Monday, February 19, 2007

And... The Hits Just Keep on Comin'...

Ah.... the apartment saga.

So... where to begin? My boyfriend and I moved into our current apartment a little under a year and a half ago, and we basically fell on this place by pure chance. At the time it seemed like the golden opportunity: he saw an ad at a baker's shop nearby, he stopped in and inquired, we visited the place, it was a nice size and overall seemed nicely renovated, etc... The process was deceptively simple, especially given the fact that typically it's quite difficult to rent an apartment here in France, and even more so in the Paris area.

Well, we're in the Paris 'burbs, actually. And we moved out here basically for the square footage, to be honest. For our sanity. Because we both knew that if we tried to squeeze ourselves into what we could afford IN Paris, which was little to nothing, then we would drive each other bonkers. And I was coming from living in rooms and studio apartments over the past 3 years, so I was ready for some SPACE (as much as you can get here) for a change. So when I saw this place, it almost seemed like Versailles to me: 60 metres squared (no idea how many square feet that is)! Three REAL ROOMS! A fully equipped kitchen (a rarity in rented apartments in France)! Sunlight pouring in the windows! It seemed to be meant for us; it had our names written all over it.

Or so we thought. 'Course, at the time, we didn't think about the fact that it was SO easy; that we should have been suspicious... That the fact that they didn't require as much paperwork as they usually do was a BAD sign. That the owner was hell-bent on getting this place rented out as fast as she could.

Anyhoo, fast-forward a year and a half later, and we're realizing what a lemon we've fallen into. In a manner of speaking. We probably realized it soon after moving in, but I still had stars in my eyes at the time, and I wanted to believe that the things that were going WRONG were minimal, and that we could overlook them. But now that it's balmy and mild here in February 2007 and we're having to keep the HEAT on to minimize the mold growth and discomfort of humidity... Well, let's just say that we can't move out of here soon enough.

I mean, the owners literally redid the wallpaper right before we moved in, which you might say is pretty normal, right? WRONG. Not when the walls underneath are so rife with humidity that not even a month after we moved in, in a particularly rainy period, mold already started growing. So I let the owners know immediately, and they simply told me to keep the (electric!) heaters on at all times to minimize the humidity!!! Now, mind you, this means monumental electrical bills, but again, I simply accepted it at the time and moved on. I didn't dwell on it.

July 2006: we were burgled. Our apartment was broken into (only 2 locks on the door, and basically no real security system in our building, no concierge, no digicode)... Man, did we learn our lesson. [Next apartment, 2 major requirements: reinforced door required, and central heating. ] Anything of value was stolen, basically, and it left a pretty bitter taste in my mouth. The pleasures of the local market fell by the wayside while I tried to come to grips with this place. I know that burglaries can happen anywhere, and often do all the time, so it doesn't have anything to do with where we live. But there's a definite problem with our building. And the fact that the owners didn't even have the consideration to call us back after I called to let them know about it was enough to make me livid. Oh, God forbid I bother the owners with such a petty concern. That's what the agency basically told me, in so many words.

Winter 2007: mold continues to grow, and with the humidity we've been experiencing this winter, it's become insufferable. I called the agency several times, with no serious response. So I finally sent a registered letter with return receipt, and they actually DID something. They sent an expert in to check out the damage, and although I'm expecting nothing to come of this, as the repairs would entail major construction work on the building facade, at least they've finally responded to our concerns. But we sure had to light a fire under their, ahem, you-know-whats...

And so the expert came and checked out the damage, took a look at our windows, the walls, etc. And he confirmed the fact that the building is poorly insulated, and also that when they had the double-glazing done on the windows, the finishing was poorly done. And that it isn't normal that we should have the heat on when it's WARM outside, and that our bedsheets shouldn't be damp all the time. But not only that, he also discovered some OTHER problems: there's a pipe leak in our WC which he said could basically explode at any time. And there are stains on our kitchen ceiling which indicate probable water damage -- I had noticed these stains before but thought they were there when we arrived, or were pretty ancient. But according to the expert, who tested the water level with some device he was carrying, there was evidence of 80% of water up there! Which means we have to contact our insurance on that one... And I know this means it's not necessarily our fault (it's most likely coming from our neighbors' apartment upstairs, and they are probably unawares...), but COME ON, what else can be wrong with this place? I feel like we're lying on a ticking time bomb, like this apartment is just an accident waiting to happen.

So that's our current situation. Oh, and to top it all off, I called the agency again last Thursday, after the expert came to our place, to confirm the fact that there is a pipe leaking in our WC, and the gal (who I'm SURE is the same one who snapped at me last summer when our apartment was broken into) said they hadn't heard back from the expert yet, and therefore didn't know anything about a pipe leak. So I said, "But I'm telling you about the leak NOW. And I don't want the pipe to burst and for water to flood our apartment!" "Oh, okay, so I'll contact a plumber and have him call you directly to make an appointment, like we did with the expert."

Have I heard from the plumber? From the agency? NO. NO. And what day are we today? Okay, it's only been a few days, but is it that hard for a person to do his/her job? If it only takes a call to a plumber, how hard can that be?

You see, I don't often whine and complain about bureaucratic or administrative problems here. I tend to swallow things, to reason with myself. And it's pretty rare that I go on a rampage, at least I think so. But this is ENOUGH. We have GOT to get out of here.

So it looks like the apartment hunt has begun... Now the big question is: do we rent another place nearby for a short time, just so we can get our bearings before trying to go into the longer and tougher search to BUY a place of our own? Or do we take our time now and try to buy? I just don't know where to begin. I do sometimes miss the village life of being in Paris, but like I said, anything of any decent size there is basically out of our budget. And once you get used to having your space, at least a certain amount of it, it is hard to sacrifice it. UNLESS an apartment is really well laid out and organized. Which could happen... But when you're two, you cannot live in 30 metres squared, not for any length of time. Trust me: been there, done that. NOT gonna happen again. I want our relationship to last.

