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When Disaster Strikes

Post by Gary Waller, Local Landlord, Chairman of the Brighton and Hove Branch of iHowZ, Formerly the Southern Landlord Association

The housing stock in Brighton and Hove is mainly pre war, and that is not the second world war but the first world war. Most of my rental stock of terraced houses in the centre of Brighton was built before 1905. The sheer age of the properties comes with its own set of problems in higher levels of maintenance. It requires care and thought when maintaining the house. A few examples are that if you replace a slate roof with a modern tiled roof then cement tiles are up to 10 times the weight of slate and you need to reinforce the roof trusses. If you replace a sash window with a uPVC window, then frequently the old sash window was both lintel (it supports the walls above) and well as window, a new uPVC window often does not have the strength of the old wooden sash window so you have to install a concrete lintel.

An all to frequent problem is that all older houses have ceilings made of lath and plaster. This is thin 2.5 cm strips of wood nailed to each ceiling joist that is then plastered over. The plaster seeps between the laths. This old way of making ceilings means that the ceiling is very heavy, as the plaster is generally put on, up to 2.5cm (1-inch) thick, as the house ages, and perhaps suffers from vibration, and these old ceilings can have a nasty habit of falling down. A group of my tenants phoned me at 9:15 am one Monday morning three weeks ago to say that a large piece of the lounge ceiling had fallen down. If the ceiling coming down is not bad enough then it brings down 120 year old black dust trapped in the floor void that can cover everything.

In this case we were able to get round to the house immediately, clear up the immediate mess, cover everything with dust sheets and then by the end of Monday bring down the rest of the ceiling and all the laths. By the end of a very long Monday the lounge was back into a reasonable state. The dust had also covered the kitchen, so despite a quick clean I gave the tenants money for Pizzas that night. By the end of Tuesday a couple of new sheets of plasterboard were up, the electricians had done a first fix and the house and kitchen were in a reasonably clean state. The new plaster board was up by then end of Wednesday and the ceiling plastered on Thursday. New lights, smoke alarm, coving and a professional clean followed. I agreed money off the tenants rent and now hopefully everything is back to normal.

We all have to be prepared for the unexpected, problems happen in life, tenants and landlords need to be reasonable and maintain a dialogue when disaster strikes. No I did not claim on my insurance, I just have a large hole in my wallet!

Gary Waller
Local Landlord
Chairman of the Brighton and Hove Branch of iHowZ
Formerly the Southern Landlord Association

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