A Day in the Life of a Housing Officer
No matter how well I plan my diary, my day rarely goes to that plan. Housing Officers are reactive to the needs of the tenants so when something comes up, we often have to deal with it straight away.
Today my first job is to meet the new gardeners and some tenants and walk round one of the developments that is due to have some improvement works done. This gives tenants an opportunity to have a say in what they would like done.
Then I have to visit some tenants about rent arrears. Arrears work takes up a significant amount of my time but it is extremely important to ensure the Association has money coming in to spend on repairs and improvements. The recent changes to housing benefit has created a lot of work and we have had to dedicate substantial resources to identify those tenants affected and help them to address it. We have worked hard to support tenants by helping them make applications for Discretionary Housing Payment, arranging payment plans and helping them look for alternative housing when requested as well as working to secure exemptions for a lot of our supported accommodation and disabled tenants. In my area the councils have set up regular meetings so we have an opportunity to discuss any housing benefit issues with them. This is a really good partnership as it lets me update them on any change in circumstances my tenants have had and lets me get issues resolved quickly. Legal action due to rent arrears is always our very last resort, ultimately we want tenants to remain in their homes but its important tenants speak to us – we are here to help.
When I'm in any of my developments I walk around to check everything is ok, are there any repairs that need done, is the gardening up to standard, odes that fence need painted, could that area do with a bench or some flower baskets. We are always looking for ways to improve our developments and we welcome suggestions from tenants on anything they would like to see done.
When someone tells us they are moving out we start work straight away to find a new tenant. Housing waiting lists can be very complicated but they are designed to give those in the greatest housing need the highest priority. I meet with the Estates Officer to inspect the properties and he arranges for any work needed to be done. I am also meeting with an Occupational Therapist to assess if the property is suitable for a wheelchair user. We work closely with our care sector and we often have to co-ordinate with when care services can start and get any equipment needed in place.
During this I get a call from a tenant about a noisy neighbour. Neighbour issues can be very distressing so we always try to intervene as early as possible to resolve things. On speaking to the downstairs neighbour they weren’t aware of how noisy what they were doing was. A quick discussion and the situation is resolved.
Back to the office for a quick spot of lunch. My office is in the centre of one of our developments and is a hub for the community with tenants and service users popping in and out all day. This gives me chance to speak to care staff about any of our tenants they support, we regularly share information and the tenants will mention things to care staff to pass on to me.
After lunch I spend an hour making phone calls to housing benefit to chase up claims, arranging quotes to get a stand pipe fitted outside a block of flats, sending emails and recording all my morning work on our computer system.
Then I have a meeting to attend with other housing associations about tenant participation. Tenant Participation is about tenants taking part in decision making processes and influencing decisions about their developments. This meeting lets me and other housing associations share ideas on how they get tenants involved and on this occasion we are discussing holding a joint event. This would lower the cost for each association and its good to work in partnership with other housing providers.
After this I have to deal with a complaint about some rubbish being dumped in the bin store area of one of my developments. There is a mattress, some old carpet and various empty boxes. Ultimately we shouldn’t have to pay to get this uplifted so I visit all the tenants in the block and figure out who’s it is. While im there we phone the council and arrange for it to be uplifted, the tenant pays by card over the phone.
My last job of the day is to view an empty property with a prospective new tenant. Often we have to work out with 9 – 5 to accommodate people who are working.