David Yates profile
I have been living in a private rented property for 15 years when my landlord decided that he wanted to sell his asset (my home) which left me feeling very vulnerable and isolated.
Tell us a bit more about yourself.
I have always been involved in local community work. I was involved with a local high school governing committee for over 25 years which gave me lots of experience, especially during my time as Chair. I also spent 5 years as a Preston Borough Councillor.
I worked at British Aerospace for much of my working life. For most of that time I was very heavily involved in my union, being the Senior Representative for the weekly-paid staff, some 2000 in total. Representing the Union was a great pleasure, and later I became Chair of the national Joint Staff Committee.
During the late 1990s my life took a turn for the worse. I was going through a divorce, and had to sell my home, I was also made redundant. On top of all that my 23 year old son was killed. This was followed by a long period of depression. Is it any wonder?
But I decided my only way out of all this was in my own hands. No medication, just taking everything in my stride, thinking positive and being strong. It worked for me.
Now here I am, almost 20 years later and I can say I am enjoying as good a life as I could wish for; great friends, a social life and lots to occupy my time.
What kind of power and influence do you have with your landlord?
I don’t like to use the word power; I prefer to say “influence and partnership”. To say you have power over something or somebody often breeds resentment and prejudice.
I feel so proud and passionate to be involved in such an organisation as Community Gateway Association. We are a true Gateway, working within the model. We are democratic at all levels of representation, and being a believer in democracy I would fight to preserve that.
Gateway says “tenants are at the heart of all we do” and we really are. This is not just a slogan or a catchphrase but the reality of how we work. So why do I need power?
To have influence is a much calmer way to do things, the power to pursue is much greater and longer lasting. That is the only power I want.
To presume that everybody wants what you want is a mistake most people make.
Local Councillors and Members of Parliament all do it. I am sure I have been guilty in the past of doing the same.
A good relationship with your landlord is the secret to working together. You have to respect other people’s views and positions and often a compromise is the only solution.
Why do you think it is important to have an influential relationship with your landlord?
To have an influence with your landlord I feel you have to demonstrate that you know how to use that influence for the benefit of the tenants and the organisation.
So many people forget their roots and who and what they are. My role as a tenant representative is one of making sure that my landlord delivers the services it has promised. It is not my role to tell them how to run the company.
As committee members, you should build up a relationship with your landlord based on common sense, honesty, and transparency at all times. By doing that, your landlord will respect your position and work with you, giving you greater influence over the decisions that are being made on behalf of the tenants.
I am in my second year now as Chair of the Gateway Tenants’ Committee and was Vice Chair for twelve months prior to that. I know I have to earn respect in that role and work hard to do that.
Here at Gateway, I feel we are part of a very unique organisation and it could be very easy to be complacent. We all work together to strive to improve services and standards for all the tenants.
You must always remember that you can challenge your landlord if you think that something is not right. What better way of doing that, than getting involved in your organisation’s Tenant Scrutiny Group? Your landlord should welcome your involvement and give serious consideration to the recommendations that are made by the Scrutiny Group.
It is your right to challenge, never forget that, you have influence. Use it!
What advice would you give to a tenant who wants to have more influence with their landlord?
If you want to have an influence with your landlord, get involved. Why be a lone voice?
When I first moved into my new home 5 years ago, I needed something to occupy my time and getting involved in the local community seemed to me to be the ideal solution.
I joined the local group and quickly became Treasurer After about 12 months I was approached to see if I was interested in standing for election to the Gateway Tenants’ Committee, which I thought sounded interesting.
If I could help my fellow tenants to improve their homes and environment I thought I would give it a go. I was elected and soon realised that is was more involved than I had originally thought.. It was a position of some responsibility, which carried with it the opportunity to monitor the services being delivered by my landlord.
After settling in for a while I joined some of the Action Groups which gave me the chance to scrutinise much closer the services being delivered.
Now I am involved in other areas which I never thought I would be. Being asked to present workshops in different parts of the country, informing other tenants how we do things at Gateway, and trying to help groups to promote the idea that tenants should be at the heart of everything we do.
So my message is very clear. Get involved. It is not important how much time you give. The rewards are nothing more than satisfaction at something you have done to improve the lives of your fellow tenants. I did, so can you.
How would you convince a landlord boss to give greater power and influence to their tenants?
Coming from an organisation that is influenced greatly by the views of its tenants, I am aware that tenants need to demonstrate to their landlord that it is in everyone’s interest to work in partnership.
I would suggest visiting other organisations who have established good working relationships between tenants and landlord and where tenant influence is strongly embedded within the organisation. You’ll see that working with tenants can make a significant difference to the business. Involving tenants in everything you do with a view to improving what you do, how you do it and the quality of services you deliver will create amazing results.
There is reason why the HCA are promoting that tenants have more influence and be responsible for their own areas. I believe it’s because your organisation is not always aware what is happening within the community and you are their eyes and ears. We can provide really constructive challenges and lead reviews to make services more efficient.
If you’re reasonable in your requests of your tenants time, energy and ideas and you slowly make ground to where you want to get, plus you set out your goals and work towards them together, I’m sure you’re tenant involvement relationship will be a success.
Chair of Gateway Tenants’ Committee.