TAROE Trust: Explained

TAROE Trust: Explained

What is TAROE Trust? 

TAROE Trust is an independent registered charity. It was established in 2013 due to mounting financial pressures and the need to source alternative funds to continue our work out of the tenant membership organisation TAROE (Tenants and Residents Organisations of England) whose history including predecessor organisations dates back to 1976. 

The work of the charity is governed and overseen by a voluntary Board of Trustees. 

What do we stand for? 

We are charity that works in the interests of tenants and residents living in the regulated housing sector. We believe that residents living in the regulated housing sector have been overlooked for too long. We want to readdress this balance by highlighting the current issues faced by tenants and residents; influencing national housing policy; promoting stronger consumer regulation; and increasing skills and knowledge to promote improvements in engagement and empowerment.

Some of the key priorities we have called for in recent years include: 

  • Stronger proactive consumer regulation and the removal of the ‘serious detriment’ threshold for regulator intervention
  • Increased levels of capital subsidies for truly affordable rented accommodation which should be seen as a “sector of choice”
  • Improvements in building safety standards as well as sustainability and living space standards
  • Increased levels of transparency and accountability by landlords
  • Improved levels of security of tenure for tenants
  • Reforms to the welfare system that penalise the most vulnerable in society
  • The need for increased support and funding for independent tenant groups at a local, regional and national level
  • The de-criminalisation of squatting. 

Further details are set out in our Manifesto for Change which we have now committed to review. 

We have many years’ experience of engaging with and supporting tenants, and this combined with our Manifesto for Change document reflects our current stance on a number of issues. However, we feel strongly that our work should be informed and guided by the issues that are important to the tenants and residents living within the regulated housing sector.

TAROE Trust secured funding in Autumn 2020 which has enabled us to continue our work. This has provided the Trustees with an opportunity to develop a new set of priorities and Business Plan. However, this is very much a “starting point”.

There have been many changes in the regulated sector in recent years, and the recent issue of the Social Housing White Paper – The Charter for Social Housing Residents represents a real opportunity to re-boot our focus and priorities informed directly by tenants and residents. We will therefore be looking to engage with tenants and residents across the sector throughout 2021 and updating our priorities and focus based on the feedback we receive. 

What do we do? 

The work that we engage in must be in line with our charitable objectives

With limited resources we need to focus our energies on where we can maximise our impact for the benefit of tenants and residents. 

Our current objectives are explained below: 

  1. Establish TAROE Trust as a national charity that highlights the issues and challenges faced by tenants and residents living in the regulated housing sector 

We understand that the experiences and priorities of tenants and residents across the country vary massively. We do not purport to “represent” all tenants and residents, and we do not make bold claims to be “the” voice of tenants. 

We do feel that the voices and interests of tenants and residents can easily get drowned out of national policy decision-making. We would like to engage with tenants and residents so that their views and experiences may inform our work so that we may constructively re-address this imbalance (more on our approaches to engagement below). 

We also do not wish our work to be at the exclusion of other tenant and resident groups and organisations. We feel that there is room in the sector for many such groups, and if there are others that can make the case more effectively, we would support those groups to do so. 

  1. Occasion change in national housing policy that establishes the regulated housing sector as a “sector of choice” 

We feel that rented housing represents a sensible housing choice for many people, and the regulated sector provides much needed protection and standards for the tenants and residents that live in the sector. 

Housing policy in recent years has elevated home ownership above other tenures. Whilst we recognise that many people aspire to this, it is not for everyone and we want to see the regulated rented sector return to being a “sector of choice” rather than last resort.  

We hope that our work may highlight the benefits and issues faced by tenants and residents so that more informed policy and decision-making can be implemented. 

  1. Promote stronger consumer regulation to improve service outcomes for tenants and residents 

We have been campaigning for stronger consumer regulation for many years. We were pleased to see the announcements in the Social Housing White Paper that presents an opportunity for this objective to be realised. 

We will work with Government and regulatory and statutory agencies to influence the implementation of enhanced consumer regulation and standards. We hope that our work may be informed directly by the views and opinions of tenants and residents living within the sector. 

  1. Provide practical advice and support to tenants living in or seeking to access the regulated housing sector

For many years we have provided direct advice and support to tenants and residents in person and via the telephone, and we have been pleased to be able to resolve many complaints and disputes that have arisen with landlords.

Much of this work has been provided on a voluntary basis. Unfortunately, this approach is very resource intensive. We are therefore no longer able to offer such intensive 1-to-1 support. However, we will be developing a series of FAQs on our website in the coming months to inform tenants and residents on their rights and options, particularly in relation to complaints and disputes. 

