Residents' associations - what you need to know
If you're thinking of starting or joining a residents' association, there's lots of information you need to know.
We've put together lots of advice and guidance below to help you.
A residents' association is a formal group made up of people living in the same area, block or street that want to talk about concerns relating to their housing and community.
It can be made up of customers of any tenure, such as general needs, shared owners and leaseholders.
You might want to start a residents' association for many reasons. Some of the most common reasons are:
- To campaign for something positive like improvements to an area or service, or against a change that's going to be made.
- To give your community a greater voice than you'd have as an individual.
- Social reasons such as creating a better sense of community or arranging trips.
- To keep residents informed of what's happening in the area.
How do I set up a residents' association?
If you've made the decision to start a residents' association, here's how you could approach it.
The first step is to find out if there’s enough interest in your area to make it possible. Talk to as many residents as possible to gather their views. You could do this by door-knocking or going to places those residents meet socially such as a local community group or a communal area.
When you’re talking to people, try to find out if they think a residents' association is a good idea. Ask them what they think the issues are in the local area that they’d like to address or what improvements they’d like to make. You should also ask if they’d consider attending an initial meeting and if there are days or times that are more convenient in case people work or have children.
Bear in mind that you don’t need every resident in the area to be on board to create the residents' association. Try not to be disheartened if you receive some negative feedback.
Once you’ve got enough interest in attending an initial meeting, this’ll need to be arranged. Decide where your meeting will be held, taking into account any provisions you need to make for disabilities or cultural differences.
You’ll need to let everyone know when the meeting is and where - you could either door-knock, call them or create a leaflet with the information on. Try to give people as much notice as possible so that they can be available. You could also let them know a brief idea of the topics that were raised by residents during your recent conversations.
Someone will need to act as the Chair for the initial meeting. You’ll need to determine who this’ll be prior to the meeting. The Chair will be responsible for keeping discussions on topic and making sure everyone has a fair chance to contribute.
Someone will need to take notes during the meeting of items discussed, any decisions made and who’s agreed to do any actions. It’ll also be useful to have an attendance sheet to gather names and contact details.
Your initial meeting should be used to discuss the possibility of a residents' association in more depth. You can use this as a further discussion as a group about the issues in your area and your goal is to determine if a residents' association should be formed and who’d like to join.
The first meeting could also be an opportunity for everyone to get to know each other, discuss their motivations for wanting to join and what skills, experience and knowledge they could bring to the group.
Your first public meeting
Once it's been agreed to form a residents' association, there's some planning that needs to be done before your first meeting. The first meeting is when you'll officially launch your residents' association,so you want to take the time to do it properly and make sure you're getting everyone's views on how the association will work.
You need to decide how you're going to tell people that the residents' association is being formed and invite them to the first meeting.
Make sure you tell them the date, time and venue of the meeting and give them an idea of what'll be discussed. Try to keep it interesting.
Let people know how they can contact you if they'd like more information.
When planning the date and time of your meeting, you need to consider the people who may wish to attend.
Are there lots of residents who work and would prefer a weekend, or do lots have children and need to avoid the school run?
It can be difficult to try and arrange a time and day that’s convenient for everyone, but it can always be changed for future meetings. It’s also best to give as much notice as possible for a meeting.
Meetings could be held in a communal area if you have one or a community centre. Try to take into account any disabilities and cultural differences such as venues that don’t have access for wheelchair users or churches.
Also, try to make sure that it’s easy to get to. Not everyone will be able to drive and it may put people off if they need to get public transport if it isn’t within walking distance.
On the day, arrive a few minutes early and make sure that everything is ready.
Having an agenda planned for the meeting will make sure that the Chair knows what they’re doing and gives the meeting a good structure. It also makes sure nothing is missed.
Before the meeting, you should decide who’ll act as Chair and who’ll be taking notes during the first public meeting.
Here are some suggestions of what to include on your first agenda:
- Welcome and introduction
- Why a residents' association has been formed
- Choosing a name for the residents' association
- Agreeing membership requirements and any other regulations
- Electing a committee (Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary, Treasurer)
- Aims of the residents' association
- Agreeing a constitution for the association
- A plan of action
- Date of the next meeting
- Any other business
Don’t worry that you may not achieve all of these items during your first meeting, and it may even take a few to have it all complete.
Running your residents' association
Now that enough residents want to join the residents' association and you've planned your first meeting, you need to decide how it'll look and function. You'll find some guidance on the key elements to running a residents' association below.
Your residents' association needs a constitution. This is a formal document setting out the rules or your organisation.
Your constitution could include:
- Residents' association name
- Aims of the group
- Any membership fees
- Voting rights
- Duties of the committee
- Code of conduct
- Alterations to the constitution
- Financial information
- Dissolution or breakdown of the association.
The end result should detail three main things:
- Who you represent
- What your association’s aims are
- How your association is run.
There are a lot of example constitutions online that could help give you suggestions, but yours should meet the needs of your own group.
In this section of your constitution, you should outline who can become a member, how they join and how they should conduct themselves.
Here are some suggestions:
- Membership should be open to all residents in the community
- All members will have an equal vote
- Members should represent the needs of the area and not discriminate
- Members should conduct themselves in a reasonable manner during meetings and when completing any of their residents' association business
- You may only allow one member per household to vote
- You may have a membership fee in place
- How do residents request to be members?
