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    [Submitted by someone who wishes to remain anonymous]

    The Discussion Paper contains proposals that, if adopted, will improve the standard of social housing.

    1. Achieving the outcomes in practice

    The outcomes set out in the Charter must be evidence-based. Any independent assessor or regulator is then able to demand the evidence to show that any outcome has been achieved.

    Where the social landlord or a tenant fails to comply with the outcomes in the Charter, the following must to be set out for each outcome:

    1 Where there is a dispute between the tenant and landlord, the Charter must set out the process all parties must follow with the objective of providing evidence that the outcome(s) have been achieved.

    2 If any party is unable to provide that evidence, the Charter must set out the sanctions that can be applied to ensure that the outcome is achieved.

    2. Tenant Participation

    The Scottish Government requires by law that there is public participation in the management of the National Health Service. Using this as a legal precedent there is a need for a single model to be established for democratic tenant participation in all areas of social housing management. This provision must also apply to all registered social landlords.

    There is need to simplify the present confusing structure of regional and national organisations associated with social housing, whose remit is not clearly understood and are not seen to contribute to the provision of or improved social housing. The Charter should establish a single democratic model for tenant participation in the management process of each registered social landlord.

    Reason: The present model for tenant participation is neither democratic nor transparent. Currently registered tenant organisations are open to residents who are not tenants but own property within the community. Communities Scotland recognise the “multi-tenure nature of communities” and “many tenant organisations are made up of a mix of tenants and residents”. It is also accepted that “Tenant organisations which also include owners can be registered with their landlord as an RTO under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001, and as such have a statutory right to be consulted on Housing and related matters.”

    At this point there is a distinction between what affects the community as a whole, such as “maintenance of open space areas, and strategies for dealing with anti-social behaviour across all tenures” and matters which are specific to tenants of registered social landlords.

    In many respects these are matters that should come under the aegis of community councils, ward forums or similar community structures with the same or similar remit, rather than registered tenant organisations. If there is not a suitable existing community organisation, another option is to set up a registered community group.

    Currently the various bodies that claim to represent social tenants are neither representative nor effective in communicating the views of the tenant to the social landlord. A particular example is the structure of “regional networks” where the representatives are elected by registered tenant organisations.

    There are many areas in Scotland where no such organisations exist, so that it is not unreasonable to suggest that the majority of tenants are not represented at any level, particularly those in remote or rural areas. As a registered tenants organisation is open to all residents, the interest and remit of such an organisation is wider than that relating to specific tenancy issues, where only tenant and landlord should be involved.

    It is reasonable to suggest that there is currently no effective channel for tenants to participate in the management of social housing at local, regional or national level. A distinction must be made between resident, where the issues affect the community, and tenant, where the issues are specifically tenancy related.

    This is particularly pertinent where the social landlord is the local authority. Examples can be given where a local authority is using funds from the Housing Revenue Account to support housing forums which include non-tenants. Again the more appropriate channel for this activity should be either through other channels of local authority activity or through community councils.

    A local authority may have a role as a social landlord and also have a role as a provider of social services and the distinction must be clear. Again it is worth noting that Communities Scotland accept that “Where an issue is solely tenancy related it would however be appropriate that only tenant members of the group are consulted and involved in the decision making process for that particular issue.”

    This must be clearly understood by all local authorities. It is essential for the future of social housing in Scotland that effective tenant participation as well as consultation is encapsulated in the Charter.

    One prospective outcome in the Discussion Paper suggests that rent levels are set in consultation with tenants. In many aspects of social housing management consultation should be a preliminary stage with any implementation of the proposals, which were the subject of a consultation, requiring participation by democratically elected representatives of all tenants of that social landlord at the time when any decision is made.

    Without democratic tenant participation in the management of social housing the future of the Charter cannot be assured. Unlike the National Health Service there is the need for a single model of tenant participation to be set out in the Charter. At some point in the future this could form the basis for regional and national representation, replacing the current undemocratic organisations.