Wish me luck!

15 comments:

The Bold Soul said...

I'd get the heck out of there fast, even if it means living in a temporary furnished rental for a while. Check www.vrbo.com to rent direct from owners fully furnished and equipped. That apartment is flat out unhealthy both physically and emotionally. Get out and don't delay. Also check this site for area conversions from square meters to feet: www.onlineconversion.com/area.htm

The Late Bloomer said...

Thanks, Lisa -- yeah, I know. We've gotta get outta here. I need to put major effort into looking for a new place in any down-time I have at work during the day. It's possible -- but big undertakings like this always somehow weight me down, and rather than acting on them, I tend to dwell on them, which I realize is far from proactive. But I'm gonna give it my all and make this happen... It's just a question of finding the time to visit new places and go through the actual move, which I have to admit I dread a little bit too! But like you said, it will be better for us in the long run.

Oh, and I figured I could have looked up the conversions (I probably should've taken the time to do that!) but I'm just so used to talking in meters squared here that I didn't give it any further thought... But I should convert it just so people would have an idea what it represents!

Thanks again for stopping by...

jchevais said...

Agree with the bold soul. Get out. Asap. who knows what kind of bad mojo is happening in your lungs...

Wendz said...

Any kind of structural damage is the owners responsibilty....that water damage in your ceiling? Don't you pay a cent until it is established where it is coming from.

Move out...fast...and rent if you have to. That place is a timebomb.

PutYourFlareOn said...

You have every right to be frazzled and to rant on your blog, this situation is so unacceptable! How difficult this must make your relationship! I'm so sorry!! I hope you are able to find someting asap, livng in that kind of mold can't be good for your health too. I'd get a check up soon just to make sure you're not sick.

Thanks for your comment on my blog, it's taken me nearly 4 years to feel like I've found my place here. I've had struggles, high points, low points, etc... but that comes with the territory of moving to a foriegn country and trying to make it home. I feel like I'm not trying so hard anymore that it's coming along by itself. It will happen for you, too. Just keep at it...

The Late Bloomer said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Flare. I think I could learn a lot from you and your zen approach! And you are so creative...

Well, we've been renting and I think we're going to have to keep on renting for a while, as you said Wendz -- but maybe one day we'll manage (somehow!) to buy. But not in today's impossible market, unfortunately.

The weird thing is, the 2 apartments available in my neighborhood right now are both more then 200 Euros more than what we're currently paying in monthly rent! UGH! Even if we were to save on central heating, we'd still be far behind -- it's just too much. Looks like I'm going to have to look elsewhere, maybe even consider smaller but better-constructed possibilities in Paris...

Gabrielle said...

OMG, what a nightmare! I can understand your frustration, and really think yous hould keep at them. Mold can kill you! Not to mention how uncomfortable constantly damp bed linen must be. I'd rent, just to get out of there, then take time to buy what you want.

scribbit said...

I wish I could say I miss Paris. I'd love to visit. I read a lot of expat blogs so I can catch up on my severely rusty French and pretend that I'm there.

jchevais said...

FYI: That friend of mine that lives in your town... I asked her to keep an eye out if something becomes available in her residence. It isn't much, but there you go...

The Late Bloomer said...

Thanks so much, Jenn, for thinking of me... We're keeping our eyes peeled in the area, but the pickins' are slim in the way of apartments-to-rent. I am visiting a couple this Friday evening (I know, evenings, worst time, but they couldn't propose any other times for the moment) but the rent is sky-high compared to our current rent. Then again, I know we're going to have to pay more, especially to have "chauffage collectif ou à gaz", but not THIS much more!

We'll see...

tammy said...

Ugh. That sounds AWFUL. I hope y'all find a place soon.

Funny, I always think about Paris as being very glamourous and sophisticated, and not the sort of place where mold would dare show its head.

The Late Bloomer said...

Tammy -- yeah, Paris is far from perfect. We definitely have our real-life problems over here, too. It's not always la vie en rose, unfortunately! But I still wouldn't give up my red wine and baguettes -- as stereotypical as that might sound. You just have to work with these things, or around them, as much as possible.

I'm doing my best!

maitresse said...

argh, I know what you're going through... I'm writing this as I wait for the bug spray to take effect in my bathroom and kitchen-- I just found a cockroach sitting in my bathroom watching me take a shower.

And I have massive, massive mold problems... and the clothes never dry in my apartment without a weird smell. you think keeping the heat on is the answer? I haven't contacted my landlords about it but i guess I should...

Katia said...

Yes, I'd be getting out of there as soon as possible. It sounds like an absolute nightmare. Life is hard enough already that you don't need the bad juju that comes with that sort of experience - good luck with your apartment hunting!

Nicole said...

You know that mold like that on the walls qualifies your apartment as insalubrious, which is a valid reason to stop paying rent. You have to immediately have an huissier de justice comme and do a constat and then you can simply call your landlord and tell them that until they have dealt with the problem you won't be paying rent. Believe me, with atleast a two year process to kick you out, it is much more interesting to a landlord to fix the problem. After calling and talking to your landlord, pay your next months rent a week late, just to get them nervous. Seriously, if they are not dealing with your problem you should just take the time to save up some cash for your new flat- seems very unlikely that this type of landlord would give you your security deposit back. Remember that in France, everything is ten times more complicated than it should be and moving out is no exception. Good luck!