Housing Assistant

Housing departments are responsible for managing and maintaining council housing stock. That includes a range of duties, from letting properties and collecting rents to working with communities to improve their environment and tackle local problems.  A housing assistant's job is central to a council's housing teams. The job content varies from council to council.  It can be very much a hands-on role, dealing with the public 'in the field' for a large proportion of the time (in which case they may be known as a housing technical assistant, particularly where dealing with repairs requests).  Or the job may focus largely on providing administrative support for the Housing team.  The size of team depends on the size of the council as well as on their emphasis on housing in their area but may include Neighbourhood Managers, Housing Officers and Clerical Support staff.

Work Environment
Depending on the individual council, the role may be wholly based in a central or neighbourhood office.  Most of the time will be 'in the field', or may be divided between office and community.  Although council hours are a 37 hour week, often including the opportunity to work flexible hours, there's likely to be some work outside office hours if you're involved in field work.

Daily Activities
To assist the Senior Housing Officer (Rents) in rent accounting, the updating of the rental system and to ensure that payments can be made by a variety of methods.  Assist with the recovery of former tenant arrears.

Main duties and responsibilities:

  • check termination and commencement of tenancies data is correct prior to updating the information onto the computer and make any adjustments to the rental system; 
  • control, balance and update the weekly rent debit to ensure that the weekly adjustments, tenancy changes, voids and sales have been implemented.  Undertake checks to ensure that the cash and housing benefit received balances with the rental; 
  • update individual accounts for additions/deletions to personal charges, e.g. insurance, concessionary TV licence charges; 
  • ensure that rent payments can be made by a variety of means, e.g. issuing rent cards, swipe cards, direct debit and bankers order mandates as appropriate; 
  • responsible for the efficient processing and monitoring of direct debit payments of rent, abiding by defined timescales.  Provide advice to tenants on the direct debit system and any payment irregularities.  Liaise with housing officers on actions taken; 
  • audit rent accounts, liaising with tenants, housing officers, housing benefits staff, cashiers, banks, building societies and post office counters.  Investigate and correct any payment discrepancies.  Explain the findings and actions taken to the tenants; 
  • calculate final balances on the rents accounts of former tenants.  Trace the former tenants where there is a balance on the rent accounts.  Prove balances and negotiate payments in cases of rent arrears, and arrange transfer or refunds of any credit balances.  Monitor former tenant arrears, pursuing payment in accordance with procedure and reporting complex cases to the Senior Housing Officer for further action; 
  • add all court costs to the individual rent accounts as instructed by the Housing Officers; 
  • monitor rent accounts for large credit balances.  Audit accounts to prove the credit balances.  Arrange a refund or following liaison with other internal departments, facilitate a transfer of monies to pay off other council debts; 
  • support the Senior Housing Officer (Rents) with the "year end" procedure, checking the rental prior to close down, producing year end balance statements, organising the distribution of rent increase letter and rent cards.

Skills & Interests
You need:

  • good organisational skills - able to plan and prioritise your workload to meet defined targets; 
  • a desire to help solve problems and to provide an efficient and helpful service; 
  • to be able to work under pressure and as part of a team; 
  • the flexibility to manage several different tasks at once; 
  • good written communication skills and a good telephone manner for dealing with a wide range of people, including the public, colleagues, contractors and Council Members; 
  • numeracy skills; 
  • computer literacy and keyboard skills.

Also required  

  • education to ONC/NVQ Level 3 or equivalent, with GCSEs (A,B or C grades) in English and Maths or equivalent; 
  • significant experience of working in an accounting environment; 
  • knowledge of housing legislation.

Skills Required

  • computer literacy; 
  • good interpersonal skills to deal with people in an efficient, polite and understanding manner; 
  • flexible in approach to work and hours of work;
  • enthusiasm, drive and ability to work under pressure, both unsupervised and as part of a team.

Further Information & Services
The Chartered Institute of Housing www.cih.org
Asset Skills www.assetskills.org

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales (www.careerswales.com/) or in your local library, careers office or school careers library.

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