Communication tools and techniques

If you feel that establishing a property management agreement could improve the overall running of your block of flats or tenement and create a more harmonious living environment for residents, there are some tools and techniques used in other contexts that may be useful.

Aim of the agreement

Your basic aim should be to build a level of trust and tolerance that allows everyone to get along without anyone feeling singled out or like others are getting away with unfair behaviour. For some blocks, the fact that you are just seen to be willing to listen will be enough. Other blocks might need rotas and strict rules pinned to the doors. Hopefully, very few will need to follow all of these steps.

Steps to peace and harmony

Enlist support from one or more neighbours

Share your thoughts with people who you know you can have a reasonable and open discussion and bounce ideas around with.

Set up a communications system

This could be as simple as a makeshift noticeboard by the front door – but you could use it to ask for mobile numbers or email addresses to set up something more substantial, such as a WhatsApp or Facebook group or just a group email. Whatever you use, make sure you include everyone who lives in your building.

Don’t issue edicts, warnings or threats

Asking questions or gently expressing concerns is more positive approach. The article on difficult conversations may be of help.

“Would it be useful to set up a stair cleaning rota?”

“Anyone got ideas for making this a happier, healthier, and safer tenement? I’ve left some post it notes if you want to make some friendly suggestions.”

“I’m concerned that rubbish is being left next to the bins and that this will attract rats. Is there some way we could make it a bit safer?”

Give people some time to add their ideas

Give as much time as you can and allow people to comment on other people’s ideas. Then try and pull all the suggestions into a set of positively-framed ideas for people to agree or disagree with. Be charitable in interpreting what people have written – not many of us are skilled authors and poets.

Pull the ideas together

Your next step is to pull all the ideas and comments together into a set of positive ideas that are fair to all. Try and accommodate reasonable concerns. If there are contentious issues, then you may need to go to a vote or negotiate a set of trade offs

Is a vote required?

Your title deeds probably set out a voting system – but this may not allow for tenants views to be included. An alternative way of obtaining views can be found using ‘participatory appraisal’ based techniques. These often use ‘bean votes’, with everyone getting the same number of beans (sticky dots, strips of coloured tape, etc.) with instructions to use them where they want – and they might want to put them all on one thing of most importance to them or spread them over a number of ideas.

A Bean Vote. Note the spaces left for people to add more suggestions and the dots used as votes

Trade-offs

The type of trade-offs you might want to consider are:

  • one shot of cleaning the bins equals two shots of cleaning the stairs
  • one hour of garden time each week at 5.00 when it’s warmest and sunniest is worth a daily 30 minutes at 8.00 AM when the dogs need walked

Share your rules

When you’ve got to an agreed set of rules or rotas, print them off, so every household gets a copy. Pin them up in the close.

Review and feedback

Agree that you are going to try the rules for the next week/month or so and then check to see how well they are working and whether you need to make any improvements.

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