There’s no such thing as a typical day. I could be responding to residents’ questions, overseeing scheduled repairs or dealing with urgent issues as they arise. My job is to deal with whatever gets thrown at me!”
Estate manager Lars Oerts has been at Catalyst’s new development, Portobello Square, for two years, responsible for the upkeep of the new buildings – including all plant and machinery – as well as the communal areas and outside spaces. He is also the first port of call for any residents experiencing maintenance issues.
Lars works for property management specialist Stiles Harold Williams, who took on responsibility for Block 1 and Munro Mews when building work finished in 2013. Blocks 2 and 3 will be handed over as and when they complete and residents move in. “Being a third party, one step removed from things, makes it easier to do a better job,” says Lars. “My only concern is to get any issues solved as quickly as possible.”
With ten years’ experience of estate management, there are few issues that Lars hasn’t seen and overcome before, although Portobello Square does differ in some important ways: it is the first development he has worked on that includes private, shared ownership and social housing. “It’s a real positive, and one of the reasons I was so interested in working here,” he says. “Portobello Square is home to a genuine community, a real mix of people, and it makes it a great place to work. I think it’s important for any housing scheme to keep the feel of the local neighbourhood, which is something I think Portobello Square is successfully achieving.”
Although he now oversees a team of cleaners and groundsmen – a team that will grow as more buildings are completed– when Lars first started working at the development he had to undertake all the roles himself. From cleaning the communal areas to taking the bins out on collection days, for a few weeks Lars got a real insight into what’s required to keep the scheme going.
“It was a vital experience,” says Lars, “and really very useful. Not only did I get to know the buildings inside out, I also learned what’s required to keep the blocks ticking over and it taught me about what it’s like to keep the place clean, which has proved to be useful in managing the team. If one of the cleaners comes to me with a problem, I know what the job entails, can get a better understanding of the issue and react accordingly.”
Originally from Denmark, Lars has travelled extensively – living and working for a time in Japan and California – but since moving here in 2003 he only has eyes for London. “Sure, it can be a frustrating city at times,” he says, “but I absolutely love London. It is a city that can kick you in the face but then gives you a big kiss! There’s nowhere else quite like it.”
The estate management office, which is located at the Wornington Road end of Bonchurch Road within Block 1, is open between 8.30am and 5pm Monday to Friday, or you can contact Lars by telephone on 0300 456 2093 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.