Can we learn from old proverbs?

We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘Don’t shut the stable door after the horse has bolted’. I doubt many of us would disagree with it as a philosophy, but how many of us really put it into practise? Chocolates and flowers sent just after our partner dumps us. Getting pet insurance just after our dog needs an operation. Being late for work when we knew we shouldn’t stay in the pub with our mates. It’s all very well being wise after the fact, but what we need to do is learn to see the wider picture in order to not make silly mistakes in the first place.

The phrase itself is very ancient. The earliest recorded use in English is 1390 in John Gower’s poem, Confessio Amantis, which would suggest it was in common usage before that point. And why wouldn’t it be? It is sage advice.

The problem is, we often think we know best until it is proven we don’t.

A case in point. We were recently asked to quote for a pigeon clearance job. A landlord had evicted the residents from one of their properties, giving them four weeks to clear their belongings. At the end of that period, and with no contact during the four weeks with the tenants, the landlord returned to the property to find a flock of around 40 pigeons had made the flat their home. The smell was unbelievable, as the pigeons had done a brilliant job at redecorating, covering everything in guano.

The landlord took one peek inside the property, smelt an overpowering stench, left and immediately called us.

Our surveyor immediately visited the site in full PPE. This included a powered respirator due to the health and safety risks presented by the birds and their guano.

One of the first questions the landlord asked was ‘How had the pigeons got in?’ He assumed there would be a hole or broken window, perhaps left by the former tenants. In fact, no. Quite simply, the patio door had been left open after the eviction. In just four weeks, the flock of pigeons had discovered the entrance, realised it was a good place to roost and set about doing their best impression of the artist Jackson Pollack.

In this case, ‘don’t shut the door after the horse has bolted’ is an apt metaphor, only in reverse – ‘don’t shut the door after the pigeons have penetrated’. I’m of an age to remember Larry Grayson’s catchphrase, “Ooh, shut that door!”, and it certainly seems right for this situation.

Whatever the reason for the oversight, leaving that door open will cost the landlord thousands of pounds to rectify. The whole flat needs to be emptied, cleaned, redecorated and refurnished. This all takes time, during which the apartment isn’t generating income.

The landlord estimates the total cost will be around £15,000.

The sad thing is, and the reason the phrase about shutting the door after the horse has bolted came instantly to mind when I saw the surveyor’s report, we had offered the landlord our low-cost, end-of-tenancy service. This involves a thorough check of all areas in a property for pests once the tenant has gone. If required, treatments are carried out. A reinspection is then conducted a week later to ensure the property is secure.

The total cost for this service: £150.

Old proverbs like, ‘don’t shut the stable door after the horse has bolted’, have been in common usage for hundreds of years because they remain true. The problem is that all too often we think we know best, and this remains true until the horse has gone, or the pigeons have arrived.

LNPS offers a wide range of services to help landlords protect their investments.  Find out more by calling 020 8430 4133 or clicking here.

More images taken by our surveyor