Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

And yet another apartment…

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(See two previous articles for background information: [1], [2].)

Just a few weeks ago, I was set on remaining in my Cologne apartment until the end of November (and my current project).

As of this Tuesday, I find myself living in a new one…

To give an overview of the events leading up to this situation:

On the 29th of August, I came home from work to see that someone had very obviously been in my apartment. Notable traces included a bathroom floor that now contained a very dirty towel that had previously been much cleaner and on a shelf, a wire-hanger that had previously been on the door handle, and a key that had previously been in the bathroom door.

As my landlady explained, there was a problem with water dripping into the apartment below mine and an emergency inspection by building management had been needed. She failed to explain why there were things on the floor…

Unfortunately, this inspection had brought no real result and several other inspections (and misdiagnoses…) and attempts to correct the issue followed, until the 29th of September, a full month after the initial event and probably the sixth(!) visit, when a final fix should have taken place, based on the worst-case scenario assumption of a broken pipe beneath my bathroom floor.

But no: Apparently, the problems were so severe that the entire following week would be needed—and until the conclusion of these repairs, for a full week, I was not allowed to use the shower*…

*Fortunately, the landlady was also the next door neighbor and I could use her shower: With a greater distance, I would more-or-less have been forced to move to a hotel.

The works started as scheduled on the following Monday, but consisted of nothing* more than tearing out the old shower, without any repairs of any kind.

*In my apartment: Some parts of the overall repairs were to take place in the apartment below. I do not know whether these did take place.

Tuesday was a public holiday and no work took place—as was to be expected. However, Wednesday brought two negative revelations: Firstly, no work had taken place on this day either (as verified by the landlady and the building management), for reasons unknown. Secondly, someone had been in my apartment again, accessed areas that had been unambiguously declared as out-of-bounds to the plumbers (and whatnot), and turned every single radiator in the apartment to the max—I was met with a tropical temperature after work. After various discussions, the landlady found the explanation: One of the neighbors had had a radiator problem and another crew of repairmen had been sent to fix it—and building management had given them the wrong set of keys/the wrong apartment number…*

*Which does not explain why the radiators were still all on max. Generally, however, I found that German handymen are extremely poor at restoring order after themselves, as well as considering the interests of others—even when these others are the ones paying the bill.

On Thursday, I came home to the next negative surprise: While the work had resumed, it mainly consisted of the removal of the toilet bowl! Now I could neither shower nor use the toilet… This despite both me and my landlady having been given explicit assurances that the only restriction would be “no showering”—the toilet was to remain fully functional through-out.

Repeated phone-calls and discussions led us to a re-newed assurances that the toilet would be restored on Friday. It was, but in a very sloppy manner: The flushing mechanism was not only severely weakened in its flow, but the automatic re-fill of the tank did not work properly. A typical tour consisted of my hitting the flushing lever repeatedly until the tank started to re-fill—not flush, just re-fill! After some wait, I could then actually flush. However, since the flush was weakened, I often needed to repeat this cycle several times…

Worse, Friday (or was it Thursday?) also contained the unpleasant diagnosis that the estimated date of completion had increased radically again—at least end of October, possibly mid-November, according to the landlady. At this point, she offered* a pre-mature termination of the contract and sent me some alternatives from an agent. Fortunately, everything came together in the search and I had the keys to the new apartment on Monday evening, moving the most necessary things before work on Tuesday morning and taking up residence on Tuesday evening. On the down-side, the new apartment is considerably smaller and worse equipped (if more modernly), despite only a marginal price difference—and there is no comparison to the view… (Obviously, this was a deliberate prioritization of speed on my behalf. I could have chosen to spend more time searching, but I wanted a quick end to the bathroom situation.)

*If she had not, I would quite possibly have terminated the contract anyway—or at a minimum shortened the rent: While this situation was not her fault, she was still in breach of contract.

However, as of last Friday (13th, hmm…) there was still no progress whatsoever in the bathroom* when compared to the preceding Friday (when the work should have been finished according to one prognosis), and precious little compared to the Friday before that (when the work should have been finished according to an earlier prognosis).

*As I noted when bringing over a few more bags to the new apartment.

While I seem to have mostly bad luck with my various apartments (most of which has not yet featured in my writings), I cannot complain about them being boring…

Excursion on the overall situation in the old building: According to my landlady, those apartment owners* who were pushing for timely renovations formed a minority. This includes the plumbing and the elevators, which are apparently running with dispensations and only with repeated stop-gap repairs that would have been unnecessary had a proper renovation taking place—or, in the case of the middle one, not running at all. (Which explains why I always ended up traveling in the left or right elevator, never the middle.) It could also be the explanation for why the idiotic semi-electronic/semi-mechanical key system has been kept. As I gather from building management, a large part of the building (including my floor) has always been apartments, contrary to my assumptions in [1]. This makes the aged look of the bathroom easy to understand, but the unfortunate layout (notably, the too small shower area) harder. Of course, this also implies that the plumbing has not been significantly touched in roughly 45 years—making the current problems an accident waiting to happen.

*In the German system, much of an apartment building is owned collectively by the Eigentümergemeinschaft (“Owners association”). Because the individual apartment owner does not necessarily own whatever causes him a headache, he cannot unilaterally make changes, even repairs, to it. In addition, there is the obvious questions of coordination and cost-effectiveness of related repairs, e.g. when the overall plumbing is involved. (Some of this common property is obvious, e.g. elevators—unless owned by some other entity. Other is less so and can vary from building to building, e.g. in that the windows of a given apartment can belong to the Eigentümergemeinschaft, the individual apartment owner, or be divided based on an outside/inside parts criterion.)

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Written by michaeleriksson

October 15, 2017 at 11:16 pm

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