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Below are answers to some frequently asked questions. 

What is a housing association or co-operative?

A housing association is a voluntary organisation dedicated to helping people obtain decent, affordable accommodation which meets their needs. Housing co-operatives are similar to housing associations, but usually much smaller: they are run by their tenants who collectively own the stock in which they live. In other associations, tenants are usually involved in the governing body, and frequently in a majority on the Board or Committee. 

'Voluntary' means a housing association is free to exist and determine its own affairs. It also means that the governing body members usually give their time freely, while employing paid staff to undertake the day-to-day work. 

Associations decide on their own rent charges in consultation with tenants each year. Rental income pays for repairs and renewals, services to tenants and repays banks and other financial institutions for funds borrowed over very long periods - up to 40 years. 

Each association is responsible for its business plan and its performance but all are not-for-profit organisations, so any financial surplus goes towards maintaining their existing homes and services, or providing more accommodation. 

Although there are lots of different types of housing association offering different kinds of accommodation to different kinds of people, they are all 'Registered Social Landlords (RSLs). This means they register with the Scottish Housing Regulator, which checks that they meet certain standards and reports each year on the Tenants Charter through the ARC.

As there is a shortage of decent, affordable social housing in Scotland, housing associations let to people in the greatest need, usually in co-operation with the relevant local authority.

How can I find housing associations?

Our website has an up-to-date directory of our member housing associations and co-operatives as well as a map of their locations. Some housing associations are not members and can be found on the internet.

You can find most housing associations and co-operatives by searching online: by searching for 'housing associations near (place you want to live)' it will give you a list of near-by associations.

You may also find housing associations on your local council's website.

Concerns about a housing association

How do I complain about a problem with my housing association or co-operative?

The SFHA does not regulate housing associations or deal with complaints about our members.

If you are concerned about a housing association, first tell them about your concerns. If you want to make a complaint, ask them for a copy of their complaints procedure. If you are not happy with the outcome after you have made your complaint, keep following the complaints procedure (for example, the next stage might be to complain in writing).

If you have come to the end of the complaints procedure and you are still not happy, you may contact the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman. If you contact them before you have followed the complaints procedure to the end, they will not deal with your complaint. You can contact the Ombudsman on 0800 377 7330.

Please note that the Ombudsman does not deal with complaints about housing associations acting as property factors. The Scottish Government recently passed a law about the regulation of factors which came into force in October 2011. More information about the Property Factors Act.

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