    In the discussion paper the word tenant and resident are both used.

    For example "Residents are content with how their landlord is dealing with anti-social behaviour problems on their estate". If their is multi-tenure on the estate this is not the responsibility of the landlord alone, only if the anti-social behaviour is caused by or related to a tenant of that landlord.

    On page 19 of the Discussion Paper it is stated that the following pages provide examples of possible outcomes. As with any outcome it must be evidence based, which the wording must reflect. The above outcome is so loosely worded, that it does not constitute an outcome. For example, what evidence is required to show that residents are content, particularly if the problem is ongoing.

    From Ian Spence, Social Housing Division - 24/05/2011
    Tagged as: rents, anti-social behaviour, customer participation

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    [submitted by P.C.]

    You asked for comments. Our housing association has just passed to us an outline of what the charter will try to do to improve equality, amongst other things.

    Some comments for you to peruse -

    There may well be performance standards that housing officers have to adhere to, but I can assure you that there is not enough overseeing done of our housing officer by our housing association. Our housing officer is never seen in the building and is merely reactive, instead of being proactive. Many tenants do not pay any attention to her letters informing them of how and when they have breached their tenancy agreement and this is not followed up. Regular estate walkabouts should be brought in to force and there should be unannounced building inspections to keep an eye on things at regular intervals. If anything is seen, then the door should be knocked on and the individual dealt with on the spot, completely out of the blue. Letters are frequently not replied to, or you have to wait at least 3 weeks for a reply, from the housing officer.

    The repairs centre is also slow to get back to a tenant who has reported a fault. I would expect to be contacted within 48 hours, but this is not the case, so sometimes up to 3 phone calls have to be made to get someone out to fix a repair. A landlord should also provide a handyman service to his tenants - some properties have very high ceilings, light flexes are too short and impossible to reach to change a light bulb, for example, or to change curtains, or put up a curtain rail. Tenants should not be expected to have family or neighbours to do these jobs for them. It should not depend on your old age or your disability to get this kind of service from a social landlord.

    Homes should indeed be clean and tidy at the point of entry, but this is not happening either. The housing association I belong to gives tenants a decoration voucher and expects them to do the decoration and cleaning up for them!

    The local Council is not allocating homes fairly in my opinion. There are far too many people living in properties that are far too big for them. Their families have moved on and those of us who really need a larger property simply cannot get it, not even after several years of being on the waiting list. Those with the bigger properties are often telling lies on the council tax registration form and the council does not check the information out. This is costing the council a great deal of unnecessary money in housing benefit payouts. These people just refuse to move on. They should be made to move on to a smaller property - with no cash incentive! The council believes too easily what it is told. Many people register as homeless and they are nothing of the sort! Many tenants pretend they are separated from partner or husband because they refuse to give up the tenancy of their own 2- or 3-bed flat and because they can squeeze out from the housing benefit office a lot more money, but it is all a pretence. Not enough investigation is being done by the council to ascertain the real truth. The only people who seem to be getting re-housed quickly are genuinely homeless people and lots of foreigners from eastern Europe who have never paid into the system. More fairness to our own people needed!

    Landlords need to be much firmer regarding anti-social behaviour! It causes loss of income, deterioration of health and makes it very difficult for tenants to move house away from such a troublesome building, as I have experienced myself over the past 5 years. Because the housing association was so lax in dealing with anti-social behaviour, from 2 neighbours, these problems went on and on for over 5 years! No amount of complaining improved the situation and indeed there is still no monitoring that I can see of this neighbour still misbehaving, so the situation is still going on! Tenants are fed up with such poor service! What are tenancy agreements for? A waste of paper!

    A probationary period of at least 1 full year should be brought in for new tenancies. The population in our town centres is far too mobile and it is difficult for the authorities to trace where these tenants have gone to to retrieve money owed to them. Tenants should be evicted more easily. There are far too many excuses found to give anti-social tenants a second or third chance, making other tenants' lives a misery for far too long. The police are not robust enough in their actions.

