Leaks, lockouts, and parking issues are all in a day’s work for mother-of-two Sue Harness who works for us as our Senior Property Services Manager, or property troubleshooter.
The unflappable 62-year-old’s soothing voice is the sound landlords in crisis first hear when they call for a property troubleshooter and dial our out-of-hours hotline if something goes wrong with one of the buildings or flats the firm manages.
PMS Managing Estates looks after in excess of 160 residential developments, including 6,000 homes, across the whole of the Anglia region expanding out to Crawley, London and Hertfordshire.
As such the grandmother of two is never parted from her mobile phone and she can dip into the office files remotely at any time to summon up the particulars of a property and the contact details of any one of an army of contractors to fix a problem.
She originally joined the firm as a property manager in 2002 at a time when we had just six staff: “Now there are 30 of us. Back then you got involved in everything, including a bit of debt collection and site visits but I have always been practically minded.
“You filled in where you were needed. I really enjoy my work. It feels like a real family here. Every day is different – I never know what I am going to be dealing with – but couldn’t do it without the support of the team.”
She says the weather plays a major factor in determining how many calls she receives out of hours. One Christmas, when there were particularly high winds, she answered 52 calls from worried residents.
“But that’s unusual,” she says, although there are other occasions when the timing of emergency calls are not so convenient,
“Mother’s day was one time,” she recalls. “I was out for a pub lunch with my family and was about to tuck into my meal when a call came in and I had to leave,” she says with a smile.
It is fair to say that during her time working for leading Essex property managers PMS as a property troubleshooter, Sue has seen it all. Other emergencies have included attending fires in the small hours of the morning along with police, the fire brigade and contractors and marshalling homeowners or tenants of properties who have been unable to return to them after a leak, flood or other minor disaster.
While mayhem is rare, the normal run-of-the-mill call outs include the more mundane issues for any home owner or tenant: no TV signal; leaks; parking issues; being locked in or out of a building, either via door entry locks failing or someone breaking their key in the lock; roof tiles being blown off; and lift breakdowns.
“Each call is treated on its own merits. While someone’s emergency might not be considered a top priority by others, we know it is to the caller,” she says.
Her advice to anyone entering the job is this: “You have to enjoy dealing with people; be very organised; be able to put yourself in the caller’s situation and above all remain very neutral and patient.”