Vitra joined Town & Country a year ago as Neighbourhood Housing Manager managing more than 800 properties. She has worked in different roles within social housing including supporting young people with their first tenancies, as a legal officer and managing temporary accommodation.
We spoke to Vitra to find out more about her role and what she enjoys most about it.
“There are different elements to being a Neighbourhood Housing Manager, we deal with anti-social behaviour, tenancy management and estate management and changes to tenancies. You can set your diary, but in this job, you really need flexibility and to be able to stop working on one thing, move onto something else and then come back to it. I make sure I never have a backlog of work, I try to deal with things as they come up as you never know what’s going to come up tomorrow or next week.
“When you’re on a patch and tenants see you out and about, it builds trust and gets you talking so you know what’s happening in an area. It’s important that tenants understand that they can trust you and we will not breach that confidentiality.
“When tenants see a letter about a tenancy audit they get very concerned or anxious. It is a serious process but it’s a good way of us picking up tenancy fraud, checking that the home is safe and discuss any issues they have.
“Tenants shouldn’t be afraid of us checking for tenancy fraud, they know how hard it is to get a property or to move. If there is tenancy fraud, subletting or it has to be closed as part of a drug investigation it’s depriving people who really need it.
“Tenancy audits give us the opportunity to identify health and safety hazards, where someone does not have permission for something or if a property is overcrowded. We can signpost tenants or giving them information as to what their options are.
“We also check customers’ details so their information is up to date and when we know who we’re housing we can gauge the service we’re providing and look at what services are needed.
“With anti-social behaviour we work closely with Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. A problem might seem quite big but whatever it is if we can talk about, break it down, take ownership of things on both sides and get it sorted. For me, it’s all about problem solving and thinking outside the box. It’s about being persistent and consistent and being available to my tenants.
“It’s not about me saying this is what we’re going to do. I speak to the tenants and come up with an action plan that they agree to. We follow their lead but we’re here to support and give ideas.
“Sadly we sometimes identify domestic abuse in a household. We work very closely with a lot of agencies and with the CSU (Community Safety Unit) and DAVSS and we develop action plans together to get support in place. We also carry out a full review of a property to make sure it is very safe, changing locks and securing front doors and windows.
Changes to tenancies
“We do a lot of changes to tenancies for births, deaths, marriages and divorces. Things like changing names or adding or removing people from a tenancy. You can apply for a change to your tenancy online.
“We’ve also had a lot of calls recently from elderly tenants who want to know what would happen to their spouse or adult children who have never left home when they pass away. We take a kind stance because in addition to the main rules we also consider discretionary tenancies where the criteria are met.
“I really enjoy helping tenants and if someone says they’ve got a problem I like to resolve it. I think housing is the foundation for a better quality of life which means you can focus on education, work or developing yourself. I love when we do sign ups and you can see that everything is falling into place for them.
“I like doing environmental improvements because it is for things that people are finding very stressful. As a Housing Manager, it is my patch and I’m responsible for it and when I drive round I notice things and I want it to be better. I try to use the money available to improve the quality of tenants’ lives. My tenants are lovely, they always say thank you when we’ve made a difference.
“This year I’m tackling fly tipping, dog poo, the misuse of communal space and bin stores. We have to be firm and enforce the terms of the tenancy. Tenants need to make the connection that whilst a contractor can come out and clear things up, the tenants then get a charge on their service charges.
“It’s about creating a really good quality of life for our tenants and that’s what I think is my main job. If you have secure housing and you love where you live you can go on and do whatever you want.”