In the last decade, the UK New Labour government has emphasised tenant participation in housing policy. Consequently, those individuals who decide to opt out of participation processes have been problematised as ‘apathetic’, and identified as needing to be ‘empowered’ through professional interventions. Drawing on research about community ownership in Glasgow, this paper argues that tenants' reasons for not getting involved are more than simply lack of interest. Tenants articulated an instrumental approach to participation, and rejected the conflation of tenant participation with tenant management. Practical barriers also obstructed their latent motivation.