There are three arguments for tenant involvement – moral, regulatory and practical. Over time I have argued for all three but every now and again I meet the “So What” Wolf. The “So What” Wolf will be familiar to many of you. Charmless, cynical and conservative (with a small c) the Wolf lies in wait during discussions on tenant involvement. The Wolf is always critical about it, denigrating tenants and tenant involvement alike and dismissing anything about empowering tenants as ‘frothy stuff’.
The wolf matters because they do exist and unless those of us who care passionately about tenant involvement deal with them they will win the day in Board and Executive meetings.
But is caring passionately enough? Surely there is a strong moral case for involvement? Unfortunately the So What Wolf will blow this house down. They will argue that landlords are businesses and their business is to provide services to customers. They are not there to be nice, empower anyone or do anything that strays beyond that business purpose. The So What Wolf will argue that those arguing an evangelical case should be gently ignored or patronised and hopefully those evangelicals will go away and annoy someone else.
Surely the technicalities of regulation will help? The fine print of page 21 of the Regulatory Framework backed up by appendix 3 (1) (ii) published by the Regulatory Committee of the Homes and Community Agency? The Wolf will be more wary here scenting a trap. They will not want to be seen directly opposing regulation. Instead they will point out the priority given to economic regulation in the Localism Act, that the Regulator rarely gets involved in consumer regulation and not one complaint by a tenant to the regulator has resulted in regulatory action. Being ever pragmatic the Wolf will accept that some scrutiny has to be set up, but as far away from the decision making role of the Board as possible and with little resources or support.
So having blown down both moral and regulatory cases the Wolf is feeling pretty confident now. However the third house is proving more difficult. If the Wolf argues that the business of the landlord is paramount then it is harder to argue against tenant involvement when it supports business improvement, or improved governance, or value for money. When tenant involvement is central to the business of the landlord then the case for it is robust and withstands the huffing and puffing of the So What Wolf. This is more important now given the recent Budget. Tenant involvement and scrutiny are supporting landlords to reduce costs whilst maintaining services.
So when arguing for tenant involvement and scrutiny don’t be evangelical, don’t rely too much on regulatory niceties but instead focus on service improvement. Perhaps even the wolf will be on your side?