I heard on the grapevine of a relatively new TMO where an investigation is underway because of suspected fraud by the Manager and contractors. Whilst this could happen to a Council and to a Housing Association it is much more upsetting where residents have put their trust in a new resident led vision for their estate.
Tenant Management is one of the most underused yet most successful tools. At this time, we are seeing a very low number of projects going through the ‘Right to Manage’ route, which is a real pity given that many of the traditional avenues for resident control are closing down. In a universe where funds for resident involvement are being hit by Local Authority cuts and residents of Housing Associations are looking at their landlords becoming ever bigger via mergers, giving residents more control is looking less likely.
Tenant Management offers the opportunity for residents to set the standards for the services they receive, to spend their rent and service charges in the way they want and to build a truly local vision. To get to the point where your landlord and the Government agrees that you are competent residents have to go through nearly 2 years of planning and development and be subject to external assessment. However, things can still go wrong.
There are a number of key things that residents can do with support from there advisor to minimise the chances of this type of thing happening:
- Way before going live, agree the exact report arrangements that you expect your TMO manager to adhere to. Set these up and do trial runs with the advisor to check on the data
- During your recruitment make sure you take up all references, that you set clear probationary targets and you appoint against a JD that is clear about experience required
- Once a quarter board members should undertake a ‘verification’ exercise to look at the raw information behind the reports. By setting up a scrutiny sub group who can focus on specific areas you pick up on any concerns
- When agreeing your procurement policy and procedure make sure you put in place checks and balances. Residents should be involved at all stages, agree clear schedules of work with clear prices and have a system in place to agree an variations in cost that involves board sign off
- Verify: before and after pictures from contractors Joint spot checks with the board and the staff of works completed
- Once a year do a 100% doorknock to pick up on any issues
As board members of a TMO residents should not be sitting looking over a managers shoulder, this is not good for either party. Instead, put in place procedures and checks and make sure they are carried out!