Policy & Procedure

Policy and Procedure 8.6

Grievances, Conflict Resolution and Complaints

This policy was adopted in Special General Meeting on November 19th 2018

This policy is managed by the Grievance & Complaints Group on behalf of the Welfare Group


1. Policy Aims

2. General Approach

3. Types of Grievance 3.1 Member Grievance

     3.2 Co-operative v. Member/Tenant

     3.3 Member v. Co-operative

     3.4 Contractors and External Parties

4. Members’ Grievances 4.1 Approach to conflict resolution

     4.2 Negotiation

     4.3 Mediation

     4.4 Conciliation

     4.5 Types of meeting

     4.5.1 Resolution

     4.5.2 Arbitration

5. Co-op v. Member

     5.1 Breach the Tenancy Agreement

     5.2 Breach of The Registered Rules

6. Member v. Co-op

Appendix 1: Structure and procedures of the Grievance & Complaints Group

Appendix 2: Diagram Ending the Tenancy

Appendix 3: Process for Using Rule 10

Appendix 4: Timeline for Recovery of Possession

(see top of page for link to appendix)

1. Policy Aims

This policy is intended to cover:

any grievance cases where members allege unacceptable behaviour by other members or their families, guests or pets, and provides various approaches to problem solving

allegations of misconduct by a Member/Tenant in their fulfillment of responsibilities under the Society’s Rules or Tenancy Agreement

allegations of misconduct by Two Piers, either in its role as Landlord or Society

allegations of uncooperative or intolerant behaviour by contractors, consultants, etc.

2. General approach

Two Piers Housing Co-operative aims to maintain peaceable relationships between all of its members, doing all it can to encourage co-operative living and the timely resolution of any grievances that might arise.

The policy is founded in conflict resolution, non violent communication (NVC) and preventative measures including confronting prejudice, and recognizing and accepting difference and diversity. People are not always going to get on, but the Co-op encourages members to be respectful, compassionate and understanding. The policy aims to reflect these values by promoting early intervention and prevention of conflict.

Two Piers is a Society entirely managed by its member-tenants, and does its best to live up to expectations of good conduct as a landlord and a membership society. Since its inception in 1978, many lessons have been learned, but the Membership is always on a learning curve, and mistakes may be made. The Co-operative is guided by the Co-operative Principles, but recognizes that its performance as a Landlord or Society is only as good as its current Membership.

3. Types of grievance

3.1 Member Grievance: Conflict Resolution – where either formal or informal negotiation, mediation and conciliation are offered to parties in grievance with each other. If these approaches fail, the grievance may transfer to Resolution and/or Arbitration.

3.2 Co-operative v. Member/Tenant

– Complaint that the Member has committed a breach of the Society’s Rules, in particular Rule 10, which considers conduct detrimental to the Society as a whole.

– Complaint that the Member has carried out uncooperative behaviour or Anti Social Behaviour – where the Co-op decides to take preventative or protective action under breach of the Tenancy Agreement.

3.3 Member v. Co-operative

– Complaint that the Co-operative has failed to fulfill its duties as a Landlord

– Complaint that the Co-operative has failed to fulfill its obligations as a Society

3.4 Contractors and External Parties

Allegations of uncooperative or intolerant behaviour by contractors, consultants, etc., should be referred to the relevant Management Group. Maintenance Contractors may be removed from the Approved Contractors List.

4. Members’ Grievances

4.1 Approach to Conflict Resolution

Members should use the procedures outlined below to resolve grievances.

We can use the strengths and experience of our members to help each other.

If conflict resolution is not appropriate, or is not desired by the aggrieved party, or fails:

the matter may be dismissed

may transfer to formal Resolution in the hands of the Grievance & Complaints Group

may transfer to Arbitration in the hands of the Membership.

Advocacy – either party to the grievance may have an advocate to assist them through the process. The advocate is there to help in whatever way is needed by the member.

Members must inform the Grievance & Complaints Group if the issues have been resolved.

