Our handy hints & tips documents

Introduction to Tenant Participation

To improve the standard of housing conditions and services. Effective participation enables tenants to influence the decision-making processes and it gives the landlord stronger links within the community.

Social landlords and local authorities are legally obliged to

  • have a Tenant Participation Strategy which supports and enables tenants to participate
  • consult on annual rent setting and significant changes to services.
  • provide evidence that they are taking reasonable steps to achieve tenant participation.

The Scottish Housing Regulator requires social landlords and local authorities to:

  • consult and agree how tenants (and others) will be involved in self-assessment
  • meaningfully / effectively involve tenants (and others) in assessing performance and collecting of information for the Annual Review of the Charter (ARC) Report
  • ensure tenants (and others) are part of regular & continuous performance monitoring

The Scottish Social Housing Charter Outcome 3 Participation states: “Social landlords manage their business so that Tenants and other customers find it easy to participate in and in influence their landlords’ decisions at a level they feel comfortable with.” 

All service providers need knowledge of what their customers:

  • want or don’t want or might start or stop wanting
  • need or may need
  • consider to be value for money.

Tenant Participation (TP) is the process of gathering and using this knowledge from tenants to provide the best possible services. TPAS Scotland are experts in aiding you to bespoke your process to your resources and circumstances.

If activities happen once in a blue moon tenants are unlikely to respond but if tenants can’t get on with their lives because of endless meetings/consultation they’ll disengage. Aim for variety, flexibility, relevant and interesting subjects, in ways tenants enjoy.

TP happens when informed tenants’ views influence decision making.

  • Improving housing services because performance is reviewed and challenged
  • Tenants having more choice/power over their homes and service they use
  • Greater satisfaction because tenants have a say in the service they use/pay for
  • Better able represent and understand tenants’ issues due to communicating
  • A more positive relationship between tenants, staff and landlord
  • Tenants developing skills / knowledge and more community spirit

For more advice on Tenant Participation contact TPAS Scotland.

Key Steps to Tenant Participation (TP)

In TP landlords are seeking to gather knowledge from tenants’ experiences to use in delivering services that tenants’ want and consider to be value for money. There are 3 key steps to gathering this knowledge.

Tenants need to know:

  • what services landlords offer
  • how and where services are provided
  • service standards and targets to expect
  • the performance being achieved

Informed tenants can assess if services are wanted, provided to the right standard and needing changed. There are many ways of providing this information. No one method works for all; a variety of mediums are needed. Often used methods include:

  • Newsletters
  • Handbooks
  • Letters
  • Texting
  • Drop-ins/surgeries
  • DVDs
  • Website
  • Social Media
  • Email
  • Meetings
  • Posters
  • Leaflets

Tenants need to be heard to identify:

  • Impacts of services
  • Gaps in service provision
  • Likes and dislikes
  • Aspirations

There are many options available to hear what tenants think of services and proposed changes. Often use methods are:

  • Surveys
  • Public meetings
  • Groups
  • Satisfaction forms
  • Complaints/compliments
  • Phone calls
  • Inspections
  • Walkabouts
  • Drop-in/surgery

Increasingly landlords are using the internet and smart phone to enable responses.

To build confidence in engaging and trust in decisions tenants need evidence of:

  • what is learned from listening to tenants and
  • how decision makers have used this knowledge

Landlords increasingly use technology to spread information, consult and give feedback but the spoken word and printed material continue to play a vital part. In TPAS’ view, staff’s contact with tenants and a variety of methods remains essential.

Successful TP requires that:

  • the methods used to inform, and consult are attractive to tenants

  • the information being offered, and topics being consulted are important to tenants

  • tenants engage at all levels within the landlord

  • there is evidence that tenants’ views influencing decisions.

There is no single suitable method for all tenants, communities or topics. Selecting the right method(s) often comes with experience and knowledge of tenants and

communities. TPAS Scotland is available to help you develop the right methods for your tenants and communities.

Overcoming Challenges in TP

TP can be challenging but its results benefit services and tenants’ lives. The principles to overcoming challenges in TP are:

  • Activities fit the tenants not the other way around.
  • Show why topics are relevant to tenants.
  • Views must be able to shape the future.


