A housing officer is a person who looks after the tenants and fulfils their needs in housing societies. A career in this field will expose you to the tenants and council people regularly. The demand for a housing officers in the UK is increasing rapidly. It is mainly because of many housing associations being built in different parts of the country.
Therefore, this article will give you an in-depth understanding of the profession. It is best suited for you if you consider starting your career as a housing officer in the UK. After reading this article, you will be able to adequately analyse the responsibilities, pay scale, job structure, and entry requirements.
Who is a Housing Officer?
A housing officer is usually responsible for looking after properties owned by the council or housing associations. They can either work full-time, part-time or on a contract.
In the United Kingdom, there are several housing societies located in different suburbs. They do not have any separate owners. These are properties that are built to give shelter to the homeless and underprivileged citizens.
Furthermore, most of these tenants are either very poor or do not have other places to live. The housing societies are like a community for these helpless people to meet others going through similar struggles. You will see people of all ages living in these housing societies, from infants to very elderly ones.
Henceforth, it is a people-facing role, and you have to be very sympathetic towards them. It is because people will always come to you with high expectations to solve their problems. Therefore, you can not afford to lose your temper at any stage.
Moreover, you need to remember that society often neglects these people and does not live a regular and average life like most. You will have tenants who have many struggles in their lives- domestic abuse, mental trauma, loss of loved ones, etc.
What Are the Responsibilities of a Housing Officer?
The responsibilities of a housing officer are very diverse. They need to take care of every need of a tenant. Therefore, correct use of some soft skills is essential too. It includes- being empathetic, problem-solving, customer service, and many more.
Besides, a housing officer provides their clients with welfare and family benefits and mental support to maintain peace and harmony. They try their best to make everyone living in the housing society live together as a community.
Moreover, dealing with different families can get very challenging at times. Usually, the people living in these housing societies already have some personal problems. Most of the problems are related to health, finance, relationships, etc. Thus, dealing with such a vulnerable group of people every day can get a bit too difficult sometimes.
However, a detailed list of some critical responsibilities of a housing officer includes:
Assessing the Housing Applications
Many people all over the UK apply for housing. Housing officers need to go through every application and shortlist the genuine ones. They need to be very sharp and vigilant because some fraud people would still apply for housing even if they can afford to live by paying average rent.
Therefore, such people deprive the ones who are actually in need of housing societies. A housing officer would assess all their bank statements, do a credit check, speak to references, and approve applications. Then, based on someone’s needs, they would allocate housing to them and their family members.
Carrying Out Inspections
A housing officer needs to carry out regular inspections of the properties on a routine basis. It ensures no damages are done to the property and note down any changes they notice, such as a damaged wall or even a piece of distorted furniture.
Moreover, a housing officer can carry out these inspections on a fortnightly or monthly basis. It also allows them to interact with the tenants and check if they are doing alright. At the end of the inspection, they prepare reports and submit them to the local council.
In addition, after a tenant leaves a property, the housing officer will need to inspect it again to check for any damage. They use their previous conditional report prepared when a new tenant moves in to compare any changes.
Maintenance and Repair
The properties in the housing societies need maintenance work sometimes. If the tenants face any problems, their housing officer is the first point of contact. The issues include- electrical disorders, clogged drains, plumbing leaks, damp walls, etc.
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Most importantly, the housing officer acts like a middle person to solve such issues. They would then contact the local plumbers or electricians to fix the problems. If the issue is more building-related, the council will bear the costs. But if the tenant does the damage, they have to pay the fees instead.
Dealing With Finances and Rent
The housing societies have lower than the average rent that everyone needs to pay. The rent is collected on a weekly, monthly, or fortnightly basis. Housing officers need to keep track of paying the rent on time and check any outstanding dues.
Nonetheless, some housing officers also help their tenants map their financial goals and advise them on using their money effectively. In addition, some tenants have different types of disabilities, both mental and physical. Therefore, if someone is there to take care of their finance, it is a big help.
Legal Issues and Reports
Housing officers need to visit courts and liaise with lawyers if there is any legal issue. It can be related to any rule broken by a tenant, bond-related issues, violence caused by any tenant living in the housing society, etc.
On the other hand, they need to prepare different statistical data based on the property and prepare reports. Some of these reports are used to prepare property audits. Later, all the reports are submitted to the council for review.
How to Start a Career as a Housing Officer?
A career in social housing can be the most rewarding. You are helping to change people’s lives. Apart from finding suitable accommodation for the people, you are helping them connect with the community, giving them a ray of hope to lead an everyday life, and supporting them on their needs.
Moreover, you are helping the most vulnerable group of people in our society. You are dealing with people who have suffered from homelessness, unemployment, physical and mental abuse. There is also a significant fraction of the elderly population living in these social housing.
In addition, if any of your tenants or clients are going through a challenging phase in life, you have the authority to refer them to several support services. Support service includes mental health counselling, a financial advisor, or even a social worker.
However, being a housing officer requires a handful package of skills and relevant qualifications. So, you can kickstart your career in this field if you acquire both.
