Leeds Tenants Federation

The Hidden History of Tenants

International tenant participation

tenant conferenceTenant Participation in Sweden

Swedish tenants in the National Union of Tenants have formal rights to participation in both the public housing and private housing sectors.

Public housing is organised by Municipal Housing Companies. In 1976 the National Union of Tenants signed a central agreement on tenant participation with the umbrella body of the Municipal Housing Companies. This central agreement gives tenants associations the right to be consulted. It says they have "preferential right of interpretation" which means that in consultation between Municipal Housing Companies and the tenants association, the tenants demands should be met as long as

a) this is possible within the economic resources available and
b) it would not conflict with the Municipal Housing Company's responsibility to other parties e.g. trade unions.

In 1983 the Tenants Union signed a similar agreement with the private rental sector.

Rent negotiation and tribunals

Swedish tenants also have the right to be involved in setting rents in the public and private sector. Rents are negotiated with the regional tenants associations. About 90% of all housing rents are set following negotiation between a tenants association and the landlord. Most rental agreements contain a clause on negotiation.The National Union of Tenants is also a member of the regional rent tribunals which settle disputes over rents.

The Swedish Union of Tenants

There are around 3000 local tenants associations covering housing estates or blocks in Sweden and another 200 federations or municipal associations. The Swedish Union of Tenants has 550,000 members, and 25,000 of them are elected representatives of their local associations. At the local level these associations can influence repairs and maintenance and help develop leisure and social activities. Local tenants associations can negotiate rents and service standards on the estates. The Swedish Tenants Union is run by a Congress of 300 representatives. They elect a National Secretariat based in Stockholm which employs 40 staff responsible for a total of 800 staff at the local level. Staff working for the Union recruit tenant membership and offer free legal assistance, inspection of properties, help with rent negotiation, education and study opportunities, discount shopping as well as free housing advice. The Swedish Union of Tenants is a member of the International Union of Tenants (IUT) and hosts the international secretariat.

Tenant participation in Denmark

Housing associations in Denmark build all non-profit housing. They must apply with Tenants Democracy to get funding. Tenants have a majority on the managing boards of these associations. Tenants in housing association estates have the right to form a board to decide rents, repairs and management of their estate. If there is no interest in running an estate, the housing association can do it - but this seldom happens. They have a budget from the rents and can only spend what they get in. They can delegate budgets and management to even smaller groups of tenants -like one block of flats. Tenants have an incentive to keep running costs low and all the homes let - otherwise they end up paying more rent. The tenant board either pays the housing association to manage the estate or someone else. They all employ super-caretakers for every 80 -100 homes. These super caretakers handle the change-over of tenancies, order repairs and planned improvements, take care of the green areas and help support vulnerable people and deal with neighbour disputes. These local super-caretakers are employed by the housing associations and have central teams to back them up and deal with management and maintenance issues.