What does a housing officer do? A career guide with tips
Updated 13 July 2023
Tenants in all kinds of accommodation can find themselves in need of support with their housing arrangements and can need representation to help them deal with problems. Housing officers, or housing managers, are professionals who support tenants in housing associations and local authority properties. If you want to help people directly and value a job with lots of communication, a career as a housing officer may be ideal for you. In this article, we explain what a housing officer does with a step-by-step career guide to help you develop your career in this field and transition into other related jobs.
What does a housing officer do?
While the role seems straightforward, it's still useful to ask ‘What does a housing officer do?' Usually, a housing officer manages a specific geographical area of housing and services on behalf of associations, local authorities and charities. In this role, you would maintain consistent communication with residents and deal with maintenance, complaints and nuisances on a situational basis. This may involve communicating with individuals needing specialist care, such as the elderly, disabled or homeless, so there's some overlap with similar roles such as a care manager.
What are the typical duties of a housing officer?
The typical duties of a housing officer are hard to define since the specific parameters of the job vary. It's essential in this role that you have the flexibility to adapt to unique circumstances. Here are some examples of tasks that you might regularly complete:
Handling legal affairs: Residents may need support with legal proceedings, and in some unfortunate cases, officers handle the eviction of uncooperative tenants from properties. This can also extend to attending court hearings and preparing cases and proper representation for tenants.
Interviewing tenants: You may interview potential tenants to assess their suitability for different housing. You can also provide advice about relationships with the landlord and arrange the purchasing of properties.
Liaising with organisations: Housing officers communicate with professionals and support groups such as estate agents, counsellors and social workers to arrange services. This can also involve managing a team of maintenance staff keeping the properties in good condition.
Managing rent: Housing officers can set rent, organise collections and develop flexible terms to minimise missed payments. It's important to be reasonable and adapt to complex situations when managing rent and dealing with residents.
Performing inspections: A housing officer regularly inspects properties to ensure that they're safe and that tenants are complying with the terms of agreements. Attention to detail can help you discover faults before they become dangerous and notice problems with appliances.
Processing applications: Housing officers handle new applications from prospective residents and requests for repairs and home improvements from existing tenants. This can also involve arranging loans, grants and fees for this work.
Writing records: Officers keep accurate records of tenancies, properties and communications with organisations to ensure that all information is up to date. You may also hold documents on employees and handle training and certification for other officers.
How to become a housing officer
Careers in housing management are open to people from many educational backgrounds and experiences and there are lots of things you can do to help your application succeed. Here is a step-by-step guide to helping you start your career as a housing officer:
1. Get an undergraduate degree
While many posts may not have a degree level requirement, a relevant degree can help you to make a competitive application. Degrees in management studies, business or economics are generally useful for understanding how to perform the job and give you skills that can be transferred to other related careers. More specialised degrees or HND certificates in facilities management, social administration and land economics can also prepare you. If your degree is in an unrelated field, you could consider a postgraduate conversion course to a graduate certificate in housing.
2. Acquire relevant experience
Work experience and placements can help you prepare a strong application. University placements can give you a chance to work directly in housing with local organisations. Alternatively, management internships or experience with estate agents or the civil service could help you gain some related knowledge. Make sure you prioritise placements that allow you hands-on interactions with tenants and organisations so that you understand what a role as a housing officer is really like. For similar reasons, customer service experience can also be helpful for applications.
3. Consider a graduate trainee scheme
Graduate training schemes with large housing organisations can be a great asset to your CV or lead directly to full-time roles. These opportunities offer training, experience and, in some cases, additional certification to promising graduates who complete the scheme. You may also find them with other titles such as ‘graduate internships' or ‘graduate employment mentoring programmes'. Many organisations advertise these schemes on their websites or social media rather than on job search boards, so research thoroughly.
4. Compose a targeted CV and cover letter
An essential step to securing top-level roles is to present yourself and your qualifications effectively to employers. Craft a tailored CV that demonstrates your education and experience and emphasises your personal skills and communication. Soft skills and your ability to communicate are essential in housing roles since you regularly deal with tenants directly. A personalised cover letter for each position you apply to also shows that you thoroughly understand the organisation's mission and how they work. Try to pick up on keywords they use in the job description to highlight why you're a suitable candidate.
5. Apply for jobs as a housing assistant
Working as a housing assistant is the usual entry-level role for working up to full housing officer jobs. These jobs can be full-time but are often part-time, temporary or seasonal. Working as a housing assistant allows you to work with housing officers, learn on the job and experience the typical duties, while also earning as you train.
In many cases, working as an assistant for a company can lead to promotion to housing officer or at least give you an advantage when applying for a post. This is an ideal way to understand ‘What does a housing officer do?'
6. Apply for jobs as a housing officer
When you have gained this education and experience, you can begin to apply for housing officer positions. Your experience as an assistant means that you're applying to different organisations with full knowledge of what to expect. Organisations frequently advertise housing officer jobs on job search boards, but also consider searching for industry links to your university or on company websites. Make sure to consider each company's mission statement thoroughly and check out government pathways and charities for great opportunities.
Related: Your guide to public sector jobs
Tips for careers as a housing officer
A career as a housing officer can involve complicated scenarios that test your critical thinking and crisis management, so building a varied toolkit of skills helps you prepare. Here are some tips for a career as a housing officer:
Develop patience: Your decisions as a manager affect many lives, and most of your job takes place where different parties with differing goals come together. Develop the patience to manage these relationships professionally and to properly communicate with every one of your clients and colleagues.
Learn to drive: Most of your job is likely to take place in a central office local to your designated area, but you're also likely to visit properties often, which can be difficult using public transport. Being able to drive gives you the flexibility to go out to meet clients regularly and the business may provide you with a company car for this purpose.
Manage your health: Housing officer jobs can be stressful since you're dealing with sensitive situations and managing the wellbeing of others. Make sure you take care of yourself mentally and physically so that you can cope with this pressure and deal with situations healthily.
Negotiate intelligently: Learning to negotiate can help you to defuse situations and convince uncooperative tenants and landlords to come to a compromise. Be proactive and lead people to an agreement that's mutually beneficial and avoids explosive situations.
Research legislation: Since your job mainly manages the relationship between tenants and landlords, make sure you understand housing legislation and property laws thoroughly. Tenants may try to breach the terms of their agreement, but equally, some landlords may break property laws to exploit their tenants, so your knowledge is essential for both sides.
Work on your time management: Your duties as a housing officer are usually based around deadlines that organisations, authorities and courts set, rather than just a company or yourself, and may change suddenly. Make sure you can complete work efficiently to meet moving deadlines and be able to shift your task priorities to adapt to changing situations.
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