TMOs – A Gateway to Privatisation?

Some council estates are managed by their residents through a Tenant Management Organisation (TMO). The residents elected to the board of a TMO are responsible for appointing the estate manager and other policy decisions – as well as all the budget for maintaining the properties in their area, sometimes millions of pounds. In principle this arrangement is supposed to give residents more democratic control and improve services, but in practice questions need to be asked… and one big question is whether Lambeth is supervising TMOs properly?
Rumours abound of tenant-managed estates where:

  • Boards pack meetings with their supporters, so becoming a self-selecting clique.
  • Meetings are held in semi-secrecy and most residents are not informed how to become a member of the TMO or about decisions taken on their behalf.
  • Accounts are incomprehensible and payments to board members or people closely associated with them are not publicly declared
  • Large sums are spent on consultants and legal actions (including against other residents who criticise the boards!
  • Boards are dominated by leaseholders who don’t address issues affecting tenants.
  • Favouritism is evident in the way certain residents are able to use tenant halls, get repairs done or even get employment.

Where tenant management is not properly supported or supervised, council housing becomes discredited and too often TMOs are now a staging post to stock transfer i.e privatisation. A number of TMO estates in Lambeth are currently actively considering transferring to housing associations – but how representative of their residents are these boards?

Stock transfer, transferring from council ownership, means

  • less security, as tenants lose their secure council tenancies. Housing associations have much higher rates of evictions.
  • ever higher rents, because grants to housing associations have been slashed by the Tories which is pushing them to rely on private borrowing and raising their costs. It is also  driving small housing associations to merge into larger ones in order to compete on financial markets.

So the way to improve our homes is not to opt out of the council, but to stay in and fight for our rights. This means getting ordinary tenants on the boards of TMOs, and closely supervising the paid officers. Residents are also entitled to hold their housing managers to account – whether they are managed by other residents or by Lambeth Living – through an independent tenants and residents association (TRA). It is easy to set one up and Lambeth are obliged to support residents in doing so.

For practical support to set up a meeting of residents to discuss any problems on your estate or set up a TRA email lambethhousingactivists@gmail.com.