4.2 Negotiation

4.2.1 First steps

If a Member is experiencing conflict with another Member, attempt to nip it in the bud through talking to someone:

– flat-mate, peer, friend, advocate, officer (e.g., Welfare Convener), member of the Grievance & Complaints Group, or call a house meeting if appropriate. It is often less destructive to resolve issues of conflict as soon as possible without allowing them to escalate. Share the stress, bounce ideas around.

– if appropriate, arrange to meet with the other party, along with an objective third party, or one of the above, to negotiate and discuss informally the issues causing concern

– meet with the Grievance & Complaints Group to assess the severity of the issue, and look into further options

Information on assertive communication techniques is available, e.g. non violent communication, (see leaflet).

If this first step is not effective or is not appropriate, the Member can discuss the matter directly with a member of the Grievance & Complaints Group, and explore the potential for informal or formal mediation. If there is no member of the Grievance & Complaints Group with whom you feel you can discuss your issue, talk to the Welfare Convener, Secretary or Chair, to proceed with mediation.

Do not come to the Welfare Group at this point. Conflict is not likely to be resolved by airing it all at a meeting. Only if any of these routes are not suitable should you come to the Welfare Group. If you choose to come to a Welfare Group meeting at this point, keep your remarks to the point and respect the anonymity of the member with whom you are in conflict.

4.2.2 Further action and time frames

If negotiation fails or is not appropriate, and further action is needed by the Grievance & Complaints Group, complete a Grievance Form (available from the Grievance & Complaints Group).

After a Grievance Form has been received, the respondent must reply on a Response Form as speedily as possible, but no later than 14 days from the date on the Grievance Form.

A Resolution Meeting will be arranged as speedily as possible, but no later than 14 days from the date on the Response Form. (see 4.5.1)

4.3 Mediation

Mediation is facilitated negotiation within a structured framework, carried out either informally with one or more other Co-op members, or by an external party (BHIMS – The Brighton & Hove Independent Mediation Service). This is a voluntary and confidential process, and anything discussed cannot then go on to form the basis of legal proceedings, unless someone is at risk.

Mediation needs those undertaking it to have an open mind on the outcome, and to be willing to seek compromise with the other party. Mediators create a safe space for issues of conflict to be explored, and to enable parties to hear each other. This can often reveal new thoughts and feelings about the matter, and can pave the way for resolution.

Brighton & Hove Independent Mediation Service (BHIMS)

Two Piers has an annual contract with BHIMS which covers up to two referrals in any year. Mediation with BHIMS can be arranged by the Grievance & Complaints Group, or other appropriate officer. Members seeking to use the BHIMS service should contact the Grievance & Complaints Group and ask to be referred. Individuals can self refer, but this would require them to pay directly for the service.

4.4 Conciliation

Conciliation is where the Grievance & Complaints Group actively helps the disputants through offering or arranging access to information, insights, advice (informal or professional), alternative ways of looking at the problem. Conciliation needs a willingness to compromise. Conciliation is a structured process with the goal of enabling both parties to accept the other’s point of view, rights and reasonable expectations.

4.5 Meetings

If a resolution cannot be facilitated through negotiation, mediation or conciliation, aggrieved parties can request, or be requested to attend, Resolution or Arbitration Meetings.

4.5.1 Resolution Meeting

Both parties will be expected to attend this meeting. If either party does not participate in the Resolution Meeting, they must give their reason in writing to the Grievance & Complaints Group.

The Resolution Meeting will be facilitated by the Grievance & Complaints Group, and is not an open meeting. An external facilitator may be engaged. The meeting will be held in a neutral space, and the use of the Talking Stick is available. There are strict rules of good conduct in place at these meetings, which are intended to create a safe space for all parties.

If the Resolution Meeting(s) do not resolve the issue, or if either party declines to take part, and, depending on the nature of the grievance, the Grievance & Complaints Group will consider whether to dismiss the matter or to take the matter to an Arbitration Meeting.

Depending on the seriousness of the matters raised by disputants, formal warnings and an Acceptable Behaviour Agreement may be put in place, with follow-up monitoring, and a time frame within which it will be ended. If an ABA is in place, and it is significantly breached, the Grievance & Complaints Group will consider calling an Arbitration Meeting.

