Warren Lubin tells James Rose why refurbishing housing estates beats life in the music business
Why did you become a resident liaison officer?
I used to buy and sell music but the industry was being taken over by accountants and I fancied a change. I only planned to do it for a couple of years as a transition, but here I am, nine years on.
What does the job involve?
I'm usually on site at 7am to meet the subcontractors, check which the first property for the day is and make sure they get in okay.
Then I will do as many as nine surveys a day. There is an immense amount of surveys going on before each job starts, such as asbestos, M&E and conditions surveys.
I also deal with queries from residents. I call them queries, not complaints, because in eight out of 10 cases it's simply about what's happening or how to use new windows.
What do you find most satisfying about your job?
I prefer the technical aspects, like sitting down with subcontractors to sort out their problems. It's heading increasingly towards customer services, which isn't really the RLO's role.
In general, how do residents see you?
People on the estates sometimes find it difficult to understand that I work for the contractor, not the client, which is often the council housing association. They always expect more than we are there to deliver. I can sympathise, because in refurbishment you tend to go to some of the worst estates. The problems are generic: the estates are neglected and you get people who are dejected and upset because nothing has happened in their property for a long time.
What is the toughest experience you have had as an RLO?
In my second job for Higgins I was the RLO for the refurbishment of four 10-storey tower blocks in Greenwich. The programme's timeframe had already been reduced from 18 months to a year when one of the towers was flooded from top to bottom. We had been jet-washing the block and one of the pipes broke in the roof tanks and water went down the lift shafts and flooded every floor. The electricity was disconnected and the fire brigade were on standby.
We put massive fan heaters in from the basement up and opened a community centre to house the residents. We had the block dried out and the residents back within a week and the programme was completed on time.
How did the residents react?
Most were very patient. We did get some interesting compensation claims, though. One included a bill for £50 for "taking a cab to my friend's house to iron T-shirts" and another demanded £150 because "I had just filled my freezer with steak and lobster".
Name Warren Lubin
Job Resident liaison officer, Higgins Construction
Employment history Manager for two retail companies and subsequently retail manager for an independent record label. Joined Higgins to become an RLO nine years ago. Currently RLO on the £8.3m regeneration of South Acton estate in Ealing, west London
Qualifications BTech in business and finance
Lives Stratford, east London
Hobbies Cinema, theatre, playing football (“Less than I’d like: often charity games for the London boroughs”)