Below you'll find the most commonly asked questions and our answers to them, however if you can't find what you are looking for please get in touch.

A Tenants’ and Residents’ Association (TRA) is a group formed by local people who join together to work for common aims. A group may come together for a whole range of reasons, for example to tackle environmental problems on an estate or conduct a road-safety campaign, and can become involved in all types of activities from running a community building to organising activities for young people.

Although all groups are different, they do share common aims and objectives, which can include identifying and trying to solve problems that affect tenants and residents, campaigning on particular issues, organising community events and creating a sense of ‘community spirit’. Also, many landlords consult TARAs on housing management issues and TARAs often become the main representative of tenants’ views in an area or on an estate.
As a tenant you have a number of rights that are enshrined in law. These include:

The right to be secure in your home
The right to pass your home on to another person
The right to have your home repaired and the Right to Repair
The right to carry out improvements and the right to compensation for improvements carried out
The right to buy your home
The right to transfer or exchange your home
The right to be consulted
The right to take on management of your home

A constitution is a formal document, adopted by most tenants’ associations, that states the aims and objectives of the association and how it will be run. Many informal groups can work well without a constitution, but if groups want to be more formal or want to apply for grants etc., then a constitution is necessary.

There is no legal requirement on what should be included in a constitution for a tenants’ and residents’ association, but sometimes landlords may want certain clauses included before they are prepared to recognise a group. You should ask your landlord about this when producing your constitution.

Tpas can provide examples of constitutions
We would recommend that the TP worker firstly try to get things moving, if possible, by addressing members of the group. Try to establish if there is a problem or not and also to mention that by not meeting they are in all probability, not strictly adhering to the terms of the groups constitution.

This is obviously dependent on the constitution itself, but if the group has been ‘recognised’ there should be something alluding to a scenario similar as this. The next step should be to call a meeting of the said group’s quorum (preferably giving 28 days notice). You should now establish through this meeting whether the group wants to continue functioning or not. If the group members present agree that they want this to happen, they can opt to elect a new committee.

If this is not the case the group should organise a further and formal ‘Winding Up’ meeting (again, giving 28 days notice). If in the worst case scenario there is actually no quorum, then the group will probably have to be ‘wound up’ there and then and that all relevant books, accounts etc are forwarded on to the party specified in the original agreed constitution.
The Homes and Communities Agency is the national housing and regeneration agency for England. They contribute to economic growth by helping communities to realise their aspirations for prosperity and to deliver high-quality housing that people can afford.

They regulate the standards in social housing including the Tenant Involvement and empowerment standard.

They provide investment for new affordable housing and to improve existing social housing, as well as for regenerating land.
It is easy for small problems to gather momentum and for disputes to arise. There are both ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ disputes – healthy disputes can result in productive discussions and better decisions being made, however if communication breaks down and relationships are affected the situation becomes unhealthy – and can quickly get out of hand and become destructive. Unresolved disputes also damage the trust that is so essential for effective working.

If things seem to be stuck and aren’t moving forward mediation might be a good option to consider. An independent mediator is neutral and will work confidentially to help those in dispute reach an agreement that everyone is comfortable with. Failing that, if the dispute continues you may want to follow your landlords complaints procedure by raising an official complaint.The first person to tell about a problem with housing is the landlord. They might be able to put things right.

If the landlord cannot put things right, you can then contact the Housing Ombudsman.

For more detailed information on complaints and how to resolve them contact the Housing Ombudsman http://www.housing-ombudsman.org.uk/
Unfortunately, it really is almost impossible to say exactly what has gone wrong without more detail about the applications that were made. Generally, fundraising is getting harder - there is a lot of competition for funds and usually not enough money to go around. Cost issues also sometimes prevent Trusts from giving feedback as to why funding was declined, which can be frustrating.

When applying for funding for a project or for activities it is vital for the group to do their research and make sure that they:

• Meet the criteria of the fund that they are applying for – some charitable trusts will only fund activities in a certain area, or certain types of activities or fields of work (i.e. projects for women or young people).

• ALWAYS read the application guidance notes and fill out the application form carefully. Using bullet points can be helpful for breaking up large amounts of text.

• Leave plenty of time to get the application in.

Funders almost always ask for evidence of who benefits from the work of a group and how the need for the project has been identified and details of how the money will be spent – these are some of the key things that will convince a funder to financially support a scheme, so is very important question to answer clearly and the more evidence a group can give for the need and benefits of their project the better.

Local Council for Voluntary Services (CVS) will be able to help groups to find appropriate sources of funding, and can also put groups in touch with organisations that can provide training sessions and sometimes help with funding applications. The National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA) have a CVS directory on their website. The National Lottery also has a number of different funding programmes that community groups can apply to.

Finally don’t forget other w
Normally this is something that should be part of a tenancy agreement and some tenancy agreements go into more detail than others. It is often an overlooked area but nuisance pets, whether that is an animal that fouls someone’s land, damages property or just expresses aggressive behaviour to fellow residents can often be very difficult to live amongst and can often be deemed as anti social behaviour.

We would encourage that as part of the tenancy agreement, the tenant must have permission by the landlord, preferably in writing, that they are allowed to keep any pets and in turn the landlord should impose certain conditions that the tenant will keep their pets under control at all times and that they as pet owners are responsible for any ‘nuisance’ behaviour.

