We ‘met’ WHA housing office Angela Freeman and talked the joys of lockdown homeschool while still working and why housing associations are, despite people’s assumptions, so much more than just landlords.
Name: Angela Freeman
Job title: Housing Officer
How long in role: 6 Months
I worked at Cobalt Housing a housing association in Liverpool for 14 years as an Antisocial Behaviour Officer, Lettings Officer and Neighbourhood Officer.
Reason for joining WHA:
I started working for WHA as a temporary housing officer just before Christmas. I applied for the permanent position as I quickly realised that WHA was a really good organisation to work for, and the staff and tenants were nice. I enjoy working with the public and it is a generic housing officer role which gives me overall responsibility and ownership of my patch.
Overview of role:
In this role, I provide a housing and tenancy management service to approximately 400 properties, which includes a retirement scheme. I deal with lettings, tenancy breaches, antisocial behaviour (ASB) complaints and manage tenants’ rent accounts while supporting our vulnerable customers.
Typical day pre-lockdown:
My role is an agile one, which means a typical day before lockdown would consist of me completing my visits whilst working from either the office, home, or one of our sheltered schemes. I would normally get to the office around 8.30am after dropping my children off. I would then check my calendar to prepare for the day’s appointments and respond to any emails. My appointments would start around 10am, which could consist of new tenancy visits, signing people up to tenancies, viewings, property inspections, rent visits or ASB interviews. I would finish my visits and then sometimes pop into the sheltered scheme on my patch to have a catch-up with the scheme manager before heading home to complete any paperwork or actions that arose from my appointments.
Typical day during lockdown:
I start work at 7am and check my emails before my children are awake. At 9am we have our breakfast and then I give them some schoolwork to be getting on with while I continue to work. Since I have been unable to visit tenants, a lot of my work involves ringing or emailing tenant to discuss any rent arrears, ASB issues or dealing with any general queries they have in regards to their tenancy. I also ring our most vulnerable tenants regularly to check they are ok. I am also involved in a couple of projects so I usually have a number of Zoom meetings or workshops to attend. At 12, I usually break for lunch for a couple of hours and take the children to the park. Around 2 o’clock I will work for a couple of more hours, which is challenging at times as I am also trying to keep a 3-year old-entertained and motivate a teenager to do schoolwork!
Biggest challenge working while being unable to see people face to face:
I miss human interaction and being out on the patch visiting tenants. Some simple queries, for example a garden issue, seem more complicated when people are trying to explain via phone or photos when normally you would pop out and see the issue for yourself.
Biggest challenge facing housing associations in general:
I think the biggest challenge at the moment is tenants having difficulty in paying their rent due to Covid and rent arrears increasing.
What do you think people misunderstand about housing officers and associations:
I think a lot of people think Housing Associations and Housing Officers just let properties and collect rent when they do so much more. They help to support vulnerable tenants by referrals to other agencies, safeguarding, provide benefits and money advice and can even help support or signpost tenants into employment.
Recommend the role to someone:
I would definitely recommend this role to someone if they like a job that is varied and enjoy working with the public.
I get job satisfaction from being able to help support vulnerable tenants to manage their tenancies and by doing my job well.
What makes Warrington a great place to live:
The great location, good transport links to both Manchester and Liverpool. There are good schools, parks and also plenty of shops, bars and restaurants and also a good community.