  • Scarce resources make it hard to invest in TP
  • Staff do not recognise their contribution and give up, believing progress is impossible
  • Working in partnership needs landlords to exhibit a positive culture of engaging with tenants


  • Maximise the value of those meeting tenants by empowering them to share information, gather views, give feedback and promote TP’s benefits
  • Ensure staff are well- equipped to inform, consult and promote TP as a culture not as one person’s chore
  • Training and informing staff and tenants together to build positive relationships and shared understandings


  • Health, family, social or work barriers preventing them from engaging


  • Use accessible venues with loop systems
  • Support those providing care and needing help to engage

  • Use interpretation and translation services

  • Vary times and supply food

  • Know what needs there are in the community


  • Tenants don’t identify as belonging to a landlord-specific community.
  • Having no or negative experience of TP
  • Tension between established and new tenants or homeowners and tenants


  • New tenant visits to give local / TP information
  • Social events to encourage integration
  • Let community’s knowledge guide TP
  • Aid access to funds local priorities
  • Encourage tenant volunteers or ‘village voices’
  • Link with community services to unite communities
  • Look out for hidden and disadvantaged groups
  • Offer individual /‘armchair consultation’ and consult in groups


  • Tenants could be widespread with small numbers in any one community
  • Public transport can be expensive, poor, or non-existent.


  • Tailor information for purpose and communities
  • Hold road shows / stands at galas, shops events.
  • Meetings rotating to communities
  • Include time for interaction with tenants and residents
  • Match information points & venues to facilities
  • Arrange transport / pay expenses
  • Keep website up to date and relevant. Use URL to link activity, groups & funding
  • Use social media and existing community contacts

For more advice on overcoming challenges in Tenant Participation and good practice, contact TPAS Scotland.

Methods of Consultation

There are formal and informal methods of consultation. The 2 most common formal ways of consulting tenants are Tenants and Resident Associations Groups and Scrutiny Panels.

Getting together can allow tenants and residents to have a bigger impact than as individual voices. Together they can:

  • share information and support each other
  • run social events or projects to bring a community together
  • strengthen their impact on landlord’s decisions

Supporting a Tenant Association can help landlords recognise what’s important to tenants and gather responses on topics. Associations can be supported through grants, use of facilities and staff.

Since 2001 social landlords must offer Associations the opportunity to become Register Tenant Organisations (RTO). Registration ensures Associations have:

  • minimum operating standards
  • effective links between members and Association and Association and landlord
  • recognition by the landlord

A key benefit of registration is landlords agreeing to extend their legal obligation to consult to the Association.

An effective method of achieving tenant scrutiny of performance to improve service and value for money. Tenants in a Panel:

  • actively review and challenge performance data, service systems and experiences
  • identify options for improvement that influence the decisions of the landlord.

Where Associations and Panels operate effectively there remain tenants who choose not to engage with them. They retain a right to be informed and heard and their views considered by decision makers. TPAS Scotland recommends a flexible and mixed approach, which is explained within the Tenant Participation Strategy.

Many tenants prefer to participate in less time-consuming ways. Landlords and tenants benefit from a range of informal activities, for example:

  • Surveys
  • Focus groups
  • Inspection teams
  • Drop-in events
  • Service questionnaires
  • Roadshows
  • Panels & Forum
  • Tenant voices
  • Complaint & comment

These methods rely less on tenants instigating and running structures and activities. This allows tenants who haven’t the time, interest or skills to engage formally to be included. However, they reduce tenant control and raise the burden on landlords.

Where TP is strongest there is often a symbiotic relationship between formal and informal methods. Formal methods are informed by the findings of informal consultation and informal consultations are shaped and promoted by the formal.

Any social landlord activity can benefit from consultation including:

  • Annual rent setting
  • Business planning
  • Assessing performance
  • Investment planning
  • Financial resilience
  • Bin collection/recycling
  • Community events
  • Sheltered/amenity
  • Learning/employment
  • Standards/targets
  • Policy development
  • Reporting performance
  • Producing information
  • Shaping services
  • Partnership/transfers
  • Procurement
  • Service procedures
  • Meeting health needs
  • Fuel poverty
  • Welfare benefits
  • Challenging decisions
  • Estate management
  • Crime/ASB
  • Allocations
  • Community facilities
  • Maintenance/upgrading
  • Communal maintenance

All methods have strengths and weaknesses. Some work well in some communities and on some topics but fail with others. Knowledge from the community and a willingness to learn and alter methods enhance success.

