A day in the life of a building surveyor

Continuing with the series where we look at various roles within the organisation, building surveyor Davinia Mohabier, gives us an insight into a typical day in her role.

Why and when did you join Notting Hill Genesis?
I was out of work for a number of months, then suddenly received three jobs offers at the same time, including one for the BBC. I remember my older siblings saying “a job in housing/council is a job for life” so I accepted the job offer with Sutherland Housing Association (subsidiary of Genesis) as an administrator in 2004. I have been lucky to have worked my way up six roles since then and had Notting Hill Genesis sponsor six years of study.

What is your role?
As a building surveyor my core role is to manage repairs within resident’s homes. This starts with an initial meeting on site with the resident (sometimes with the local officer or contractor too). I then compile a report of the survey, scrutinise quotes from the contractor and manage the works until completion.

Our surveying services are not exclusive to social housing residents, it’s also available to leaseholders and care and support residents. Being in this role I understand I have two hats, one being that I have to endorse Notting Hill Genesis policies and procedures, but with the satisfaction of the resident being my main focus.

What can a typical day(s) look like?
A typical day for me starts with me checking my emails and writing down my inspection addresses at 6.30am. Then, I get the kids ready for school, complete the school run by 8:30am, then drive to my first inspection for 9.00am. Normally, I like to complete three or four inspections before lunchtime, so that I can spend the rest of the day concentrating on compiling my survey reports.

The reports do take a long time to complete as they need to be of a particular standard in case they are presented in court. I also answer queries, emails and work on my projects which takes me up to 5pm. Sometimes I open the laptop before bed to complete the reports I worked on during the day and get a head start for the next working day.

What do you find the most rewarding?
The most rewarding aspect of my job is seeing the repairs through to fruition and knowing it has improved a resident’s living conditions. This could be the simplest of repairs but just seeing how appreciative residents are and how the works have positively impacted their lives makes this job worth it.

What are the frustrations?
The increase in fuel prices is having a major effect on the conditions of our properties and many residents are financially unable to heat their homes sufficiently. This will only get worse as the price of fuel continues to increase. Surveyors are receiving more and more referrals for window renewals and mould growth and the pressure is on us to do more than just remove mould. We have to consider alternative solutions such as thermal insulation and thermal paint to affected areas which could end up costing thousands or evenmillions of pounds to put right.

What do you do in your spare time?
I don’t know what spare time is! I am a mother to a 19-month-old and a nine-year-old, so all my time is spent catering to their needs. On the off chance that I get a few minutes to myself, I try to complete a home workout or go for a walk (I am very aware of how much my mental health can be impacted if I don’t exercise).

Other than that, cooking, cleaning and being the main source of entertainment for the children have replaced my previous hobbies which included going on holidays, going to the gym, and socialising with friends and family.

Is there a situation that you were able to resolve that stayed with you?
We had a situation where a building was set on fire in the underground car park and all the residents were decanted from their properties into the nearest hotel. Although most of the damage was confined to the underground car park, services such as the electrics and water pipes serving each flat were damaged meaning repairs were intricate and took a long time to resolve.

I became the project manager for repairs and my role involved coordinating all contractors, attending site every day (including some Saturdays), attending weekly meetings and updating residents and senior management every evening. As expected, the residents were extremely disgruntled as there had been issues with rough sleepers gaining access to the car park, but I was able to gain their trust and formed long lasting relationships with both the residents and contractors alike.

The sense of achievement I felt once all the repairs were completed, and the residents were finally able to return to their homes after such a frightening ordeal will always stay with me.

One thing you would like residents to know about building surveyors.
As a building surveyor, I am here to help tenants live in their homes with minimal disruption from defects or necessary repairs. Should there be any repairs, it is the resident that is held at the forefront and my job is to make sure you are satisfied during and at the end of the repair process.

Funniest thing a resident has said to you?
“You’re my surveyor? I expected my surveyor to be an old man! You don’t look like an old man!”