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Some important things about the law you should know when working with residentsí groups (02 Jun 09)

Get these things wrong and you, your residents and your organisation could be in a lot of hot water. Get them right and everybody is protected

Working with residentsí groups can seem deceptively easy.

They usually donít have that many members, they concentrate on local issues and more often than not they donít employ anybody.

But like anything in life thereís usually more to things than first meets the eye, and residentsí groups are no different from anything else.

In fact the whole area can be a bit of a minefield which is why we are running a webinar on the subject on 28 July from 11am to 12pm.

In case you canít make it here are some key tips. 

I hope you find them useful.

Here they are:   

Make sure you know the legal structure of the groups you are working with
The legal structure is important because it affects:

How do you tell what the legal status is?
If it isnít a company, an Industrial and Provident Society or a charity then it is probably an ďunincorporated associationĒ.  This means that the organisation has no separate legal identity, but the members will still have duties and liabilities to each other and potentially to other people. 

Always ensure the group has a constitution.
Make sure the Committee have read it and that they understand it, and conduct the group according to what it says.

If the constitution doesnít work properly encourage them to change it instead. Just because itís a local group doesnít mean that the law wonít expect them to abide by its terms.

Make sure the constitution deals with these areas:
A constitution is important and as a minimum it should cover these areas:

You canít count someone as a member of a residentsí association just because they donít opt out.
If you do, the law wouldnít uphold it if something went wrong

Have a clear code of conduct, and an agreed process for dealing with complaints. 
Use the process if a complaint comes in

Pay attention to groups or associations that are expanding their roles
If a group or association is expanding its role (for example taking on an employee, or entering into contracts) then it should consider changing its legal structure to guard against liability.

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