4.5.2 Arbitration Meetings

An Arbitration Meeting is called in the event of a grievance in which those involved cannot resolve their differences, and places the resolution of the grievance in the hands of the Co-operative. A solution will be voted on at the Arbitration Meeting, and the following process will be applied:

a) The Grievance & Complaints Group Convenor will ask the Secretary to convene an Arbitration Meeting to settle the grievance. All Members will be invited to attend. A summary of the issues and the names of relevant parties will be included with the notice. General Meeting procedures (majority voting, minutes, etc) will be followed.

b) The Arbitration Meeting should be called within 14 days of the request, and held at a suitable venue. An external facilitator may be engaged.

c) Members can have someone representing them at any stage of the proceedings.

d) The Chair or their deputy will provide a summary of the grievance.

e) Procedure for Arbitration Meeting

Each member involved in the grievance is given up to 15 minutes of uninterrupted time to state their case. The Talking Stick can be used at this point and no one will be assumed to have finished talking until they have replaced the Stick, or the 15 minutes have elapsed. The order of speaking will be determined by drawing names.

After each disputant has spoken, each may choose whether to answer.

If acceptable, questions by Members may then be asked by those who wish it.

The Members then discuss the matter put before them and the disputants may choose to remain or not, but may not speak unless directly questioned.

The Members should try to reach a decision within a suggested time limit (perhaps one hour) on the resolution of the matter. A paper ballot will be used.

If the disputants reject the decision, they can call a second Arbitration Meeting, in accordance with Rule 12. In such an eventuality the disputants must accept a majority decision.

4.5.3 Lack of engagement

If the member facing allegations does not engage in Resolution or Arbitration meetings, the members present will consider the issues from the point of view of the aggrieved party, and will make a decision accordingly.

5. Co-operative v. Member/Tenant

This section concerns grievances arising from the Co-operative’s grievance against a Member/Tenant. There are two categories of such grievance, namely breach of the Tenancy Agreement and breach of the Registered Rules.

The Grievance & Complaints Group will not manage Rule and tenancy breaches. In such cases, the appropriate management group will manage the process. The Grievance & Complaints Group can be asked to provide information and/or support.

5.1 Breach of the Tenancy Agreement

Section 6 of the Agreement, ‘Ending the Tenancy’, states that

“following a breach of this Agreement, in any particular, the Member shall be approached by the Co-operative with the aim of facilitating a resolution of the matter. Should the Co-operative not be satisfied with the Member’s response a Special General Meeting shall be called to approve the termination of this Agreement and the issuing of a Notice To Quit.”

5.2 Types of tenancy breach

5.2.1 Rent Arrears

In accordance with the Co-operative’s Rent Arrears Policy (Schedule of Events Stage 8 – 11), the Rent Treasurer or their delegate will ask the Co-op’s solicitor to initiate court action by issuing an NTQ. This will be reported to the Treasury Group. A date for an SGM will be set at 28 days from the date of the NTQ. The date of the SGM is also the date on which the tenant’s membership of the Co-operative ceases automatically, and the person becomes a trespasser.

If the tenant has paid the rent due by this time, the SGM can choose to readmit the tenant to Membership. If the tenant has not paid the rent due by the time of the SGM, the Members will consider court action. If the tenant has left the accommodation, the SGM will receive a report regarding the tenant’s rent account, and consider further action as required.

See Appendix 4: Timeline for Recovery of Possession

5.2.2 Other tenancy breaches

5.2.2i. Simple Breaches

Some tenancy breaches are quantifiable, such as lack of participation, failure to pay rent, frequency of residence in the accommodation, damage to Co-operative property, making structural alterations, etc. These are easily observable and the Co-operative can, through the relevant Management Group, seek redress of the problem through the Membership’s deliberations and decision at an SGM.

5.2.2ii. Complex Breaches

Some tenancy breaches are likely to be based on observations of behaviour, and as such are open to debate. If allegations of harassment, impeding the peaceable occupation of the accommodation by fellow tenants, violence, or other disturbance etc., are made, these must be supported by witness testimony, in order for the Co-operative to take action. Such cases may follow the Member Grievance route before coming under the jurisdiction of the Co-operative, and the Grievance & Complaints Group would need to present a clear argument for the transition from one status to the other.

