Our Offer for Tenants – why board member involvement is crucial

Our sector is under more public scrutiny than it has been for many years, including from residents, the public, politicians and the media.

18 December 2018

About Offer for Tenants

Many of the questions currently facing our sector relate to our role as landlords – the services we provide, how we listen to residents and how we make and communicate decisions.

To show our commitment to answering these questions we have, together with our members, articulated the sector’s ambition to be as accountable as possible to the people we house and to become among the most trusted organisations in the country.

We launched our Offer for Tenants project in October 2017 to look at the changes we could make as a sector to help us achieve this ambition.

Links to the Social Housing Green Paper

In the Green Paper, the Government committed to rebalancing the relationship between residents and landlords. It asked many of the same questions we had already been exploring with members and residents, and suggested some ways in which this might be achieved. 

In our response to the Green Paper, we were clear that we shared the Government’s aim and, while we were supportive of many of the ideas in the Green Paper, we were keen to take action as a sector rather than waiting for direction from the Government.

Our Offer for Tenants work was also referenced in the Green Paper as a positive example of what the sector is already doing.

Our approach

While we recognise that there is lots of great work going on across the sector, members recognise that we need to address the perception that resident experience is very inconsistent across the sector.

Good proportionate regulation can play a helpful role with identifying and taking action where needed, and we indicated our support for more proactive regulation of consumer standards in our Green Paper response, but we don’t believe regulation alone can strengthen the relationship between residents and landlords.

Over the last few months we have been talking to our members, residents and stakeholders about our plans to develop a charter for residents, setting out a series of commitments that will effectively define our offer as landlords. Early in the new year we will be working with members and residents to further develop and test the charter, how oversight could work, and how this could link to any changes to regulation.

The crucial role for board members

As we have heard from many members and residents throughout this process, whether our organisations genuinely listen to residents and how open and honest we are comes down to the culture, which is ultimately set by boards. However, we also recognise the importance of having mechanisms in place to provide support, assure, oversee and evidence that boards are taking this role seriously and it is working effectively.

We envisage the commitments in the charter will be based on the values that capture what it means to be a good landlord, giving housing associations the scope to work with residents to include specific commitments that reflect their priorities and what is important to residents. We know this needs to be owned and led locally by boards.

Alongside this, we have also begun to consider what changes we should make to the Code of Governance, so it covers the renewed onus on our relationship with residents.

Throughout this process we have been working closely with the Centre for Public Scrutiny, a specialist governance charity. Commissioning an external organisation with experience and authority is helping to ensure the development process is seen to be independent, impartial and properly overseen. 

How you can get involved

We are particularly keen to engage with housing association boards as we develop the charter and make changes to the Code of Governance to ensure we are supporting you in the most effective way possible. Achieving our ambition will only be possible if we have a culture in place that fully embraces the expectations of us as a sector, and your role as leaders will be instrumental over the coming months.