Tenants’ representative as a mediator between building owners and tenants

To appoint a Tenants` Representative was the choice of the Municipality of Bolzano as part of a communication strategy that so far has guaranteed a transparent flow of information and an environment of trust. The Tenants’ Representative is a privileged channel that favors ease and transparency of communication between the municipality and the tenants regarding the energy refurbishment activities of the buildings included in the SINFONIA project.
In the framework of SINFONIA a series of residential buildings was refurbished, including refurbishment measures inside inhabited flats. From the beginning of the project the Municipality of Bolzano has tried to adopt a communication strategy that guarantees a transparent flow of information and an environment of trust. This strategy includes the following activities: 1. to organize a series of meetings addressed to tenants with the aim of knowing their problems, needs and desires; to provide the correct information about the refurbishment projects within SINFONIA, especially on the technical details of the devices that will be installed in their apartments, the resulting benefits and possible uneasiness that tenants will face during the execution of the works; 2. to create a guideline, a so-called user manual, which can help the tenants to better manage their apartments and the main technical devices installed within the SINFONIA project, with regards to heating, ventilation, and electricity; 3. to set up the demo apartments, open to all tenants willing to view the outcomes of energy refurbishment. By visiting the apartments, the tenants are able to better understand the benefits associated with energy refurbishment.In addition to these measures, in order to overcome the initial resistance by tenants against the refurbishment work within SINFONIA, the municipality has appointed a Tenants’ Representative as a mediator between building owners and tenants. Having understood the necessity of the role of mediator between the needs of the city and those of tenants, the municipality has chosen to entrust this role to tenants who already regularly provide such service for the local administration in the role of “trustees”. The role of the trustee already existed before SINFONIA and will continue to exist after its completion. But in the specific case the Tenants’ Representative and the trustee are the same person.
The trustee usually performs the following tasks:
  • communicates to the municipality every relational problem between tenants or issues regarding the building (maintenance, management);
  • promotes peaceful and harmonious relations between the tenants;
  • proposes ordinary and extraordinary improvements related to the buildings to the municipal administration;
  • checks the application of the “Management communal houses Regulations”.

Each trustee receives a small budget in recognition of her/his role, in order to make them more responsible and motivated. Each trustee is elected annually and democratically by the other tenants. Within SINFONIA the Tenants’ Representative and the trustee are the same person. The Tenants’ Representatives or trustees live in the communal buildings and in most cases they know all the tenants personally as well as their problems related to the buildings.
All the communications between the municipality and the tenants regarding the activities of SINFONIA related to refurbishment work take place based on the following steps. Periodically, the municipality asks the trustees to participate in the information meetings on specific activities and when necessary asks them to carry out some activities: to distribute the informative letters prepared by the municipality in the mailbox of all tenants or to put up posters prepared by the municipality in the stairwells of the buildings on the ground floor. The letters always contain the phone numbers of the SINFONIA office of the municipality in order that tenants feel free to ask for further clarification. Sometimes we received calls from tenants who only wished to be reassured.

So far the Tenants’ Representative has been of great importance for creating a climate of confidence and an active involvement of tenants in relation to different activities within SINFONIA that are necessary for the preparation of the refurbishment work, from more invasive monitoring measures, such as static tests, to less invasive ones, such as metric and photographic surveys.

Lessons learnt:

Having appointed a Tenants’ Representative has been a successful strategy because it has guaranteed a flow of timely and transparent information. Besides, it has allowed the Municipality of Bolzano to operate in a climate of complete trust, preventing the emergence of possible conflicts between the tenants and the municipality.

In order to prevent any future conflict, besides the presence of Tenants’ Representatives, the Municipality of Bolzano is considering the possibility to appoint an additional role to assist the tenants in the execution phase of the work. This new role will have to act as a mediator between the needs of tenants and those of the enterprises that will carry out the work. In addition, this role will help the tenants and the enterprise to better plan and organize the work in the flats.