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?”
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.