When PRD Northern Rivers Principal Rob Horder got up on Sunday, February 27, he never imagined he’d finish the day with his office underwater.
Nor did he think he’d play a role in saving a tenant’s life.
But that’s exactly what happened, and while Rob says the past 10 days have been physically and emotionally draining, his team, some of them flooded themselves, have banded together to ensure their tenants and landlords are safe.
Rob says after the floodwaters surged in on Sunday night, the PRD Lismore office, in Molesworth St, opposite the Wilsons River, was almost unrecognisable.
Water filled the office almost to the ceiling and left a trail of damage in its wake.
“It was Sunday night when it topped the levy, but we couldn’t get into the office until Wednesday afternoon,” Rob explains.
“The water was almost to the ceiling, which is 3m to 3.5m high. It covered everything, including switchboards and air conditioning units.
“It was a new fit-out when we moved into that office 2.5 years ago, and we’ll have to put in a new fit-out again.”
Rob says as soon as he and the team could access the office, they hit the tools and started cleaning up, removing damaged furniture and debris.
He said the next step was to wait for the landlord to assess the damage and repair the building.
“There’s quite substantial damage, the walls and to the electrical,” Rob says.
“Once that gets repaired, we will be trying to source all of the materials we need to get back in and work.
“We do have a second office in Kyogle, and it’s a small office, but our team is packed in there like sardines.”
While their office was flooded, Rob says the team’s immediate thoughts went straight to their tenants and landlords.
So much so that when a nurse from Lismore rang to say one of his tenants urgently needed to attend his dialysis appointment, Rob was immediately on hand to help.
“We got a call about one of our tenants who has to go to Lismore for regular dialysis, and they couldn’t get there, from Lismore to Kyogle, so the nurse rang around and found that we were the managing agents, and I went around and picked him up,” Rob says.
“They put him in a helicopter and took him to Lismore. The nurse rang back a couple of days later to thank me, saying he probably got within half an hour of losing his life.
“So it was lucky.”
But Rob says his actions weren’t going above or beyond the call of duty, and he and his team would do similar in any situation.
“Our first priority during the flood was making sure our tenants were okay,” he says.
“It wasn’t just about our clean up, it was important to keep the office running as well, so we had a crew still talking to tenants and landlords and keeping the business operational.”
Rob says many staff, even those with flood damage at their own homes, had been going door-to-door to help people, and one team member had spent the weekend delivering hay to farms.
About 20 properties on his rent roll had sustained varying levels of damage in the flood, and tenants were now staying with friends and family. Still, some with nowhere to go were staying at a pub in Kyogle and evacuation centres.
Unfortunately, Rob says some tenants and landlords didn’t have insurance due to the cost of insuring a property and contents in a flood-prone area.
“We have seen quotes of $12,000 to $15,000 and higher to insure a house,” he says.
Rob says the last time Lismore flooded was in 2017, but it wasn’t as bad as the current crisis.
“In 2017, it was under the one in 100-year flood level,” he notes.
“And this one was 2.2m higher than the one in 100-year flood level.”
Looking ahead, Rob says the community has banded together well to face the flood crisis and would continue to do so.
Along with helping tenants and landlords, and getting the Lismore office repaired, one of Rob’s primary concerns is ensuring his team, especially the property managers, have the support they need to do their job with passion and empathy.
“They’ve had to hear all of the stories firsthand of people, our tenants, stranded on roofs waiting for people to pick them up in boats,” Rob says.
“It’s very emotional. And then landlords have a lot of costs to get their asset back up to scratch.
“Property managers are just amazing.”