Following a path to make a difference

Jacqueline Omoniyi at Under One Roof blogs about her ‘not straightforward’ path to a housing career.

Jacqueline Omoniyi from Under One Roof

I started my career in housing, working for an HMO Licence specialist company in Edinburgh, though my pathway into housing was not straightforward. I was a graduate from Queen Margaret University, earning a BA (Hons) in Retail Business with a view to becoming a fashion buyer, but after some travelling, I returned home and found I needed a job. A good friend from my retail days in Jenners had started working for a housing company and told me to come up on Monday morning at 9am to see what it was all about, and the rest was history! 

I quickly became fully immersed in HMO legislation, working with landlords, letting agents, and council licensing teams across Scotland. I learned on the job about the administration side of the process, fuelling my passion for compliance, and when it came to the physical upgrading work and property reconfigurations, I used to go out and meet contractors on the job and learn on site; I learned so many valuable skills being on site on everything from project management and construction regulations to boiler installations and how to do basic repairs.

Through my work in HMO Licence management, I really valued the client relationship process, so it was a natural progression to move into residential letting. I eventually moved to Glasgow to work in residential letting team there, quickly becoming head of the department, and I was promoted to Director after two years, becoming one of the youngest company directors in the firm’s history. I redefined the strategy of the business, streamlining processes and procedures, turning a significant profit, and weathered the storm of the 2008 financial crash. 

My next role saw me take a leap of faith and branch out on my own. I launched my own boutique letting agency in Glasgow in 2014 and built up a solid client base with a focus on the importance of the relationship not only with landlords but also with tenants. This led to a fantastic business model operating with zero rent arrears and low void periods, with tenants often recommending me to friends and colleagues which was a testament to the trust and confidence in the relationship. I sold the business in 2019 to a Glasgow company to allow me to focus on my family. After an extended maternity leave, thanks to Covid, I was keen to get back into the working world and a great opportunity came up with the tenement-focused charity Under One Roof Scotland. 

The role of Education and Training Officer that I currently hold with Under One Roof allows me to draw on all my skills, experience, and knowledge to help tenement owners, landlords, and housing professionals manage and maintain tenement buildings. I manage our enquiry service, where we answer hundreds of enquiries per year, and run training courses for local authority and private factor staff teams, as well as organise and host public events for owner-occupiers and landlords across Scotland.

I feel that I’ve made a difference working in the housing sector over the past years, having learned about so many different facets of property and housing. The importance of the relationship you establish with landlords, tenants, contractors, suppliers, and stakeholders is paramount and can make a huge difference to outcomes. I started working in the sector when there was little regulation or requirement for professional accreditation. 

I would encourage anyone looking for a first or new career path to consider the housing sector. It’s a great feeling to help people find a home that’s safe and warm and to offer others a sense of community. There are so many fantastic opportunities available in companies, even at entry level, which allow you to build up knowledge and experience. Being able to learn and take professional exams, such as the ARLA exam and the Level 6 Technical Award in Residential Letting and Property Management, allowed me to operate confidently at work; to become qualified is a privilege and really makes a difference in confidence levels. 

Going forward, it’s my hope that we can see graduate training programmes and defined career paths with progression and opportunity, and more representation at careers fairs, with a focus on the benefits of working in the sector, how people can make a difference, and take qualifications that give them professional accreditation. And I’d like the Government to move towards professional accreditation for factors, with a qualification requirement and training, as continuous learning and development in the sector prevents staleness and encourages opportunity.