Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Squeaky Wheel

I've not written very much about our new apartment.  Overall, we are very happy.  The rent is less.  It is SOOOOOOOOOOO much quieter.  I'm growing plants and some herbs in our back patio area.  We painted the walls and are making it like a home.  There are many good things. 

However, there is a leak.

We didn't know about the leak when we moved in.  It had been painted over.  The person we hired to help us do some repairs before we moved in told us that it was probably going to be a problem.  And of course, within a few weeks, we could see the wet spot growing on the ceiling.  Now we have mold.  Yuck.

It turns out that this problem has been going on well over a year.  The sindica (the super) in our building has already been very involved because the leak has damaged the wall in the hallway, so it has become a problem affecting the building.  There are many layers of issues and problems, but it all boils down to the owner of the upstairs apartment.  It has been verified that the leak is originating in his apartment.  But he does not want to take responsibility and pay for the repair of the hallway and to repair the damage in our 2nd bathroom.  I've talked to the sindica and the owner of our apartment, but they both feel like they can't do anything.  So, it's time to get serious.

A friend of ours had a horrible problem with termites and is now helping me navigate the ins and outs of our contract and educating us about our rights as tenants, and the correct way to move forward.  We have to go through the imobilaria (rental company), and essentially nag them to fix the problem, and get them to deal with the owner.  It's all about being the squeaky wheel.  Because it really won't get taken care of unless we make it an issue (hence the fact that the leak has been happening for over a year, and nothing has happened).  This is a big difference here for me.  I'm used to being able to call a business, make a request for something to happen, and for it to happen.  When I call the bank because I was charged incorrectly for my groceries, they tell me how to fix it, and it gets taken care of.  Here (specifically in Minas Gerais and with rental issues, because that's what I'm dealing with right now, and have had numerous problems in this area), you call, you ask for something (a copy of your rental bill, someone to email you a statement, help resolving an issue with the gas or oven), and you get a positive response (of course!  I'll help resolve that problem!  I'm emailing you right now!) and nothing happens.  You have to call again.  And again.  And show up, and essentially bug someone until they get annoyed and do something about it. 

I realize that I'm speaking in broad generalizations, but this has been my experience with our past rental company, the past super in our old building, the maintenance guy in the old building (remember Miguel?) and our current rental company.  I was feeling pretty overwhelmed by this for a while, and angry, but I'm feeling better now.  I know what I will need to do, and I can anticipate all the hoops I will have to jump through.  Knowing this is helpful, and helps me feel a little less dread.  But I'm gearing myself up emotionally to fight this battle, knowing that it's probably going to be a long haul.

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