For more advice on overcoming challenges in Tenant Participation and good practice, contact TPAS Scotland.

Developing interest in engagement

Attracting participants whether you are a landlord or a tenants’ groups to engage needs a consistent approach that builds:


  • that engaging makes a difference and benefits lives and services

Knowledge and skills

  • of standards, targets and the law
  • how to effectively challenge
  • undertake roles


  • that are flexible and fit their interests and commitments

Starts by building rapport and credibility, which takes time and a pre-curser to results.

Keys building rapport to building rapport are taking time to listen to views, explain you views, welcoming questions, getting back to them and doing what you say you will and open about what you can’t do.

Keys to building credibility are trustworthiness, reliability, expertise (including information quality), caring and sharing interests and quickly responding.

Hearing from experts who are comfortable to listen to opposing views and take time to respond to them is attractive. Those seeking to engage with others need to make information available in attractive and varied ways that matches knowledge to the audiences requirement and interests.

Inaccessible information creates barrier while sharing knowledge and skills simply and openly attracts interest in engagement as it demonstrates a willingness to learn and make the effort to communicate.

Offering opportunities at different times, places, and via a mix of mediums (on paper, face to face, via the internet etc.) to learn and comment increases the likelihood of successful engagement by upping the chances of suiting the tenant. Success depends on:

  • When
  • Frequency
  • Time it takes
  • Relevant to you and community
  • What's happening elsewhere
  • Publicity
  • Choice
  • Support from key people
  • Urgency
  • Likely benefits to self
  • Fun
  • Importance
  • Links
  • Rewards
  • Linking others involved
  • Understanding
  • Barrier free
  • Where
  • Confidence views effective decisions
  • Benefits to others
  • Knowledge
  • Previous experiences
  • Co-ordination
  • Potential impacts

Groups are a pro – active voice, campaigning on housing and other issues and can work together.

Individual methods of engagement attract more / different people because they need no long-term commitment, no (or less) administration by participants and you can get involved only what interests you - have your say and go.

  • Issues are irrelevant to them
  • Lack confidence in their knowledge and skills
  • Poorly advertised - didn't know
  • Unsure what it is abouit
  • Couldn't attend at time/place
  • Don't know what they might be asked to do
  • Their views don't matter
  • Decisions already made
  • Unclear about time it takes

For more advice on overcoming challenges in Tenant Participation and good practice, contact TPAS Scotland.

Tenant Scrutiny

1.  Involving tenants to:

  • improve service performance and standards users experience.
  • reinforce responsibilities and hold their landlord accountable
  • focus on processes and systems and identify what is valued about services
  • actively monitor and assess service delivery to achieve Value for Money

2. Tenant engagement activities with a formal stated link to governance structures.

Landlord Benefits

  • Involving tenants will support increased value for money
  • Higher customer satisfaction due to better service experiences.
  • Improvement performance with priorities focussed on what's important to service users.

Tenant Benefits

  • Involvement that focuses on what is most important to service users.
  • Increased access to information
  • Develop skills and knowledge of the housing sector and services
  • Meet new people and gain confidence to take on new activities

Tenant Scrutinys process is about:

  1. Seeking evidence
  2. Explore standards and performance to identify what will benefit from investigation
  3. Activities examining service delivery systems
  4. Reporting and recommending improvement

A positive culture of tenant involvement in the organisation will:

  • encourage respect for tenant scrutnity
  • create a good working relationship

And aid good practice by creating Tenant Scrutiny that:

  • Is independent and genuinely led by tenants - tenants are in control of which services are examined and the way theyre examined and able to work as partners with staff.

  • Has clear roles and responsibilities of involved tenants, governing body and staff - a code of conduct and confidentiality agreement can help

  • Seeks realistic and managed outcomes

    Shares an understanding between tenants, staff and landlord of how:

    • recommendations feed into and influence decision making
    • agreed recommendation will be implemented via an action plan with progress reviews
    • if recommendations aren't agreed how this will be fully explained
  • Supports recommendations with adequate evidenceparticipating tenants must seek facts and information from tenants to persuade the landlord to make changes.

  • Is accessible and demonstrates equal opportunities

  • Those involved can refine to reflect local needs and experience.

