IUT’s guide to setting up a Tenants’ Association

The importance and benefits of tenants’ participation

There are many benefits for landlords of allowing and facilitating the opportunity for tenants to set up tenants’ associations. Some examples of these are set out in the documents linked below. IUT advocates the right for tenants’ participation. The foundation for our views are set out in the Tenants’ Charter.

The right to adequate housing is embodied in numerous international human rights texts. The IUT and its member organisations call for the right to housing, adequate shelter and other measurements to improve the living conditions for tenants. The right to quality, affordable and accessible housing is a universal human right which must be legally enforced in the constitutions and legislation of all countries. Governments must commit sufficient resources to realise this right and wealthier countries should provide resources to those that are in need of such.

The national law should give the Rights of Recognition and Involvement for Tenants’ Organisations. The national law should protect and facilitate the work of democratic Tenants’ Organisations.

Participation in decision-making

Tenants must have the right to participate in decision-making processes through their organisations.

  1. Individual tenants should have rights:
    – to establish and operate a tenant organisation for the purpose of addressing issues related to their living environment, which includes the terms and conditions of their tenancy as well as activities related to housing and community development,
    – of access to effective in-house complaints and appeals procedures, – to mediation and arbitration services,
    – to be consulted by the bodies responsible for monitoring, inspecting and auditing their housing services.
  2. Recognised tenant’s organisations should have rights at local, and where appropriate, on national level:
    – to be involved in the negotiating rent setting process,
    – to be involved in developing, monitoring and reviewing all in-house arrangements and also for relevant neighbourhood issues, for dealing with tenant’s complaints,
    – to be involved in any bodies set up to determine action over complaints by tenants or to provide redress for tenants.
  3. Tenants should be given rights via recognised tenant’s organisations:
    – to have their rents negotiated,
    – to be involved in the bodies responsible for monitoring, inspecting and auditing the provision of their housing services,
    – to request an independent inspection of their housing services,
    – to be fully consulted and involved in the development and implementation of any plans for action to remedy failure to meet agreed service standards and performance targets.
  4. Protected activities
    Owners of multifamily housing buildings, and their agents, must allow tenants and tenant organisers to conduct activities related to the establishment or operation of a tenant organisation, including, but not limited to,:
    – initiating contact with tenants, and providing information to tenants,
    – assisting tenants to participate in tenant organisation activities,
    – convening regularly scheduled tenant organisation meetings in a space on site and accessible to tenants, in a manner that is fully independent of management representatives.

Setting up a tenants’ association

There is not one “one size fits all” when it comes to setting up a Tenants’ Association. This information sheet has mainly been written for start-up Tenants ‘Associations, although most of the information can equally apply to any type of tenants’ groups, including for example tenants of social housing, private landlord tenants, owner-occupiers, leaseholders etc. when instead the groups may be called residents’ associations. If you have plans on setting up a tenants’ association, so not hesitate to contact us for more information, tips and exchange of experiences.

A tenants’ association can consist of a group of people, large or small, living in a block, street an area, region, city or even a country, who have come together to take up issues of common concern in relation to their housing, community and environment. There are many reasons why people may decide to get together to form an association, whether to campaign for or against something, to gain a greater voice, or to gain a sense of community. We have many great experiences within the IUT family!

In some countries there are laws that govern and facilitate the setting up of associations. The list below aims to set up the issues that need to be considered. There are also examples attached including from Denmark with a detailed guide on how the tenants’ association works there and examples statutes from the Czech Republic and Germany.

The first ten steps to start a tenants association:

  1. Gather views. Is there sufficient interest amongst the tenants and residents in your area? You need to talk to as many people as possible, but you only need a small core of people to express an interest in setting up a group.
  2. Talk to your landlord. They may already have systems in place to help you. Check for voluntary organisations or professional associations in your country that may be able to help. Check if there are national federations that already exist who may be able to advice you.
  3. Plan and run the first public meeting, write an agenda for the meeting, arrange a venue and send out invitations, and arrange for minutes of the meeting to be taken.
  4. Decide on aims and objectives of the association. Start small but consider what services and member benefits the association will offer in the short- and long-term.
  5. Membership. Decide on who the members of the association will be and the criteria for membership. Consider whether membership will be households, individuals or perhaps blocks of flats.
  6. Write a constitution or statues. Decide on voting procedures, a name for the association and dissolution procedures.
  7. Decide on how the association will be financed. Will it be run by volunteers, will there be membership fees, are there opportunities for funding from other sources? Is the city or the local authority able to assist with set-up costs. Make a budget and open a bank account.
  8. Elect officers, such as a chairman, secretary, treasurer, and committees to carry out specified tasks. Decide on who the signatories of the association will be.
  9. Decide on how often meetings will be held, when the AGM will be held, a code of conduct, and a statement of equal opportunities.
  10. Keep a membership register and decide on how members will receive communications and information.

Below are links to advice from governments, local councils, and social housing providers on setting up tenants’ associations. A quick search on the internet will enable you to find guides in your own language.  The statutes and governance procedures will of course need to be adapted for local conditions, culture and laws.

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