You need to make sure that your association is clear about what it’s trying to do. It’d be beneficial to have a variety of short-term and long-term goals so that you can achieve some things quickly but also have longer-term projects to work on. Seeing regular results will help to keep people involved.
Some associations survey the local area to give them aims to prioritise, some focus on repairs or improvements to the local area and some also plan events for residents. Your aims can be anything that your group would like to focus on as long as it’s decided fairly.
Below is some guidance on the different roles within the committee and the type of person who’d be good for the role. Your constitution should advise how to elect your committee.
The Chair is the person who’ll steer the meetings, guide the association to achieve its aims and ensure everyone has a fair chance to voice their opinion. They’re the person who makes sure things get done, not the person who does everything.
The Chair should have patience, the ability to keep meetings under control and the ability to be impartial when discussing topics.
They’ll be responsible for ensuring decisions are made correctly and may act as the spokesperson for the group and should be confident in doing so.
In case your Chair is ever not available, it's sensible to elect a Vice-Chair to take over if needed. Therefore, they should have the same qualities as a Chair.
A Vice-Chair can also take over if the Chair wishes to take part in a discussion.
The Secretary’s duties are around keeping the members informed including:
- Taking minutes of meetings
- Letting people know when and where meetings will be
- Working with the Chair to prepare agendas for meetings
- Communication on behalf of the association
- Keeping a record of membership and contact details etc.
This could be split amongst more than one Secretary depending on the level of activity and group size.
The Treasurer is responsible for the association’s finances. The amount of work involved in this will depend on the amount of money you receive and the size of the group.
All members should be aware of what money the association has, where it’s come from and how it’s being used so that they can make informed decisions about things that cost money.
There should be other committee members who can sign cheques and not just the Treasurer.
The Treasurer should:
- Open a bank account for the group and pay any money into this
- Issue a receipt for any money received
- Pay any bills
- Keep a record of all money being paid in or out
- Keep an amount of petty cash for smaller purchases
- Prepare financial statements for the Annual General Meeting.
All guidelines around finances can be agreed by the group and written up into financial guidelines.
These committee roles are the roles we’d suggest, but if you feel that you’d like to split any into smaller roles or introduce new roles this is absolutely fine as long as it works for your group.
Types of meetings
Being part of a residents' association means that you’ll be attending meetings, but you may also be involved in organising and running them. The key to meetings being successful is to have an organised agenda, a good committee, keeping them interesting and making sure everyone feels comfortable.
There are different types of meetings that’ll be held:
General meetings – These’ll be open to all members and held regularly.
Annual General Meeting – This is an important meeting where the committee reports on the association’s activities and finances over the year. Your constitution should state when and how this meeting will be held. Your committee will also end its term and new members elected (or existing ones reappointed). Members can also vote on any amendments to the constitution during this meeting.
Special General Meeting – This is a meeting that may be requested by members in addition to the usual meetings, often to raise or vote on an urgent subject. If a certain number of members request this to the Secretary, this should be organised.
Minutes are a written record of what’s said and agreed at a meeting. Usually, the Secretary would take the minutes during the meeting. Following the meeting, the Secretary will make sure the minutes are typed up properly and check with the Chair that they’re an accurate reflection of the meeting.
- Include the name of the association, date, time and place of the meeting
- Have a list of who attended the meeting
- Follow the items on your agenda
- Be clear, short, easy to read and understand
- Include details of all decisions made and key information leading to the decision
- Have an actions column stating who’s responsible for carrying them out
- The date, time and place of the next meeting.
The Secretary should send the minutes out as soon as possible after the meeting and they should be discussed at the start of the next meeting to check actions are completed or updates on them are given.
A copy of all minutes should be kept in case they need to be referred back to in future.
Once your association is formed, you need to keep your members engaged to keep it going. Here are some tips on how to do this:
- Keep in touch so that people feel involved. Send out newsletters or leaflets updating people on what your association has been doing
- Organise social activities or events outside of the meetings
- Share tasks so that everyone has a role to play and something to share during meetings
- Try to keep it enjoyable, have a break and a chat as well as discussing the important items.
Voting rights should be included in your constitution. This sets out how you make your decisions. It should include details such as:
- If all members can make a proposal
- If members have to be present at a meeting to vote
- If members can propose an amendment before voting
- That all members should only be allowed one vote
- What happens in the event of an equal vote – should the Chair have the deciding vote?
This is the number of members required for a meeting to go ahead. You can decide what the quorum is for your association. This could be a certain number of members or a percentage of the current membership. Your quorum should be included in your constitution.
Other things to consider
There are just a few other things to consider when running your residents' association. These are outlined below.
We ask that you send a copy of your constitution and a list of members to our Customer Engagement team, asking for your residents' association to be recognised. We’ll then let you know if your association has been added to our recognised list. We ask that this process is followed every year.
You must state in your constitution how your association can be ended and what’ll happen with any funds.
This could include:
- At what type of meeting the group can be dissolved, such as calling a Special General Meeting
- How many people need to agree that the association should be dissolved
- After all payments are made, what’ll happen to the funds left over? Some associations choose a charity to donate this to.
If you require further information, there are a lot of document templates online which may help you.
The ARHM has a template constitution available to download here - https://www.arhm.org/publications/forming-a-residents-association/
You can also find useful information and support from TPAS (Tenant Participation Advisory Service) We pay customers’ membership so you can join for free and access all of their resources - https://www.tpas.org.uk/
You can also join The Hub see tips from members of other residents association and our list of recognised associations.