  • Takes time to recognise success and celebrate the positive impact of tenant scrutiny.

It is not an either / or choice. Scrutiny doesn’t prosper as an isolated example of engagement. Its successful when it supports and is supported by options for engaging.

Scrutiny can be challenging, time consuming and doesn’t fit all tenants’ aspirations but it offers opportunities and benefits some tenants will enjoy and landlords can benefit from.

For more advice on overcoming challenges in Tenant Participation and good practice, contact TPAS Scotland.

Freedom of Information (FOI)

Is there something you want to know? Perhaps there’s information you would like from a public body, to help you understand why a decision was taken, or why public money was spent in a certain way?

If so, freedom of information – FOI for short – could be just what you need.

FOI gives people a right to information from public bodies – if there is something you want to know; ask. Just make a request to the Council, the NHS, the police, or the housing association in writing and, within 20 working days, you should be sent the information you need.

FOI applies to organisations that deliver public services: from the Scottish Government to local councils, the NHS, and the police; along with bodies like the Scottish Housing Regulator and Scottish Water. And, since November 2019, it also covers Registered Social Landlords (RSLs), meaning that information about the public functions carried out by housing associations now falls under FOI.

Information can sometimes be withheld – but only in some circumstances (e.g. if it is someone else’s personal information), and only if FOI law allows it. Remember, if you are unhappy with a response, you have a right of appeal – to the independent Scottish Information Commissioner.

Whether it is information on housing repairs from a social landlord, hygiene standards in your local hospital or safety in your children’s school, FOI could be just what you need.

Find out more about using your FOI rights at: www.itspublicknowledge.info/yourrights

  • FOI covers public bodies, like the Scottish Government, local councils, the NHS, housing associations and the police
  • Requests must be made in a recordable format (e.g. email, letter, or audio file)
  • FOI gives you a right to recorded information – info must be recorded in some way (e.g. a minute, email, report, or spreadsheet)
  • Organisations have a duty to help people access their information
  • Requests must be responded to within 20 working days
  • Requests can only be refused in certain circumstances
  • Most requests result in information being provided
  • If you are unhappy, you can appeal

Video conferencing: Getting the best experience

  • Ensure that you know when the meeting is and start to log in about 5 - 10 minutes before the start time. That way if you have any connection issues it gives yo time to sort these out. You should be able to access your meeting through the invite on your email or via your calendar. See a guide to joining a meeting on Microsoft Teams here.
  • Choose the device you are going to use - preferred option is a computer or laptop rather than mobile devices. If using a laptop, make sure it is plugged in and you aren't just using the battery as it can affect your quality of reception. If using a mobile phone or tablet, ensure it is charged fully and try to keep stationary at one point.
  • If there are more than one person in the same destination quality of reception may be affected if you are using two devices - therefore, try and choose one method to share.
  • You can use earphones - this will help you hear, and block out sounds around you.
  • Choose a room that is well lit and free from other noise.
  • Ensure all other devices like TVs, radios, phones are switched off as they can also cause disturbance to your other users.
  • Test it beforehand - try a test with someone else to check the reception, and that you can log in properly.
  • Ensure that your camera is pointing directly at your face and you are in a comfortable sitting position.
  • Ensure you go to the toilet, get a cup of tea etc. before the meeting so you don't need to get up and walk about during the meeting.
  • Ensure you are comfortable, and your camera is in a good position.
  • When wanting to speak raise your hand or on the system you are using (ensure this is clarified what system you are using at the beginning of the meeting).
  • When not talking it is best practice to mute your microphone so no one else is receiving any background noise from you.
  • When you want to speak, raise your hand, and unmute your microphone once asked to.
  • Try and talk directly to your device looking at your colleagues. This will make it easier for your audience to read what you are saying if the sound quality dips.
  • If you suddenly need to leave or more away from your computer, or you need to answer an urgent call please ensure your microphone is muted.
  • If you cannot join the meeting virtually you may also have an option to join via telephone conferencing - details on how to join this hsould be detailed in your meeting invite.

If these guidelines are used, then your meeting should run smoothly, and interruption and noise quality should be improved. It's never going to be perfect unfortunately, as sometimes it depends on your location, your internet connection etc. but we can try.

Various online platforms that can be used are WebEx, Teams (Office 365), Zoom and Skype. There are a lot more out there!

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