners in their area to help make their neighbourhood a better place to live.

Who can set up a residents' association?

Most associations are set up by council or housing association tenants. However, any group of three or more people can set up an association. For example, associations can be run by people who rent or own their homes and who:

  • live in the same street, close, housing estate or village
  • live in a tenement building or high rise
  • live in a sheltered housing complex
  • have the same landlord, for example are council or housing association tenants or rent from the same private landlord.

In most tenants' and residents' associations, membership is open to anyone over the age of 16.

If a group wants to make sure that its views are listened to by other organisations they must be able to show that they are:

  • responsible and accountable
  • democratic
  • representative of the whole community.

Why set up a residents' association?

Some residents' associations are set up to achieve a specific aim, for example:

  • to raise funding to create a children's play area or community garden
  • to tackle antisocial behaviour or crime
  • to protest against planned developments in their area.

Other associations may aim more generally to protect the interests of the community and improve standards in the area, for example by:

  • organising social events or additional services for the community
  • representing the views of the group to a landlord or to the council
  • campaigning on issues such as traffic and parking problems or pollution.

How do I get involved?

Your local council should have a list of all registered tenants' and residents' associations (see 'what are registered tenants' and residents' associations) - this may be available on your council's website. You could also try asking at your local library or community centre.

If there isn't a tenants' and residents' association in your area, you could consider setting one up yourself.

How to set up a residents' association

Most residents' associations are set up by a few volunteers who want to make a difference in their local area. To find people in your area who may be interested, you can begin by putting up notices in your building or in local shops and places such as the Post Office, library, GP's surgery, nursery, pub or community centre.

Encouraging involvement

When organising your group, there are some basic things you should think about to encourage everybody to become involved. For example, you should try to:

  • use positive images of minority groups.
  • arrange meetings to suit as many members as possible
  • develop an equal opportunities policy
  • translate information and provide signers/interpreters
  • challenge racist, sexist or derogatory remarks
  • avoid using stereotypes
  • give everybody the right to express an opinion and respect their views.

You don't need to do all of these at your first meeting, but as a group you should agree on how you think you can deal with each of these issues.

Establishing the association

In order to launch your association, you'll need to call a public meeting for everyone in the area, and elect a chair, secretary and treasurer and other committee members. You'll also need to draw up a constitution outlining:

  • your aims
  • the criteria for membership
  • the geographic area you represent
  • how the committee will be run
  • when your meetings will be held.

If people are reluctant to form a committee and accept office bearer positions at the first meeting, you could set up a steering group initially to work on the contents of your constitution and then when people in the steering group feel more confident, they can call a public meeting to elect office bearers formally and adopt the constitution.

Registering your association

All councils and housing associations must keep a register of tenants' and residents' associations as part of their tenant participation strategy. You can apply to register your organisation if any members of your organisation are council or housing association tenants.

What is a tenant participation strategy?

Councils and housing associations should all have strategies in place to support registered tenants' organisations and encourage tenants to take part in the decision making process. Councils and housing associations must consult tenants and registered tenants' organisations over decisions that affect them, such as decisions about:

  • changes to management policies
  • housing conditions
  • housing services
  • stock transfer.

Your landlord should give you information about their tenant participation strategy when you move in.

What are registered tenants' and residents' organisations?

A tenants' and residents' association can register with a council or housing association if any of its members are council or housing association tenants. If your group includes tenants of different councils or housing associations, you can register with more than one landlord.

What are the benefits of registering?

The council or housing association must consult all tenants' and residents' associations on its registers about housing decisions, such as changes to management policies and stock transfer. This means that your group may be able to influence the way tenants' homes are managed and work to improve conditions.

The council or housing association should also be able to offer you some kind of funding to cover the costs of setting up and running your organisation. This varies from area to area, so contact the landlord your group is registered with to find out more.

In addition, the council or housing association may be able to provide premises for meetings for your organisation and help with resources for written materials such as newsletters, surveys and publicity.

How does an association become registered?

To register, your group must meet certain criteria, set out by the Scottish Government:

  • You must have a publicly available constitution, setting out the aims of your group and how it will be run.
  • Your group must operate within a defined area (such as a street or high rise) which includes properties managed by the council or housing association you're registering with.
  • You must keep proper accounting records.
  • Your group must be able to show that it represents the views and interests of its members and can provide a representative voice for members who are tenants of the council or housing association it's registering with. For example, you could do this by arranging a schedule of meetings, sending out a newsletter or setting up a website or online forum for members.

Your organisation will need to apply to register in writing - the council or housing association should provide an application form for this. You'll need to send the council or housing association:

  • a copy of the group's constitution
  • the names and contact details of the committee members and office bearers
  • a description of the area the association covers
  • a statement setting out how your group will represent its members.

Registration procedures can vary, so ask your landlord for more detailed information about their registration process and criteria or check your council or housing association's website. You can also read more about registration at the Scottish Government website.

What if an association doesn't want to be registered?

Tenants' and residents' associations don't have to register if they don't want to. However, in this case councils and housing associations will not be obliged to consult them on housing decisions, although some landlords may choose to do so anyway.

What if an association doesn't meet the criteria?

If your group doesn't meet the criteria, the council's tenant or community participation officer should be able to help you develop the way your organisation is run until it's ready to be registered.

The council or housing association also has the power to de-register your organisation if it stops running or no longer meets the registration criteria.

Can an association appeal a landlord's decision?

If you think a council or housing association is refusing to register or has de-registered your organisation unfairly, you should first go through their internal appeals process. You should be told about this process when you apply to register. If you're still not satisfied, you can appeal to the Scottish Housing Regulator (formerly Communities Scotland). Get in touch with a tenants' advice service if you're in this situation - you can find contact details at the bottom of this page.

How are tenants' and residents' associations funded?

You will need funds to launch and run your association, for example to pay for publicity, refreshments, meeting room hire and other expenses. To cover this, you may decide to charge members a small fee to join the association, or you may carry out other fundraising activities.

If your association is registered, you may well be able to obtain funding from the council or housing association it's registered with. This varies from area to area, so contact your landlord to find out more.

You may also be able to get a small grant from the National Lottery's Awards for All programme - visit the website to find out more.

Neighbourhood Watch

If you're concerned about crime and security in your area, you could consider joining or setting up a Neighbourhood Watch group. Neighbourhood Watch groups have close links with the local police and other crime prevention agencies, and can warn residents of crime trends in their area. Members may also keep an eye on each other's homes during holidays or share useful security devices such as timer switches. You can find out more about joining a local group or setting up your own group from the Association of Scottish Neighbourhood Watches. You can also have a look at our page on neighbourhood watch.

Where can I find out more?

  • You can get help and advice in setting up and running a tenants and residents' association from the council - contact your local tenant participation or community officer to find out more.
  • The Tenants Information Service is a national voluntary organisation providing independent advice, information and support to tenants and tenants' organisations across Scotland, and has useful information and advice on tenant participation strategies, setting up a tenants' association, applying for funding, organising public meetings, drawing up a constitution, reaching democratic decisions and other related issues.
  • The Tenants Participatory Advisory Service is a national membership organisation of landlords and tenants, which offers a range of services to council and housing association tenants, landlords and tenants' associations.
  • The Pledge Bank website can help you set up a residents' association in your area.

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