We will also still try to respond to email based requests for advice and support as this approach provides additional flexibility on when and how we are able to respond. It also provides an additional source of information on some of the challenges and issues facing tenants and residents that may inform our work. Our ability to respond to such requests will be subject to resource availability.  

  1. Build skills and capacity of tenants living in the regulated housing sector to engender greater levels of tenant engagement and empowerment 

We are hoping to continue and extend what we are able to offer to tenants and residents over the coming months to reflect our increased capacity. Examples include the following: 

  • We already operate a mailing list which tenants and residents can sign up to and receive newsletters on topical issues and hear about new initiatives they can get involved with. To sign up, go here.

As our mailings lists and following grows, we will look to identify areas of interest. This will allow us to be smarter with what we communicate and with who. 

  • We have already commenced a series of webinars on topical issues. We will make use of our excellent working relationships with key sector bodies to bring relevant information to our audiences. These will increase in scale as we move forward. 
  • We will arrange discussion workshops on topical issues so that tenants and residents can network and share ideas with each other, and also influence our work. 

We are also able to work with landlords to offer workshops and training sessions for tenants and resident groups. 

  1. Strengthen the resilience of the charity 

We have now closed down our physical office and operate more flexibly with a “virtual office” solution. This has reduced our overheads and forced us to embrace new technologies to operate in more efficient ways. 

We are launching a recruitment exercise to attract additional voluntary Trustees and strengthen our governance arrangements. We hope to attract people that can bring additional skills and knowledge to the charity, as well as people with experience of being a tenant or resident within the regulated housing sector. 

Enhancing our network of tenant and resident contacts will also significantly strengthen the charity as it means our work is grounded in the issues and challenges tenants and residents face. 

Do you offer membership? 

We are a registered charity not a membership organisation. One of the conditions of our registration with the Charity Commission, particularly relevant given our predecessor organisation TAROE’s membership organisation status, was that the charity did not operate on a membership basis and offered its services freely across the regulated sector. 

Ways in which you can follow and keep up to date with our activities is to sign up to our newsletter or follow us on one of our social media channels on Twitter and LinkedIn

What is your engagement strategy? 

We recognise that the more we engage effectively with tenants and residents living in the regulated housing sector, the more informed the charity will be, and the more influential our work will be. 

We want to increase the size of our mailing lists, and our following on other channels such as social media. This will increase the reach of our work. 

Whilst overall reach is important, it is not our only driver. 

We also want to hear from and engage with smaller groups and individuals. Our work on dispute resolution has clearly demonstrated to us that the experiences of individuals are very real and no less valid. They can also highlight issues and concerns which are also the experience of an otherwise silent but not insignificant minority. 

Where there is demand, we will also arrange workshops to discuss topical issues and to help us better understand what is important to tenants and residents so that this may shape our work. 

To an extent, the more people that engage with us, the more we may all benefit from the virtuous circle of dialogue and connectivity. 

In addition to promoting our work directly on our website, through our mailing lists, and on social media, we will also look to take advantage of the connections of other organisations, including those that work with and on behalf of landlord organisations, whom we will work in partnership with to increase the range of our communications. Rest assured, that whenever we work with any third parties, the priority will be to ensure that our independence is protected. 

Why should I want to follow and engage in the work of TAROE Trust? 

If you believe in the rights of tenants and residents to be heard? If you believe in the rights of tenants and residents to truly affordable, high quality housing and services? Join our mailing list and lend your support to our work.  

We believe there are a range of benefits to tenants and residents getting involved with our work, including: 

  • Strengthening individual connections to like-minded tenants and residents 
  • Any input you have should shape our work and influence our campaigning activities, bringing about positive change for all tenants and residents living in the regulated housing sector
  • Access to relevant and topical news and initiatives, both our own work and the work of others that we have identified of potential interest to tenants and residents
  • Opportunities to get involved in more detailed and in-depth pieces of work, such as workshops and research, the results of which we will promote with the aim of occasioning positive change

Whilst we do not claim that our work alone has resulted in some of the changes that are being made in the sector, we have campaigned for various changes in recent years which have been accepted by Government, including the following: 

