Thalia Bryan, Director and Head of Management and Refurbishment gives us an insight into a month of property management challenges. She also reveals what she is looking forward to in the coming months.
1. Most surprising thing – Burglary scam
We received a call from a tenant who lives in a parade of 1960’s houses saying their neighbours had been raided by burglars wielding axes – and they thought they might be the next target.
We had been aware that there is a scam in place whereby gangs send scouts to earmark potential targets by putting stickers on door entry phones or door bells. We have been removing stickers and have sent warnings to our tenants to be watchful of the scam. I arranged to meet our security contractor to work on recommendations from the police to improve security and then will work with the landlord to agree the best methods to adopt and implement.
The tenant feels very vulnerable so my visit to reassure her that these improvements will be arranged quickly has helped her feel that the problem is shared and taken seriously.
2. Challenging aspect of the month – Rise in water table in W11 & W10
After a spate of very heavy rainfall we had a call on a Monday morning from the tenant in a raised ground floor flat saying his cellar had flooded and the water level was continuing to rise!
I met our plumber on site; the tenant had his trousers rolled up and was in the basement bailing water out with a bucket. The contractor then continued the job with his extractor to drain the water but as fast as we bailed the water kept flooding in.
I reported the problem to the landlords and also to the building insurers. To find the cause of the leak I had to arrange for Thames Water to attend to determine if the floodwater was mains water or from drainage pipes. Their investigation found that the most likely cause was a rise in the water table because of heavy rainfall and exacerbated by the number of basement digs in the area.
Our finding of a tree root also pointed to subsidence from the two large Plane trees in the front garden of the property and so there is an ongoing debate as to whether the claim will be covered by insurance – subsidence is an insured peril and a rise in the water table is not!
3. What I’m most looking forward to – Adopting systems for new legislation
We are currently working to streamline the systems in our department and introduce an app for tenants to report maintenance issues back to my team of property managers; we are also updating all our Terms of Business and working practice documents to reflect new legislation we have to comply with to protect our landlords.
I have also been invited by an architect I have worked with over many years to address a business forum at the Institute of Directors on the role of Property Management. I always relish the chance to talk about a job I love.
4. Local community – Kensington
I am looking forward to hosting the next committee meeting for the Kensington & Chelsea Music society at our offices; I was invited to become a member of the committee following our eight-year sponsorship of the society. To work with the society is always a treat and something I consider a perk of the job – the concerts are a chance to sit back and switch off after very busy days and to meet a diverse group of local residents.
5. Property Management Market trend
We are finding that we are taking on more properties let by other agents or owner occupier properties on a managed only basis – indeed we’ve seen a 10% rise over the last year. It seems landlords value the continuity of a steady management team and rely on the knowledge and history we have built up for their property over the years. I find this very rewarding and enjoy the working relationships I have built up over the last 30 years of doing my job – some of the clients have been with me since I first started in 1986.
Thalia Bryan, Director – Head of Management and Refurbishment