Friday, February 27, 2009

The apartment problem

We are inching towards a resolution on all of this so I wanted to give you all the scoop!

I met with the management inspector when we switched apartments to go over the protocol for the old apartment. He spoke English and, I thought, we were communicating rather well.

Before we walked through our old apartment, I showed him some problems we had with our new apartment. He contacted the facilities manager who does not speak English to explain the problems and arrange for him to come by. The two problems I showed him were rather big issues- our dishwasher wasn't working and our kitchen drain was not draining.

Then it was time for our walkthru. There were some things he pointed out that were left over from the old tenants (we had only lived there for five months) but I had no proof. For example, he pointed out a wall that was kind of dirty in our master bedroom and a loose knob on our stovetop. We had assumed when we moved in that these were acceptable to Swiss standards. No one had walked us through the protocol for the apartment when we first moved in. So, sadly, we were stuck and have to pay for these to be fixed.

However, there were other items that he pointed out that I was adamant were not our fault and had proof of this. One was a crack in a bathroom sink. We emailed the management company within a month of moving in of this problem. He assured me that if i could find the email, we wouldn't have to pay for the sink replacement. The other was a water stain on the floor left by the cleaning crew. I told him that it was a new stain and we agreed that we would give it a couple of days to see if it would go away.

We also noticed that the cleaning crew had poured some dirty water down the kitchen drain and it had not drained completely, leaving residue in the sink. I reminded him that our new apartment sink was also not draining and it was a problem with a clog in the common drain line. He didn't bring it up again.

He explained all of these things to me in the protocol, with the exception of the sink not draining, and I signed the paper, written in German.

Two days later I went to check on the water stain left from the cleaning crew. It was gone without any repairs required.

Fast forward to earlier this week. We get a bill for all of the "problems" with the old apartment, including repairing the water stain off the floor, replacing the bathroom sink, and clearing the clog in the common kitchen drain between our new and old apartments.

It was a huge bill and my blood pressure rose as I translated the explanation in Google Translator.

So I emailed the information to Brian who emailed it to our management contact.

She wasn't too thrilled by the tone of our email. Her email reminded us that everything in the bill was included in the protocol and that, in the future, we should be sure we understand what we are signing.

Which is fine, I completely understand that. But when the inspector is walking me through the document and explaining it to me in English, I felt I understood what I was signing. Little did I know he was telling me one thing and writing another in the actual written document.

However, she did remove the charges for the water stain "repair" that was never completed and the replacement of the sink.

So that is good. But we are still trying to figure out the charge for clearing the clog in the kitchen drain. The clog was eventually removed by a plumber in our new apartment. He was here for less than an hour and did no work in our old apartment.

In my opinion, this is a maintenance issue, not a protocol "problem". It would be like charging us for the new dishwasher we ended up getting since our old one didn't work.

Our management company says that there is no way to tell who clogged the drain so we got the bill for our half in the old apartment. We said that that was fine and acceptable, but we'd like to see the other bill that went to the previous tenants of our new apartment. They only sent us the one bill.

I suspect they are trying to get us to cover something that we normally wouldn't have to. We will see how it plays out.

Ahhhhhh, what a week.

So don't make my mistake. Don't trust the English speaking inspector. Get your own representative to make sure he isn't telling you one thing and having you sign another.

Also, I've since found out that new tenants usually have a walk thru to go over the protocol before they move in. We didn't have that for some reason and I just chalked it up to the Swiss way. If you don't have this walk thru, go through your apartment very carefully and forward ANY problems to your management company as soon as possible. We were told you only have 10 days to do this when we moved into our new apartment, however, they did accept our email about the sink in our old apartment within a month of our moving in. But beware, not everyone might do this.

Now I'm worried we'll be stuck with the problems our new apartment has. The previous tenants ruined the floors; there are scratches and dents and stains everywhere. I've brought it up many times before but I'll have to make sure this is in the protocol so we don't get hit with replacing the entire floor whenever we move out.

In summary, when moving in Switzerland, cover your ass, don't trust anyone that isn't there to be your representative, and, when in doubt about an issue (no matter how small), tell your management company immediately in writing! And good luck!


Grammie said...

Ugh. Just hang in there and document everything.

Some day you will laugh at
all of this.

omg...I sound like my Mom !

Kelsos said...

Hey Megan,

I just read your blog for the first time and am so sorry to hear about the apartment troubles you have been having. The crack in the sink was in the 1/2 bath when we moved in and was documented as not a problem. It was not even discussed in our check out walk through. As for the dirty knobs, the man that did our walk through for the check out should have caught that and let us know because the cleaning lady was still there. That is why we all have to pay so much for the cleaning guarantee and why the cleaners have to be present for the check out process. I guess we had an advantage since Jared speaks German and we were able to argue our points and have the cleaning do the touch up work.

However, to let you know how silly they can be about things: one of the windows in the MBR didn't open properly when we moved in and we had to pay for the repair. Made me furious because we were just moving in and had to pay for something that we hadn't even used. Also, on our check out, we had to pay for dented blinds (on the outside of the small window in the MBR that faces Haus Tabea) that were damaged in a hail storm. I could not believe it.

Anyway, I am so sorry that this has been such an ordeal for you guys. We really never had any problems with them (or with the apartment) at all.

Hope everything else is going okay.

--Mandy Kelso--

Laura said...

Thanks for posting this (and everything else). We are Americans planning a move from Holland to Zurich in Feb 2011. I have a little girl as well, so I also am reading all the pediatrician and speilgruppe posts too. Thanks!

mrsmac said...

No problem Laura, glad it helps and good luck with your move!