The Sky Is Falling!


Remember the children’s story Chicken Little? The one who thought the sky was falling in? When I was about six I had to play Chicken Little in the school play. It wasn’t hard to remember the lines : “The sky is falling in, the sky is falling in” over and over again. Even though I was six it drove me mad saying the same line repeatedly in a high-pitched voice while flapping my little cardboard wings. My yellow beak kept slipping under my chin, the elastic that held it in place digging into the back of my neck so that every now and then I would let out a little yelp, more puppy than chicken. Mrs. Cartwright, the drama teacher would then fix me with a disapproving stare which said :”No dogs allowed in this play.”

Last night I thought the sky was falling in. Just before midnight there was a cracking, wrenching sound followed by a huge thump and a cloud of white dust emerging from Jake’s room. The ceiling cornices had separated from the ceilings, and all thirty feet of them had landed on top of Jake’s bed. Alfie and I rushed into his room. All we could see was splintered plaster and dust coating everything in the room. Jake sat up in bed. His lips, eyelashes, and hair were snowy white. He seemed OK but was pinned to the bed.

Alfie pulled those cornices off him like they were sheets of paper. I have never seen him move so fast. We checked Jake for any injuries but he was unhurt except for a bruise on his leg. “Holy shit!” he said. “Is this a natural disaster?”

(the offending cornices)

No, Jake, this was a disaster of the unnatural kind; unfortunately less rare than its natural counterpart. This disaster is the result of a greedy Sydney landlord cutting corners to save money. When the builder came round in the morning to assess the damage he said the cornices appeared to be almost new but had been put up illegally with no screws or brackets fastening them. He was shocked that they had fallen on a sleeping child and was going to make a formal complaint about it. Turns out he is a bit of an advocate for consumer rights.

The disheartening thing is that this is not an isolated case in the Sydney rental market. With the market in crisis, properties are maintained less and less, or repaired on the cheap, putting people at risk in various ways. You would think it would be a tenant’s basic right to expect the house wouldn’t start falling down around them. But sadly, this no longer appears to be the case.

If I were fortunate enough to have an investment property and an accident like this one occurred on my property I would call my tenants straight away to make sure they were all right. Twenty-fours hours later I have yet to hear from my landlord. Seems it’s not just the cracks in the cornices that are showing.


7 thoughts on “The Sky Is Falling!

  1. What’s the law in Australia? Here, the landlord has a duty to keep the property in a safe and serviceable condition.

    When I had my last house, I rented it it for two years while I was serving overseas … and the first I knew any repairs were necessary was when the bill came through the letting agent’s letter box! That was really kicking the backside out of it; the agent got rid of those tenants as soon as he legally could, and stipulated that future tenants should tell him, and get his authorisation before calling in a repairman.


  2. Wow! I’m glad Jake’s ok. Big, scary noises at night are so scary, but their worse when it happens to your children.

    I hope your landlord gets busy and makes your home safe for all of you. We have folks like that here, and believe me, once the media gets a whiff of it, the slumlords start squirming.


  3. When we were renting we pointed out a small wet patch on the bathroom skirting board next to the shower – we noticed this on our very first check of the house and highlighted it in the inspection report. Each time the agent inspected the property we made a point of showing them (a new agent every time) the growing and mouldering wet patch crawling up the door frame. (Our concern was not for us, but letting the landlord know so that a minor repair could be done soon and save *them* a huge repair bill later on. Each time the only word we got back was that the landlord was not concerned about it. When we moved out, the rot was more than a foot up the door frame and creeping into the wall on the outside of the bathroom. I guess they’ll let it go until the wall caves in. (Well, at least we didn’t have the inconvenience of it being repaired while we were there, but we were prepared to put up with that as part of being good tenants…)


  4. TRAVELRAT – I believe the law is very similar here but of course, it can be hard to enforce.

    MISS BRITT – I am glad too. That one got the old heart pounding, I can tell you!

    KAREN – so far there has been a deafening silence from the landlord. i think the lawyer masquerading as a builder has really sppoked her. I’m loving the fact he’s doing all my dirty work for me!

    CHRIS – thank you. The first thing Jake did in the morning was put on some Black Sabbath. He said it calmed his nerves. Can’t get my head round that one!

    DAOINE – why do landlords do that? Do they not care that one day their house might fall down? Totally perplexing.

    LAURIE – he’s fine. He’s adopted it as one of his war stories with just a hint of exaggeration!


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