Continuing our series in which we look at the various roles of staff in NHG, we focus on Harry Patten, a negotiator in our temporary housing department.
When did you join NHG?
I joined in 2016, in what was then Notting Hill Housing. Previously I worked in a local authority and for an estate agent. I wanted to progress my career and NHH offered me an opportunity to work with more residents from all over London.
What is your role?
I work as an acquisitions negotiator in the temporary housing team. We offer landlords a leasing scheme which guarantees them rent, often below market value. It’s a full property management service without an agency fee for one to five years' contracts with an option to renew.
These properties are offered in partnership with local authorities to candidates on their housing waiting lists who are homeless. The council assesses the suitability of a candidate and if the property is suited to the candidate’s needs. A viewing is arranged and if a candidate likes the property and signs our agreement, they are placed there. We can let on a weekly licence or a six to 12-month shortfall tenancy. We currently have around 3,000 properties in this scheme.
What can a typical day look like?
I start by looking at the landlord email enquiries inbox. These range from first time queries - a typical example would be a couple who have moved out of London to start a family and want to rent out their existing property - or questions from corporate landlords. I explain the scheme, find out about their circumstances to see if the scheme will work for them and answer any questions. Then I will start doing site visits, inspecting properties to see if they are up to our standard and recommending any work that needs doing. I make sure that properties are ready to let and prepare an inventory for the owner. There is a lot of paperwork involved in taking on a property - leases and rental agreements plus liaising with local authorities for suitable tenants. We have around 56 staff in the team do deal with this.
How have the current lockdown or COVID 19 conditions changed your job?
We are still working from home and I can only inspect empty properties. If we have to meet a landlord or tenants, it has to be done while socially distanced, usually outdoors and in PPE (personal protective equipment). What I really like about my job is meeting people and hearing their stories, so the present situation is difficult.
What do you find the most rewarding?
Knowing I’ve helped a landlord rent their property with peace of mind and security and a resident has found a home. It’s a win-win for everybody.
What are the frustrations?
Sometimes there can be a large workload but it’s what you have to deal with. You have to keep a balance and manage your time effectively.
What do you do in spare time?
I just like to spend time relaxing with my family. I also like going to animal sanctuaries and feeding the ducks in the local river.
Is there a situation with a resident that stayed with you?
I worked with a landlady who wanted to rent out the family home in order to pay for her mother’s care home fees. She lived far away from it and still had an attachment to her childhood home, so after we recommended some work to be done, a resident who loved the property moved in. She thanked me for all the work in helping her with a stressful situation but I was only doing my job.
What one thing you would like residents to know about where you work?
It’s more than just a job. I recognise the importance of having a safe and secure home as a lot of us can find ourselves in a similar position as our residents. We’re all human beings and have experienced similar problems. We will always do our best to help.
Funniest thing a resident has said to you?
One resident did come up to me - they seemed quite serious - and said I was the spitting image of Ashley Cole, the footballer! I look nothing like him!
What do you think?
A day in the life of a community caretaker
A day in the life of a care worker
A day in the life of a housing operations manager
A day in the life of a floating housing officer
A day in the life of a customer service advisor