National Conversation Phase 1

The new regulatory framework for Social Landlords is being determined with these consultations and reports published by the Tenant Services Authority.

Today on my doormat landed a hard copy of the Summary Report published by the TSA. I recommend interested readers to click through to all reports being available on this issue.

Without having read through the report the issues of concern were tenant’s rights of protected status,  and the ability to pass on tenancies to next of kin. Many local housing authorities ran programs to enable conversion of local authority housing to housing associations and it depended on each local authority how much they wanted to follow the programs rather than insist on direct funding and investment for local authority housing.

Here in Tower Hamlets the council decided against insisting on direct funding from the government for housing stock, put each estate on a vote and those who did not wish to transfer to the private sector housing associations voluntarily have been transferred to an ALMO called Tower Hamlets Homes.

More flexibility to move out of the borough has been created for tenants who now have an easier choice to leave Tower Hamlets if they so wish and the council now does refer homeless tenants into private housing on a short term basis if there is no other housing available. Some lucky people can end up with a luxury flat in a swish blcok this way.

Upon brief perusal of that report I comment on the following:

An independent regulator is another non local method to remove direct local determination from local issues by creating overriding objectives. The minimum housing standards already set provided standards all local authorities had to adhere to previously.

I am not sure why one should value exceptional management services, especially as the formulation of this vague statement does not even mention whether the exceptionally is meant to be exceptionally bad or exceptionally good.

It is another research body that spends tax payers money on publishing data that is unnecessary as housing needs are dependant on the economy and family sizes and health conditions of tenants.

Why one needs to challenge mediocrity and complacency when there should be a legal framework to give tenants rights when the landlord lets standards slip is beyond my comprehension. The fact is that legal aid provision has been reduced for tenants and this type of framework cannot replace the law and rights of tenants for decent homes.

The consultation

The report mentions persons attending 18 regional events received questionnaires and 23,441 paper questionnaires were returned by tenants, 455 from shared owners and 290 from prospective tenants.

Also 1725 tenants and 93 shared owners completed an online consultation.

I am most astonished that such small volume of feedback is taken to devise a national policy. The online web based consultation doesn’t seem to have any way to actually verify peoples addresses and / or their status.

When landlords were questioned we are informed that 659 landlords have attended and 467 completed the questionnaire.

I would like to know the relativity of total number of tenants against total number of questionnaires and the total number of landlords against the total number of questionnaires and not just the numbers of attendees against numbers of questionnaires. Those statistics miss one vital ingredient relevance as to how representative they are.

Research findings.

It more than a little disappointing that the findings of this very expensive exercise shows results like repairs, maintenance, decent standard and anti-social behaviour are still a major concern, we do know that.

When it comes to resolving tenants dissatisfaction with a poor service what we really, really need is effective legal help to resolve issues legally. Currently tenants are stuck in three stage complaints procedures to filter out dissatisfaction with warm words or letter writing, more or less friendly phone calls. What is needed is quick and efficient legal support that will take landlords to court if they fail to provide the services they are obliged to provide by law.

Here in Tower Hamlets I read in the local newspaper how tenants were flooded out by upstairs neighbours, had to miss work, and got no compensation at all for their losses. That is the issue, that is the dissatisfaction that there is no proper legal framework to help a person to seek a fast and efficient remedy for housing disputes. A fast legal service is required that enables people to get help with claiming damages for damages suffered without having to go through all kinds of red – tape to put them off. There is no such thing as statutory requirement to be insured as it is with the drivers of cars so tenants are often stuck in a rut of dealing with landlords and having to go through tons of paperwork and evidence to get a claim settled. Might be the same with insurances. Having to proof that a neighbour was negligent when a flooding occurred, how is one supposed to proof that if it is not held negligent that the flooding occurred in the first place.

In the report excellent service is described as a cheerful, helpful, caring understanding and attitude, that also includes efficiency. That is no promise to actually carry out a necessary repair that just implies that the landlord has to tell the tenant in a cheerful manner a repair is unavailable.

Tenant involvement

The report shows a significant attitude in online participants and paper participants. As I suggested above, the online questionnaire most likely did not evidence the identity of the participant.

There will never be accountability and scrutiny unless it can manifest itself in efficient legal procedures for those seeking redress for damages and/or negligence suffered.

Standards

One reads about national standards as if we do not have them already and a need for them to be enforced to guarantee fairness without defining what fairness means. The point of enforcing is truly important as elaborated above but no proper tools are giving to tenants to swiftly enforce standards and get compensated for losses and lack of services.

The statistics

From the small sample of tenants that gave any feedback only around 33% were fully satisfied when interviewed face to face, 38% very satisfied in postal questionnaires and only 12.5% were fully satisfied online. This shows to me that people who allow tracing of their address and speak face to face are more worried in expressing what they really feel in case they get retribution for their views. Online people feel freer to say what they want as they feel more empowered to state their views. (Figures are approximate as brochure only contains charts and no exact figures).

85% of tenants think that repairs and maintenance is most important whilst only 10% think it is important to have your say on issues of concern. That contradicts earlier points made in the report that over-emphasis people’s requests for interactive contribution of their views.

Altogether this report doesn’t tell anything new and plays around with people’s taxes for results of surveys that were neither representative of the majority nor contain anything that we don’t know already especially that no easy to use and affective solutions to the problems actually exist.

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