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Housing(Scotland)Act 2001- Guidance on Tenant Participation

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Housing(Scotland)Act 2001- Guidance on Tenant Participation

PART 4: REGISTERED TENANT ORGANISATIONS (RTOs)

Background

50. The concept of registered tenants organisations (RTOs) is central to the tenant participation process, as stated in the Act. An RTO will be an independent organisation set up primarily to represent tenants' housing and related interests. The aim is to give tenants associations, which meet criteria set out below, a recognised role in the tenant participation process. As the Act makes clear, consultation with registered tenants organisations is not a substitute for consulting with individual tenants, but the mechanisms for this are likely to be different (see paragraphs 69 to 79 below).

51. The register is a public document and should be available for inspection at reasonable times, for example in landlord offices. As this is a public document there may be some sensitivities among tenant groups as to the information which is given for groups. As a minimum the register should have the name of the group, area of operation, a contact address (which the group should choose - a box number may be acceptable) and other information, such as a website, dates of regular meetings, etc. It is essential that, as part of the registration process, tenants' groups know that this information will be publicly available and that they can elect to choose which contact address is given. In any event, landlords should be mindful of any data protection issues arising from the publication of the register.

Criteria for Registration of Tenant Organisations

52. Scottish Ministers have set out the criteria for registration in an order. In drawing up registration criteria, the aim has been to balance the interests of tenants organisations seeking recognition with those of landlords managing the process. The criteria set out below aims to be inclusive while ensuring that registered organisations are accountable to members.

53. In order to achieve registration, a tenant organisation has to meet a range of criteria as set out in The Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 (Registration of Tenant Organisations) Order 2002 which is available on the HMSO Website: http://www.scotland-legislation.hmso.gov.uk/legislation/scotland/s-stat.htm

54. The criteria for registration is summarised in Annex B to this guidance followed by a detailed explanation of each component.

Procedures for Registration

55. The landlord should have available information which sets out the criteria for registration and de-registration of groups and how this will be implemented. Landlords should make the Annex available to tenants groups seeking registration so that they are fully aware of the criteria and the reasoning behind it.

56. The procedure should set out how groups can apply, including how groups can seek advice and information. There should also be a clear statement of the duties on RTOs arising from the registration criteria set out by Ministers. The timescale for registration should also be clear.

57. It is for landlords to decide on the internal procedures to manage the registration process and where the final decision will rest. In most cases, however, this will require a committee decision by elected Council members or RSL governing body members. There should also be a procedure for appeals to the landlord over registration issues, but this would not supersede the right to appeal to Ministers over registration issues.

58. The registration should normally last for three years, but landlords could set out a different timescale within their tenant participation strategy. This could be, for example, to allow for groups to re-register at or around the same date to allow for efficient management of the process.

59. Where a group's constitution, membership or area of operation changes, there is the question as to whether they should re-register with the landlord. The landlord may wish to reconsider registration in the light of significant changes, for example, where the group no longer represents tenants of that landlord, or where the area of operation has changed. This should be set out in the registration information and agreed as part of the development of the tenant participation strategy. Where groups were de-registered by the landlord because of such changes, they would retain their right of appeal to the Scottish Ministers. Where a landlord is involved in stock transfer proposals, the future of any RTO should be considered in consultation with the RTO and the acquiring landlord.

60. The failure of a registered group to meet the criteria for registration would constitute grounds for deregistration.

Information Requirements

61. The guidance on the new Scottish secure tenancy discusses what information will be provided to RTOs and tenants about such proposals and their likely effect. Briefly, the requirements are as set out below.

62. Section 23 of the Act sets out a tenant's right to a written tenancy agreement and information. As well as the right to a tenancy agreement, tenants must receive information on the following:

  • before the creation of the tenancy information on the right to buy (RTB) and obligations which a tenant is likely to incur if they exercise that right;
  • changes to the right to buy that would affect the tenant's right to buy; and
  • the landlord's complaints procedure.

63. Section 23 of the Act also lists other information that the landlord must supply on request:

  • the terms of the tenancy;
  • the landlord's policy and procedures in relation to setting of rents and charges;
  • the landlord's policy and rules in relation to admission to any housing list, priority of allocation of houses, transfers and exchanges and repairs and maintenance;
  • how the RTB provisions apply in relation to the tenant, the tenancy and the house;
  • the obligations the tenant is likely to incur if the tenant exercises his right to buy the house, including any obligation to maintain any building of which the house forms part and any common areas;
  • where the landlord is a local authority or a RSL, the landlord's tenant participation strategy; and
  • the landlord's arrangements for taking decisions in the exercise of its functions in relation to the management of housing accommodation and the provision of related services by it. This might include information on the landlord's committee structures, consultation procedures, time scales, etc.

64. This requirement mirrors the duty to inform RTOs. There are a number of ways in which landlords may address the individual tenant information requirements of the Act. Many landlords have adopted a tenant's handbook as a way to give information to tenants. Newsletters are also a way to disseminate information on changes to policy and services. Landlords may also opt to write to tenants directly. An example of how this could work in relation to rent increases would be the use of a newsletter to give details of the landlord's rent policy, the services offered, how the rent increase has been calculated and an opportunity to comment on this. The detail of how the rent increase would impact on an individual tenancy would then be the subject of an individual letter to the tenant which could inform the tenant of the outcome of the consultation and the reasons for the landlord's decision.

65. The detailed entitlement to information is set out in the guidance to the Scottish secure tenancy, "Housing Scotland Act 2001: Scottish Secure and Short Scottish Secure Tenancy", available from:
Scottish Executive Development Department,
Housing 2-3,
1G Victoria Quay,
Edinburgh
EH6 6QQ
(e-mail: housing.information@scotland.gsi.gov.uk)
or on Scottish Executive website: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/library3/housing/ipst-00.asp

Groups which do not wish to Register

66. There may be circumstances where a tenant group does not wish to register with the landlord. Where this is the case individual group members will have their right to be consulted, but landlords may, as a good practice measure, consult with non-registered groups. Consultation with such a group would be outwith the statutory provisions of the Act.

Removal from the Register

67. Landlords should discuss with the organisation at the time of registration under what circumstances the organisation can seek to be removed and similarly, under what circumstances the landlord would seek to remove the organisation from its register. The period of notice for removal from a register should feature in the tenant participation strategy. The tenant participation strategy should also cover the process of removal, that is, written notice of removal with reasons and timescale and information about the appeals process. A record should be kept by the landlord of RTOs which have been removed from the register.

Appeals

68. A tenant organisation may appeal against a landlord's decision to either:

  • not register the organisation;
  • remove the organisation from the Register; or
  • not remove the organisation from the Register.

It is important that the landlord make the tenant organisation aware at the time of registration about the mechanisms for appeal. These should form part of the tenant participation strategy.

The first stage of any appeal should be through the landlord's internal appeals procedures. If the tenant organisation is not satisfied by the outcome of the internal appeal it may appeal formally to Scottish Ministers.

The formal appeals process will be considered by the Regulation & Inspection Division of Communities Scotland, on behalf of Scottish Ministers.