It should be made clear that if this agreement is breached the tenants in question will no longer be able to keep any pets and as a landlord you will be able to withdraw this permission.

It is up to the landlord as to how much detail they set out in the conditions of the tenancy agreement but we would always recommend that at the minimum there are standard terms regarding ‘causing a nuisance’.
Credit unions are financial co-operatives which are owned and controlled by the members who use their services. Whilst many credit unions employ staff, all board members are volunteers who are elected from the membership, by the membership. Members of a credit union pool their savings together and the savings then provide a pool of funds from which loans can be made.

Any profits that the credit union makes, once expenses are paid and a contribution is made to reserves, go back to the members in the form of a dividend. Membership of a credit union is open to anyone who fits the limits of the common bond – e.g. is a member of the relevant trade union or lives within a certain area. A new member may have to pay a small membership fee. Credit unions are regulated by the Financial Services Authority and savings held in a credit union are covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, just as they would be in a bank or building society.

Traditionally, credit unions have offered a savings and loans service, but many are now offering a much wider range of services to their members including the Credit Union Current Account.

For further information and to find a credit union near you visit the Association of British Credit Unions Ltd (ABCUL) website: http://www.abcul.coop/page/aboutsite.cfm
Disclosure and Barring Service checks are used for screening purposes & to check if someone has a criminal record. It is one way of reducing the risk of recruiting people who may be unsuitable to work with children or other vulnerable people. Usually DBS Standard Disclosure checks are required by law for any person that is working in close contact with children or vulnerable adults. As to whether members of the group need a DBS check is all dependent on the nature of the events & who takes part.

Duty of care requires that you do everything ‘reasonable’ within your power to protect others from harm. So if members of your TRA are working with vulnerable people at any time, it could be argued that part of the TRA’s duty of care is to screen these people. Groups need to look carefully at the people attending these events to decide whether screening is necessary, and a risk assessment needs to be done to decide whether attendees are at risk if members are not screened.

Some landlord members have actively helped facilitate TRA groups with the process & the cost of the DBS checks which we consider to be good practice. Others account for this in their initial budget and some groups have even obtained them through funding from partner agencies.

For further information please see the DBS website: www.gov.uk/government/organisations/disclosure-and-barring-service
Starter and introductory tenancies are two similar types of tenancy offered by some social landlords to new tenants. A starter tenancy is an assured shorthold tenancy for a period of 12 months that can be terminated swiftly if any conditions are breached. Tenants have broadly the same rights as those on an Assured Tenancy but with some notable omissions.

Research has suggested that starter tenancies can contribute to reducing antisocial behaviour as part of wider prevention strategies. Their introduction can send a message to tenants and the wider community that nuisance and antisocial behaviour are being taken seriously. They can also form an effective part of a landlord’s response to the Respect Standard for Housing Management and encourage community stability and cohesion.

However, if existing methods of tackling anti-social behaviour or rent arrears are effective, or if the threat of ASB in an area is more perceived than real, then starter tenancies could be using a sledge hammer to crack a nut unless there are significant problems to address. Social landlords have a duty to ensure that vulnerable people receive the support they need to remain in their homes – eviction can still only be a very last resort.

You will also need to consider the workload and any extra resources required to manage starter tenancies or focus could be drawn away from work with existing tenants. Pilot starter tenancy schemes have been shown to improve the support available to new tenants, but you will need to think about whether it is necessary to remove security of tenure to do this.
A good place to start would be to look at your own organisation’s already existing health & safety policy. Not all of it will be necessary but the ‘bare bones’ of it will probably be relevant to use as a template. With the group not necessarily having employees, it may not be able to achieve the same standards of health and safety as required for employees in a work place environment. But by setting some form of ‘check list’, you will be demonstrating to the group and the outside world the value you place on them and recognise, as members, their efforts to support the Tenants and Residents Association.

You will have to do some form of Risk Assessment, which should form most of your ‘check list’. A risk assessment is nothing more than a careful examination of what, in your group, day or event etc, could cause harm to people. Risk assessment should be a practical exercise, aimed at getting the right controls in place to avoid any possibility of harm.

There is also the obligation of Duty of Care, which is a general legal duty on all individuals and organisations to avoid carelessly causing injury to people. It has been developed by the courts over many years. The duty is regardless of the size of the organisation, its income or whether the organization or group has any paid staff.
An Annual Report is a regulatory requirement under the Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard so all boards / Councils should be signing off to the HCA that they have done one.
The annual report was introduced to allow tenants to hold landlords to account for their performance and the information provided should equip tenants to challenge as well as being a useful document to share information and celebrate success.

HCA standard
Registered providers shall support their tenants to develop and implement opportunities for involvement and empowerment, including by:
(a) supporting their tenants to exercise their Right to Manage or otherwise exercise housing management functions, where appropriate
(b) supporting the formation and activities of tenant panels or equivalent groups and responding in a constructive and timely manner to them
(c) the provision of timely and relevant performance information to support effective scrutiny by tenants of their landlord’s performance in a form which registered providers seek to agree with their tenants. Such provision must include the publication of an annual report which should include information on repair and maintenance budgets,