COMPLAINTS AND DISPUTES
POLICY AND PROCEDURES (Updated 2019)
This policy has been introduced to protect the interests of all members and to ensure that any complaints or disputes are dealt with in a fair and timely manner. This policy relates to complaints and disputes between members that involve NADCAA.
- National Guidance
NADCAA endorses and has adopted the National Allotment Society document [NAS Policy document 110 for Social Interaction on Allotment Sites] regarding anti-social behaviour and disputes as follows:
- The Society recognises that allotment sites can be sociable places, populated by people who share a mutual appreciation of gardening. The Society encourages activities that further the development of social interaction and a sense of community on allotment sites. At the same time, the Society recognises that allotments are both public and private places, within which some tenants may wish to be left to garden in peace. The Society recognises the right of any tenant gardening in compliance with their tenancy agreement to the quiet enjoyment of their allotment garden, a right that is violated by any form of unreasonable interaction within or across the boundaries of that individual’s allotment garden.
- Where disputes between tenants arise, or between tenants and site managers, the Society respects the autonomy of the organisation responsible for site management to resolve the dispute, with the caveat that transparent policy and documentation (including an independent appeals process) should be in place, including policies covering forms of anti-social behaviour such as abuse, threats and violence, however expressed.
iii. The Society maintains that responsibility for the behaviour of any person who is invited onto an allotment garden by a tenant lies with the tenant, and that this principle should be included in the tenancy agreement. This principle applies both to members of the tenant’s family of whatever age and to third parties such as informal garden sharers.
- The Society recognises the value and importance of good social relations between allotment associations (and individual tenants) and parties external to the allotment, including neighbours, sympathetic individuals and organisations, and institutions with the power to help protect allotment sites. It encourages the controlled and well-managed opening of allotment sites to facilitate such relations, subject to recognition of the rights of individual tenants and appropriate arrangements for insurance.
- Verbal Complaints
Verbal complaints will be deemed to be informal and will not be formally investigated under this policy.
- Formal Complaints
4.1 Only written complaints will be formally investigated under this policy to ensure that there is a full record of any allegations made. Written complaints can be given to the relevant Field Manager (FM), posted to the NADCAA registered office or made by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Written complaints must include the full name, field and plot number of the complainant and current contact details.
4.2 In the first instance all formal complaints shall be reviewed by the Secretary or the Administration Office (AO).
4.3 If the Secretary or AO is of the opinion that an investigation is not warrantied or justified then he or she should consult with one of the other Directors or, in the case of the Secretary, with the AO. If there is agreement that an investigation is not warrantied the reasons for this should be communicated to the complainant in writing or more information should be requested.
4.4 If the complaint indicates that a criminal offence may have been committed, the complaint should be referred to the police.
4.5 If a complaint is referred to the police, any NADCAA investigation shall be deferred until such time as the police confirm that their investigation is concluded or that they will not be taking any further action.
4.6 Any complaints that involve any member of the management committee shall be investigated by the Secretary or the AO assuming that neither the Secretary nor the AO are the subject of the complaint. Any complaint that relates to any actions of any of the Directors or the AO shall be investigated by one or more of the other Directors.
4.7 Complaints that relate to breaches of the members tenancy agreement, specific rules or if a dispute arises between plot holders, shall be referred to the relevant FM for investigation (after review by the Secretary or AO as set out in paragraph 4.2).
4.8 All complaint investigations should focus on obtaining all relevant facts and can include:
- interviews with relevant individuals
- review of any relevant correspondence, e-mails or other documents
- inspection of the relevant plot(s) or equipment
- reference to the requirements of NADCAA policies and rules.
4.9 Full records of interviews and action taken as part of an investigation should be kept including the date and times of any meetings and who was present.
4.10 Complete confidentiality shall be maintained with respect to all complaints and investigations.
4.11 For complaints that relate to breaches of NADCAA rules or disputes between members, the FM should seek to resolve the complaint or dispute by amicable agreement with the relevant member(s). In the event that a resolution is agreed, a record of what was agreed should be made and all records of the complaint and investigation and issues agreed should be forwarded to the AO who shall ensure that these documents are securely retained for three years. Records may be digitally stored.
4.12 If no resolution to a complaint or dispute is possible then the FM should refer the matter to the secretary or the AO for review and assistance.
