A tenant organization is means by which tenants can help to improve their own situation and that of other tenants. Tenant organizations are organized in particular buildings by an election process usually preside over by an independent third party, such as the League of Women Voters.
Occasionally, a tenant organization is formed to serve tenants from a wider area, such as a city, county, public housing jursidiction, or even statewide or nationally.
Tenant organizations can be helpful in building community and reducing isolation among tenants, educating the members about their rights, educating the public about tenant issues, serving as a public voice for tenants, facilitating communication with management, helping to address common problems in building conditions, and helping individual households with issues they have as tenants.
The steps listed below come from literature on resident councils provided by the U.S. Department of HUD.
STEP 1. FIND OUT WHO IS INTERESTED
- Talk with your neighbors about needs, ideas, issues.
- Form a core group to provide the first leadership.
- Keep the key group together as your steering committee.
STEP 2. GET SUPPORT
- Publicize the formation of the council.
- Identify leaders and candidates.
- Recruit members. Get people to join.
- Develop goals, structure, and committees.
- Organize the residents.
STEP 3. HAVE AN ELECTION PROCESS
- Have an independent third party to monitor the election process from start to finish.
- Hold a nominating meeting with the monitors present.
- Nominate the slate of officers for the council.
- Have a waiting period (usually 30 days) for people to make up their minds.
- Agree upon a date for the election.
- Hold the election, with monitors present.
STEP 4. PROCEED WITH BUSINESS
- Announce date, time, place, & agenda for first general meeting. Post signs.
- Hold regular meetings.
- Secure operating needs, such as meeting space, support services, supplies.
- Begin to develop policies & bylaws.
- Set goals & objectives.
STEP 5. DEVELOP THE COUNCIL AND ITS MEMBERS
Get training in:
- housing laws
- finances and fundraising
- record keeping
- running meetings
- housing management
- cultivate allies
- work with management
- enlist other groups
STEP 6. BE RELIABLE and ACCOUNTABLE!
- Follow up.
- Meet regularly.
- Be open and above board.
- Consult with residents.
- Encourage suggestions.
- Listen to everyone.
- Solicit opinions from those who do not participate in the Council.
- Respond to comments.
- Avoid "leaders" dominating
- Give public credit to those who help.
- Honor all your commitments.
- Keep good records.
- Make requests to management in writing.
- Develop a written agreement with management.
STEP 7. BE SUCCESSFUL
- Represent the residents .Be democratic.
- Adopt written procedures.
- Hold regular meetings and elections.
- Have a vision. Make specific goals.
- Communicate and organize effectively.
- Work as a team. Form cooperative relations.
- Work toward strong, democratic leadership.
- Get good training.
- Keep ties to other groups and institutions
STEP 8. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY
- Power is just the energy necessary to get the job done. Make sure you have it.
- Residents have the right to organize.
- Residents have the right to make decisions on their own behalf.
- Residents have the right to establish a council to be their place to make decisions, identify problems, and take action together.
- Residents have the right to have their Council officially recognized.
- Residents have the right to information about and an understanding of how their housing is managed.
- Residents have the right to use their Council to make collective agreements with other groups and individuals.
- Residents have the right to hire consultants and staff to help further their interests.
- Have patience.
- Work hard.