5.2.2iii. Anti Social Behaviour

Cases of Anti Social Behaviour would only be brought under the Co-operative’s jurisdiction if external agencies have been involved, such as the Police, the Noise Abatement Service at the Council, the Courts, etc. If a tenant is the subject of external complaints by neighbours alleging anti-social behaviour, either in their immediate property or the surrounding neighbourhood, the Co-operative will investigate and follow the Anti Social Behaviour Policy. This may lead to litigation where the Co-operative might seek control orders which may or may not lead to ending the tenancy.

5.3 Breach of The Registered Rules

Rule 10 states:

A member may be expelled by a resolution carried by the vote of two-thirds of the members present and voting at a general meeting of the co-operative of which notice has been duly given, provided that a complaint, in writing, of conduct detrimental to the interests of the co-operative has been sent to him or her by order of the co-operative not less than 28 days before the meeting. Such complaint shall contain the particulars of the conduct complained of and shall call upon the member to answer the complaint and attend the meeting. At the meeting the members shall consider the evidence in support of the complaint and such evidence as the member may wish to place before them. If after due notice the member fails to attend the meeting without due cause the meeting may proceed in his or her absence.

No person who has been expelled from membership shall be readmitted except by a resolution carried by the votes of at least two-thirds of the members present and voting at a general meeting of which due notice has been given.

This Rule is intended to cover cases of fraud, libel, non-participation, etc., and is used where the Society is considering a person’s membership, rather than their tenancy.

See Appendix 3 Process for Using Rule 10.

5.4 Procedure for the Co-op v. Member / Tenant SGM in all cases

(See Appendix 2: Diagram Ending the Tenancy)

The Member must be informed by the Secretary in writing 28 days before the SGM takes place of the precise nature of the Co-operative’s complaint against them.

The Co-operative will elect a representative from the membership to speak on its behalf. The representative will be from the Management Group relevant to the case, e.g., for rent arrears cases, the representative will be from the Treasury Group.

The Member can seek representation and/or external or internal advice.

At the SGM the following procedure will be followed:

The Co-operative will state the charge and call forward evidence as required

The Member or their representative will state their case

Questions and open discussion will take place if applicable

A vote will be taken by the membership whether to issue a Notice To Quit (except in the case of rent arrears where issuing an NTQ is automatic)

If the proposal is passed the SGM shall instruct the officers of the Co-operative to initiate legal proceedings to seek repossession of the accommodation

The Tenant cannot be made to leave the accommodation until the Co-operative has obtained an order in the County Court.

6. Member v. Co-operative

In the event of a grievance arising from a Member’s grievance against the Co-operative the Member must inform the Secretary in writing of the precise nature of their grievance. Such grievance may be the perceived failure of the Co-operative to fulfill its duties as a Landlord as defined in the Tenancy Agreement, or the perceived failure of the Co-operative to fulfill its obligations as a Society as defined in the Registered Rules.

In the event of continued dissatisfaction the Member can call an SGM using the procedure laid out in Rule 12 which states:

The secretary shall call a general meeting as required […] or at the written request of not less than three members or one-tenth of the members of the co-operative, whichever is the greater, who may proceed to call the meeting if the Secretary does not do so within 14 days of receipt of the request.

6.1 Procedure for the Member v. Coop SGM

a) The Co-ordination Group will choose a representative from the membership to speak on the behalf of the Co-operative

b) The Member states their charge against the Co-operative, and the desired action, with the help of a representative if they wish

c) The Co-operative states its response

d) Questions and open discussion may take place if applicable

e) The chair of the SGM will sum up the proceedings and put any proposals to the vote

f) If the member is not satisfied with the result of the meeting they can request a special meeting of the Welfare Group if desired.

6. 2 If the Member has exhausted the Co-operative’s Complaints Procedures and still cannot gain satisfaction, they can be advised by the Welfare Group how to take the matter further, e.g., to the Housing Association Ombudsman.