4.13 If, after review by the Secretary or the AO, it is agreed that a plot holder is failing to comply with any NADCAA rule and is unwilling to agree to a resolution, a warning letter shall be sent to the member by the AO giving a minimum of 14 days for the member to resolve the issue. If a compliance period of greater than 14 days is deemed to be appropriate then a clear deadline for compliance must be stated in the warning letter.
4.14 If a member has not conformed to the requirements of the first warning letter within the deadline set, the FM should liaise with the Secretary or the AO. A second warning letter should then be considered. This letter should allow a minimum of a further 14 days for compliance.
Longer compliance periods may be given but only in exceptional circumstances. If a compliance period greater than 14 days is given the deadline shall be clearly stated in the letter.
4.15 The issuance of all warning letters should be reported to the committee in confidence at monthly Management Committee (MC) meetings.
4.16 If a second warning letter is not complied with, a report shall be prepared and submitted to the MC which shall decide whether the member should be evicted.
4.17 If the MC agrees that the member should be evicted then the AO should prepare a suitable eviction letter which shall be signed by the Secretary or by the Chairman if the Secretary is not available.
4.18 The eviction letter shall include details of an appeal procedure. In the first instance the member should write to the Company Secretary setting out the grounds for appeal. Appeals must be made within 21 days of the eviction letter being sent to the member.
4.19 Appeals will be considered by an Appeal Panel comprised of at least three persons who are Directors or the AO. The appellant will be entitled to present their case to the Appeal Panel and to be accompanied by one other person of their choosing at the appeal.
4.20 If the appeal is upheld, then a letter will be sent by the Secretary to the appellant explaining the decision.
4.21 If the appeal is rejected, a letter will be sent by the Secretary to the appellant setting out the reasons and offering a final appeal to an independent arbitrator. The arbitrator shall be the Regional NSALG representative. All appeals to the arbitrator must be submitted to the Secretary within 21 days of notice of the rejection of the first appeal being given to the member.
4.22 The appeal to the Arbitrator can be a written appeal or a personal hearing with the choice being made by the appellant.
4.23 If the appellant chooses to present his/her case to the Arbitrator in person, a suitable date, time and venue should be arranged by the Secretary.
4.24 The appellant shall be entitled to be accompanied by one other person and NADCAA shall be represented by at least two of the Directors or one Director and the AO.
4.25 A full record of the appeal hearing shall be made by NADCAA.
4.26 A decision shall be made by the Arbitrator within 28 days and shall be communicated to NADCAA in writing. NADCAA shall notify the appellant in writing of the decision of the Arbitrator.
4.27 If the appeal is upheld by the Arbitrator, the matter will be closed. All documents relating to the original complaint or the appeal shall be confidentially stored either in digital or hard copy by NADCAA for a period no longer than 5 years.
4.28 If the appeal is rejected, the eviction of the member should proceed and the member will be required to clear all possessions including sheds, greenhouses or plants that the member wishes to retain within 14 days, including crops.
4.29 Other than cases of severe misconduct, the lodging of appeals by an appellant will suspend the eviction notice until the appeal or appeals are finally resolved.
- Warning Letters
5.1 First warning letters with respect to complaints, disputes or non-compliance with Association rules shall be retained on record for a period of five years and if future complaints are received then any previous poor conduct on breach of rules may be referred to.
- Serious Misconduct
6.1 Serious misconduct may include threatening behaviour, physical abuse or other behaviour that places the use of the allotments or other plot holders or Association officials at risk.
6.2 In cases of serious misconduct, depending on the severity of the case, the first warning letter may not be sent and with the approval of the Secretary or AO a final warning letter may be sent in the first instance. This shall be sent as soon as possible and signed by the Secretary or AO after evidence of the misconduct has been confirmed.
6.3 In more extreme cases, e.g., physical assault of another plot holder or Association official, the plot holders membership may be suspended pending the outcome of investigations by the Police or NADCAA. Written notice of temporary suspension shall be signed by the Secretary or Chairman.
6.4 A temporary suspension notice shall remain in force until it is recinded by NADCAA or a formal eviction notice is issued.
6.5 A member shall have the same rights of appeal against a temporary suspension notice as they do if an eviction notice has been issued (see para’s 4.18 to 4.27).
6.6 If an eviction notice is served after a temporary suspension notice then the eviction notice will remain in force if an appeal is made.
6.7 If an eviction notice has been issued following a temporary suspension notice, the members plot will not be re-let until the expiry of the appeal period or the resolution of any appeal made.
6.8 NADCAA reserves the right to rescind a temporary suspension notice or an eviction notice at any time.