What we campaigned forCurrent position
Removal of the “democratic filter” which requires tenant and residents to have to wait a minimum of 8 weeks before they can escalate their unsuccessful complaint with their landlord to the Housing Ombudsman Service.  Removal of this requirement is currently included within the Building Safety Bill which is currently going through the legislative approval process. 
Re-introduction of proactive consumer regulation enforced by an empowered regulator.  The Social Housing White Paper has proposed that the RSH will take on this role, subject to enabling legislation being passed.  
Enhanced “rights” for tenants based on prescriptive standards that are rigorously and proactively regulated.  The Social Housing White Paper includes a range of proposed additional rights for tenants, such as access to information, tenant satisfaction measures, and the introduction of a proactive consumer inspection regime.  
A review of the remit and scope of the work of the Housing Ombudsman versus the Regulator to ensure there is no overlap, and both bodies given a wider scope.  The Housing Ombudsman Scheme has been extended and there are enhanced enforcement powers at its disposal.  The Social Housing White Paper includes proposals for further strengthening of the levels of co-operation between the bodies.  
Improvements in quality standards to improve tenant safety.  More prescriptive requirements on building safety, with the requirement to publish safety information to tenants and residents.  There have been a range of measures passed to improve and strengthen building safety standards, not least in the Building Safety Bill and the establishment of a new Building Safety Regulator.  There are also proposals contained in the Social Housing White paper for further strengthening of building safety requirements.  (This is not to suggest that an optimum position has been reached, but to acknowledge that progress is being made in this area.)  
Review and enhancement of Home standards (e.g. sustainability and space standards)  The Social Housing White Paper announced that there would be a review of the Decent Homes standard. 
Ending of fixed term tenancies being operated in the sector and increase levels of security of tenure.  Many large Registered Providers have abandoned the use of fixed term tenancies in recent years which are administratively burdensome and contribute to individual and community instability.  

What impact may tenant and resident engagement with us have? 

TAROE Trust has been invited to participate in a range of influential bodies and groups. We would hope that through engaging with us, the feedback we receive from tenants and residents will not only shape and influence our own work but influence the work of others. 

A snapshot of some of current influencing activities is supplied below: 

BodyGroupDescription
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) Decent Homes Review Sounding Board We are participating in the review group established by MHCLG on the back of the Social Housing White Paper which is looking to review the current Decent Homes Standard.  
Regulator of Social Housing (RSH)  Tenant Satisfaction Measures Sounding BoardGroup established to explore the development and implementation of the Tenant Satisfaction Measures that were proposed within the Social Housing White Paper.  
 Regulatory Sounding Board Quarterly meetings that enable the RSH to engage with key sector bodies on emerging regulatory developments and issues.  
 NTO Liaison Meetings Quarterly liaison meetings arranged by the RSH to engage with National Tenant Organisations and other identified tenants and tenant groups.  
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)  Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund – Consultative Panel Group established to inform the operation of the Governments Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund. 
Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS) Quarterly liaison meetingsQuarterly meetings with the Housing Ombudsman to share information and emerging trends. 
Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) / Tpas Monthly liaison meetingsMonthly liaison meetings recently established to share information and emerging trends. 

What is our relationship with Fusion21? 

We have entered into a grant agreement with the Fusion21 Foundation. This equates to £210k over three years, provided we deliver on our grant conditions. 

The requirements of our agreement largely relate to us delivering on our Business Plan and Objectives, as summarised in this document.

Whilst Fusion21 are willing to offer TAROE Trust advice and support, they have no input into the governance of the charity and the organisations remains completely independent. 

We are also able to receive donations, establish partnerships with other bodies, and develop services that generate income for the charity. Where such actions further our charitable objectives, and enhance the resilience of the organisation, these are positively encouraged in terms of the positive benefits that our work may have for tenants and residents across the sector. 

What do we mean by the ‘regulated housing sector’? 

As we have explained elsewhere, we prefer to adopt the term ‘regulated housing sector’ as we feel that ‘social housing’ has negative connotations and contributes to the wider stigmatisation of tenants living within the sector. 

However, we also acknowledge that this is a term which is widely used and understood and that it is not always practical to avoid its use. 

What is your current staffing capacity? 

We currently employ one member of staff for two days per week. 

Securing additional grant funding has enabled the charity to also source the services of a Public Affairs and Tenant Engagement Consultant for two days per week to help strengthen the charity’s direct tenant and resident engagement networks. 

We acknowledge that this means that our capacity remains constrained. However, we feel that we are able to make a significant impact for the resources available. 

Where we are able to secure additional sources of income, we will increase our capacity accordingly. 

Do you have any other questions about our work?

We want to be as open and transparent about our work as we can be. If you have any further questions about our work, please do not hesitate to get in touch at: info@taroetrust.org.uk.