Tenants Getting Involved in Health & Safety (Agenda Edition 12)
Subjects for Tenant Groups to discuss with their landlord.
Some tenant groups have asked us for topical agenda items/subject briefings for their tenant group to discuss with their landlord. TPAS Cymru have created a briefing series that we call ‘The Agenda’ which provides tenant groups with an overview of a subject and suggestions of questions you might want to ask in your engagement with your landlord. This briefing will focus on how tenants can get involved on Health and Safety
Health and Safety is a key priority, with the involvement of tenants at the centre. The safety of tenants must be paramount to landlords regardless of tenure. However, Community Housing Cymru (CHC) developed a framework to support the development of a safety engagement strategy based on 3 core principles: transparency, openness and accountability.
The framework is a set of minimum standards for the relationship between residents and their housing association, to ensure a high level of transparency, engagement but also responsiveness in dealing with safety concerns from residents and empowering residents to ensure their voice is heard.
Some background to the framework
Since the tragedy at Grenfell and the subsequent Hackitt review, which was the independent review of building regulations and fire safety in the UK, (which was carried out to ensure residents feel that they are safe in their homes), it was decided that the law (the fire safety order), and building regulations, were not fit for purpose.
Last year, the then Minister for Housing and Local Government in Wales, Julie James, announced that a white paper (which sets out proposals on future legislation) on changes to the fire safety laws would be published in 2020. Although Wales has a good record on fire safety with accidental dwelling fires the lowest they’ve ever been, Grenfell highlighted the devastating harm that can be caused. The white paper looked to address things like clarity around critical boundaries like common areas and outside walls and making fire risk assessments more robust.
Given that developing new laws takes time, the housing sector wanted to work with the Welsh Government to bring about positive change quicker. So CHC worked with the Welsh Government to produce this framework for the production of an engaging relationship between landlords and their residents, because as we now know, many of the failings of the Grenfell building could have been rectified before the tragedy, had the tenants been listened to.
What does the framework cover?
There are eight housing association commitments set out in the framework. The first is to establish a process for relevant and comprehensible health and safety information to be consistently issued. This could include information on smoke alarms, fire safety, fire evacuation, gas safety, asbestos, electrical safety.
The other commitments include providing details on how to access further information on a property, ensure that information takes accounts of resident’s differing needs, provide a clear process for raising concerns and complaints (including how to take complaints further if residents remain concerned with the landlords’ response), ensure that relevant interactions are monitored, nurture awareness of health and safety issues amongst staff, clearly outline to residents their own responsibilities, and provide necessary support for residents to understand any information issued.
These commitments should cover areas of health and safety relating to the fabric and use of the property itself, including fire, asbestos, lift equipment, falls, radon, legionella, gas and electrical safety. This however is a non-exhaustive list as there may be other headline risks relating to the geography and services delivered by housing associations.
Housing associations will aim to achieve the commitments set out in the framework in their own unique way. The framework allows them to support their tenants to live in safe and healthy home environments without prescribing rigid methods to follow. This means that each housing association can meet the needs of their tenants on the issues listed above, in a way that is most appropriate for the culture and practice of their organisation, and in a way that suits their tenants.
How will it benefit tenants?
The whole point of the framework is to ensure a genuine two way-engagement between landlord and resident. Tenants will be able to benefit, if they’re not already, from effective engagement and communication with their landlord, on health and safety matters. Tenants should feel as if they’re being listened to by those who can support them and bring about change, if it’s needed. This will be carried out in different ways by different housing associations, it could mean more written communication on specific areas, additional advice on things like smoke alarms, gas safety certificates, comprehensive explanations on maintenance, use of any new equipment, on any changes to the building.
Tenants can benefit from feeling safe and secure in their homes, and feeling that they are genuinely being listened to. The aim is to empower tenants with knowledge regarding the safety of their building. Crucial to the success of this framework is the ccontinuous dialogue with residents, as will be its regular review to ensure that tenants are supported on health and safety matters in the most effective way. With that in mind, here are some questions you can ask your landlord:
Questions for tenants to ask:
1. How are you implementing this framework?
2. Are you drawing up a charter?
3. What is your response to the framework?
4. How are you engaging with us as tenants?
5. How are you addressing safety in accordance to my specific situation – for example if you live in a flat, or a house, if you have a disability?
6. How are you planning to engage with tenants?
7. How can you assure me about my safety in my home?
We hope you have enjoyed reading this edition of the Agenda. We would love to hear about any conversations you’ve had with your landlord regarding this topic, so please email [email protected] with any feedback or further questions