This career is best suited for you if you are a people person. 90% of your day-to-day tasks as a housing officer involve handling tenants and their complaints. An individual who has a lot of patience and can deal with all types of situations by keeping a calm mind can excel in this career.
Hence, having a good set of interpersonal skills can take you a long way in this profession. Some skills are already in-built in an individual, and some can be acquired through professional training or experience.
So, we are mentioning a list of the five most required skills to be an experienced housing officer:
1. Active Listening
Active listening gives the right impression to other people that you are attentive and interested in what they are saying. You can show gestures to prove that. It can be by either nodding your head or even smiling in some situations. You always maintain eye contact with the other person.
Therefore, it is essential to this role because you always have to hear your tenants and listen to their problems. Thus, active listening skills would help you solve problems faster and come up with different solutions.
2. Conflict Management
Conflict can arise anytime between the residents of the social housing due to several issues. They will be living in the same neighbourhood and might have problems with each other’s habits or way of living. In some social housing, there are shared kitchens and bathrooms. It can cause more conflict, especially when more than two families share these common areas.
Hence, the housing officer’s responsibility is tactfully handling these conflicts and restoring positive energy in the community. It would help the community to stay close-knit and share a good bond. In addition, they have to do this in the most unbiased manner by keeping everyone’s feelings in consideration.
Being empathetic means that you are feeling sorry for someone’s situation and trying to understand their feelings. As a housing officer, you have to be prepared to hear many heartbreaking and disturbing stories from your tenants. Stories about domestic violence, physical abuse, etc., are widespread among the people living in social housing.
Therefore, apart from just hearing these stories and listening to their problems, you should try to understand and connect to them emotionally. It would mean a lot to the other person, making them feel heard and not alone. Moreover, empathy draws people closer, and this quality can help you create a strong bond with your tenants.
4. Analytical Competency
Analytical competency refers to the ability of a person to collect and analyse data. Based on the data collected, a person needs to decide or pass a statement regarding a particular situation. As a housing officer, you need to prepare conditional property reports, prepare inspection reports, and audit all the data collected.
Therefore, after you have all the data, you will investigate them and check if you find any abnormalities. If there are any issues, you have to develop a relevant solution on time.
In addition, you would use your analytical skills to observe, brainstorm and integrate new information. You can use them to make the services for these social housing even better. Also, if you detect any fraudulent activity or money-related issues, you can contact the higher authorities and take action.
It is one of the essential skills required for a housing officer. Assertiveness means standing up for yourself and other people’s rights without coming off as aggressive or stubborn. It also means that you can get your point across without making other people feel bad or uncomfortable.
Therefore, as a housing officer, you always have to confront your tenants and attend several meetings. So, during these regular meetings and frequent visits to your tenants, you need to share your viewpoints in a way that does not make others feel that you are too bossy!
For example, if you notice that a particular tenant has kept their property very untidy during a routine inspection, you have to say it nicely and calmly. Moreover, your goal should be to get your point across in the sweetest possible way. Because you don’t want them to hate you behind your back, right?
Since we have now got a clear understanding of the responsibilities of a housing officer and the mandatory skills required to outshine in this field. Although, apart from the necessary skills, an individual must also be qualified to join this profession. They must have good numeracy and literacy knowledge to keep them going!
To start with, a housing officer doesn’t need to be from any specific background. Graduates from all backgrounds are welcome into this field. But, they must complete their GCSE O’levels and A’levels. Maths and English are the two compulsory subjects required. In addition, students have to make sure that they do not score any less than the Grade C in their high school.
Secondly, after they pass their A levels, they have two options. The first option is to do a foundation degree in relevant subjects such as building surveying, social policy, housing, land economics, property management, community development, or social work.
However, the second option is to take a certificate or vocational training from any registered college. Colleges that offer online or offline courses accredited by CIH (Chartered Institute of Housing) can be a perfect option. An example of such a course is Housing Officer Training. This course would help you learn and acquire the essential skills for this role. You will get the opportunity to work as a licensed housing officer or an area manager.
Although, if you are already a graduate (not necessarily in housing), you can still get a certificate in housing. However, recent graduates from other disciplines can even apply in some graduate trainee programmes with housing organisations.
Lastly, after you are qualified enough for the profession, you can start your career as an administrative assistant or a housing assistant. Later, with more experience and training in the field, you can move up the career ladder and become a senior housing officer in future.
Apart from the academic qualifications, an individual can get into the field by professional training as well. It is because practical experience is beneficial in housing work. During professional training, you would understand more about-
- Tenant issues
- Welfare rights
- Social issues
- Laws and regulations
Moreover, you can get experience through work placements in local housing authorities. You can even choose to do some volunteering work or raise charity for housing associations. All of these will give you great exposure in the field and get you to interact with tenants and council members.
Most importantly, this profession will get you exposed to very vulnerable adults; therefore, it is required for you to pass a background check by Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
To summarise, a career as a housing officer is very diverse. You assist tenants with proper housing and help them in several social issues such as domestic violence and fighting for human rights. Moreover, you also get the opportunity to interact with people from different backgrounds and professions.
Therefore, this article would give you a clear understanding of developing yourself as a professional housing officer and prosper in the field.