    There needs to be much more customer participation in the monitoring, assessing and reporting on the quality of services received from the landlord, and on the quality of the service provided by the individual housing officer.

    From Ian Spence, Social Housing Division - 23/05/2011
    Tagged as: repairs and maintenance, customer service, housing quality, anti-social behaviour, customer participation, allocations

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    houseing that is of a high quality build with a good infastructure of community resorces is crittical. homes that are energy effisiant and continue to be so that are well maintained and structurly sollidwith plenty ventalation and are free of damp rott and condensation

    anti soucial behaviour neads to have toughfer and quicker resalutions to avoid the deteriation of the victoms health and life quality giveing better and stronger support through out the full prosses and beyond.

    houseing services and management that communicates well with tennants in a way that both partys are able to work together should be developed from the start of tennancey with tennants haveing plenty and choice of oppertunity to have say and develop the services thay recive both localy and as an organisation.the areas should be clean tidey and maintained to a high standerd and assesments made by both tennants and staff and maintained to the leval agreed with tennants at a walk abought,communitys should be safe and freindly and free of discrimanation and this should be well managed to a standard that meets the regulations and customers expectations.

    houseing allocation should be of choice base with a 6 month extndebal probation period which can be re asighned if nessesary with consultation with external factors to implament a safe gaurd for both partys and the sustainabilaty of the community, to allow allocations to be made there shoul be a better system of salecting the tennant allocated to a property from the choice based system to allow the tennancey and community to be sustainable and a safe and secure and mostly happy enviroment for people to live so that a community is a place where people can live comfertable with out creating gehcos all new tennances during the probnatioon period should have support or assistance to establish a tennancey durring this time as quite a number of new tennanceys are on tight budgets more should be done across the board to support this period to establish tennanceys and should be avalible prior to entaring the property to ensure the tennancey starts on a sustanable footing.

    good value for money is a must where transparancey is a key factor and shown in plain terms and the services that are beeing payed for meet the customers expectations to which the customer should have input and be able to feedback on.

    homeless should have the same standard of tempary acommodation as perminant tennanceys and the same choices with a good transitional period to allow the change from temparary accomodation to permanant home and they should be ennuf time for them to establish there perminant home with general basic neads facilatys to beable to sustain the new tennancey (ie furnish and carpet) houseing officers should always identifie when signing a new tennant up ensure thay are able to get this in place or give support to do this its all to quick at the molment that tennances start and thay have to move in with out resorces which causes hardship and strain on the extended community.

    repairs and mantanance should always be of good quality with well trained and experianced staff and traidsmen with good knollage of all resorces and knollage f the homes thay work in and the tennancey neads.

    support neads to be more esaly avalible and less difficult to obtain young tennants should be assigned tennancey support automaticaly to establish there homes from before beeing allocated this hellping to sustain there tennancey but lead a more independant life and fit in to the community and get a good relationship with the community this also may nead to be ongoing for people who are vulnerable so should not be time limmeted.

    all houseing providers should be transparent to the customer and the regulators in all areas tennants should have good resorces to be able to asses the houseing services in all areas and be able to see where there rent money is beeing spent

    From 9/05/2011
    Tagged as: value for money, communication, housing quality, anti-social behaviour

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    P 15
    Some tenants said that building good neighbourhoods was not solely the responsibility of the landlord. Tenants have a part to play and the Charter should address their responsibility to fulfil their duties under the tenancy agreements. As the Charter is about the housing service being provided by landlords, we cannot include this as a separate outcome as suggested. However, these comments perhaps indicate that some landlords are not doing enough to remind tenants of their tenancy obligations, or to enforce tenancy agreements. One of the outcomes could cover this.

    Many also said it would help to create more stable communities if all new tenants were given a probationary tenancy for a set time, during which they would have to show they were able to meet their tenancy conditions (with support if needed).

