Do we need to set up a Residents' Association?

We have tried to start a Resident's Association. When we first asked people if they would be interested they said they were but since we have sent out letters to schedule a meeting only three people have acknowledged the letter. Am I right in saying that we need 60% of the residents to form the association? Do we have to include the commercial units in the percentage? It seems there is a lot of apathy, something needs to be done but as one voice is near impossible to get anything sorted which seems very unfair as for most of the year they haven't carried out any of the contracted services.

Flat Living replies: Thank you for your question. Unfortunately apathy is something we come across regularly. We approached one of our consultants who provides regular guidance, who provided the following advice: 

Residents’ Associations can be set up and run informally but a formally recognised Residents’ Association acquires additional legal rights.

A Residents’ Association obtains formal recognition as follows:

Write to the landlord and request written recognition. If he sends written confirmation that he has recognised the Residents’ Association then no further action need be taken. If the landlord refuses to recognise the Residents’ Association, then the group can apply for recognition to the nearest Rent Assessment Panel of the Residential Property Tribunal Service.

The secretary of a recognised Association is entitled to:

Ask the landlord for a summary of service charge costs incurred each year,

  • Inspect accounts and receipts for the property in relation to service charge costs,
  • Ask to be consulted on the appointment or re-appointment of a managing agent for the building,
  • Appoint a surveyor to advise on any matter relating to service charges; The surveyor will have rights to see and copy supporting documents held by the landlord, to inspect common parts, and to appoint assistants,
  • Be served with copies of any notices required under Section 20 consultation arrangements; and
  • Nominate contractors and inspect any estimates/specifications

In order to be granted formal recognition a landlord/Rent Assessment Panel usually requires, as a minimum, that the group demonstrate the following:

The rules of the Association should be fair and democratic.

  • Membership should be not less than 60% of those qualifying for the scheme.
  • Members must be paying a variable service charge to the landlord (i.e. tenants paying fixed rents/service charges will not qualify for membership; although they could be involved informally they are not entitled to vote).
  • Only one vote per flat or home should be permitted.
  • No more than one association per building/block will be recognised, but more than one per scheme is acceptable for larger schemes with several blocks.

The Association should submit the following documents when applying for recognition:

  • a copy of the Association’s rules or constitution and elected members, and
  • a list of subscribing members’ names and addresses

A Rent Assessment Panel will usually grant a certificate of recognition for four years. Landlords granting voluntary recognition will usually have a procedure in place for continuing recognition, such as requiring the association to submit updated documentation annually

Leaseholders have a legal right to establish a recognised Residents’ Association, so it is good practice for landlords/managing agents to encourage and co-operate with them. It demonstrates transparency and accountability in management, and on a practical level, eases communication with leaseholders and reduces the duplication of messages

 Once you and your fellow residents have decided that this is something that you feel you would benefit from, it is best to arrange a meeting (or two to allow for residents that were not able to attend the first one) to establish the criteria by which the association will be run

Like all companies or associations, a Resident’s Association must have a constitution drawn up. This is a document adopted by your association that states the aims and objectives of the organisation and how it will be run. The constitution will detail:

The name of the association

  • What the association will do (aims and objectives)
  • Who can be members of the association
  • Ending membership
  • Who will be on the committee (numbers and officers)
  • Code of conduct (usually a reference to a separate document)
  • Number of meetings per year (committee and general)
  • Voting rights
  • Subscription levels
  • What the funds raised will be used for
  • Who will open the bank account
  • Who can sign cheques
  • Who will manage the accounts
  • Procedure at Annual General Meetings
  • Quorum
  • The role of the Secretary
  • Amending the constitution; and
  • Dissolution

By law, landlords must recognise and consult with resident’s associations. If a landlord refuses, leaseholders have the right to apply to the First Tier Tribunal to grant them the status of a recognised tenants association.

For more information on setting up a Resident’s Association go to the Federation of Private Resident’s Associations website at www.fpra.org.uk