Live stage

Finally, people living in the homes! But this is just the start of your journey...

Once you have some homes, living in them - and managing and maintaining them - is probably the most important stage. Do this well and your group will succeed for decades to come.

Here are the sorts of things you'll need to consider...

Running your group carries on the good work you started in the Group stage. Good governance and strong financial controls are essential, so make sure your Board has the right skills and meets regularly. But you can also keep working at the community, really involving your members and residents so they feel a strong sense of ownership and identity, and feel the organisation is accountable to them. Alongside formal Board meetings and AGMs, keep up the fun and informal community meetings, with good ongoing communication.

Managing the homes is no mean feat, and you may choose to outsource this to a managing agent, or have your partner housing association do this for you. Sometimes group volunteers or staff do it instead. Whatever your approach, make sure the people involved have the skills and time to do this properly. You can read CCH's helpful management and governance guide for more information.

Repairs and maintenance need to be kept up with, and should be reflected in your business plan and budgets. These include responding to day to day problems, keeping up with annual checks on gas and other services, and a planned programme of works such as repainting fences every few years and replacing the bathrooms every 20 years. You should make sure residents understand the process for reporting problems, and have a clear process for authorising, carrying out and logging all repairs.

Lettings and sales will come around when you first complete your homes, and for years after. As with home management, you can either outsource this task to a letting or managing agent, or handle the lettings and sales yourself. You will need to make sure there is a fair and transparent policy and process for allocating the homes, and a clear way for people to make complaints if they miss out.

Rents and service charges need to be set and collected, and increased year on year. Groups that are Registered Providers will need to follow the Rents Regulatory Standard when increasing rents, while other groups may have a free hand. You may also need to take action against tenants that fail to pay their rent, though you should always try to help them to get their finances in order long before you reach the point of evicting them.

Complaints will probably come in, whether from residents or neighbours, no matter how strong your community is! They might relate to your management of the homes, governance of the group or anti-social behaviour from residents. Whatever the nature of the complaint, you'll need a clear and transparent process in place, and discretion and sensitivity when handling them.