    Comment – What outcomes would evidence that tenants were able to meet their tenancy conditions and what would evidence they were not able to meet their tenancy conditions? There are many areas in which tenants fail to adhere to their tenancy agreements, for example, causing deliberate nuisance to neighbours by creating unacceptably high noise levels out with social hours. If a tenant was to play loud music and stomp about during their probation what would happen? If they were to play loud music after their probation period what would happen?

    Creating more stable communities involves education initiatives which enable individuals to become successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors, where the initial education system has been unsuccessful programmes such as ‘Lifeskills Courses’ enable young adults, those with previous dependency issues to make better life choices. These second chances opportunities are vital in supporting those who are homeless and vulnerable individuals. Tenancy support will only work when tenant outcomes are identified. What does the tenant hope to gain from their tenancy? There is a massive difference between ‘a roof over your head’ and a ‘home’. This difference often involves tenant lifestyle choices therefore collaborative working with support groups is vital and should not be left to the landlord to simply enforce tenancy agreement nor simply ‘remind’ tenants of their obligations.

    P 24
    Concerns about anti-social behaviour were raised regularly on the consultation events. These ranged from frustration at the noise caused by neighbours walking on laminate flooring to fear of neighbours apparently involved in criminal activity. However, anti-social behaviour is not just a housing issue and it doesn’t affect only tenants in the social rented sector, it also affects households in the private rented sector and owner occupiers. Therefore, not all aspects of anti-social behaviour are the landlord’s responsibility to remedy. We have tried to reflect that fact in this suggested outcome.

    Comment – Scottish Executive 2006 leaflet entitled ‘ Neighbour Noise Between Flats: The influence of laminate and hardwood flooring’, quotes that ‘If you live in a lower flat and are affected by neighbour noise there are limited options to address the problem’. Does the Scottish Executive think that it is good enough to state ‘there are limited options’? This is not good enough guidance or advice. Similar to ash-deafened floors, post-build service work and alterations such as notching of joists, damaged floorboards and replacement of carpets with laminate or wood flooring leads to poorer levels of sound insulation.

    It is important that rules should be enforced whereby anyone living above ground level should not be allowed to have laminated flooring which leads to disturbance and prevents individuals the right to live the highest quality of life and enjoy the maximum independence possible within their community. There must be protection to those below laminate flooring and those above should be made to have underlay and carpets laid so that they do not cause noise disturbance to their neighbours.

    It is so unfair and unjust that many tenants have to suffer because of inconsiderate others!

    P 4
    As a result of new legislation, the Scottish Government must produce a document called the Scottish Social Housing Charter (the Charter). The Charter will list the standards and outcomes that social landlords should be aiming to achieve for their customers. It will make it clear what people can expect from a social landlord.

    Comment – When the Scottish Government and other organisations come together the purpose should be to give and share information, determine needs, formulate plans and provide appropriate guidance. The outcome should enable the individual to live the highest quality of life and enjoy maximum independence possible within the community. More realistically services have to acknowledge flaws and tensions that exist and devise strategies to overcome them.

    There is no doubt there are complexities relating to service priorities in areas relating to those who are homeless and vulnerable, including Health, Social Care and Housing issues. Collaborative working between Councils, Social Work, Community Groups, Charitable and Voluntary Organisations should equal less confusion for service users. What Landlords should be aiming to achieve for their customers is not possible without collaborative working between Health and Social Care particularly where there is an issue with homelessness and vulnerable groups.


    From Marion , Tenant - 18/04/2011
    Tagged as: tenancy support, anti-social behaviour

    1 comment

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    [Extract from the TIS report]

    Anti-social Behaviour Outcome

    'Delegates believe that the term “residents” is not correct here. They believe that you cannot be a “resident” of a landlord only a “tenants” of a landlord. Delegates questioned how social landlords will be expected to measure residents are content as on mixed tenure estates not all services and areas are the responsibility of social landlords.

    Delegates have mixed views about the use of the word “content” in this outcome.'

    From Ian Spence, Social Housing Division (admin) - 9/03/2011
    Tagged as: anti-social behaviour

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