Apartment Therapy

The verb ‘wohnen’ in German means to live, as in to inhabit. Thus the noun ‘Wohnung’ means apartment, as in place in which you live.

But what do you call an apartment that has become distinctly unliveable?

Our apartment is kinda weird, but it’s served our needs for 7 years now. It’s broken into two different apartments, covering the whole ground floor of our building. The front unit is the normal apartment, with kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and living room, and it’s where we spend most of our time. The back is two rooms w/a sink, officially designated as storage in light of the fact that there’s no heat back there. It’s perfectly comfortable 9 months of the year, and for the other 3, there’s a space heater. We have the guest bed back there and Cliff’s home office setup, but for the most part we use as a storage/laundry space. Due to the unusual arrangement, our rent is very reasonable, probably some of the cheapest per square meter in the Altstadt.

There are some small issues with the place – crappy kitchen arrangement, no window in the bathroom, etc. – but due to how inexpensive it is, we’ve been willing to cope. We may have reached our limit though with the recent, ongoing drama.

We got back from Italy and about a week later found a water stain on the ceiling of the kitchen. It happened before a few years ago and there was about 6 weeks of seeking out the leak (from the bathroom pipes of our upstairs neighbor), repairing it, replacing the water damaged materials and running an industrial dehumidifier. It sucked, but we got on with it and eventually our lives went back to normal.

This time around, though, nothing has gone right from the jump. After informing the landlady about the reappearance of the water stain, she came over with a plumber from the company that repaired it last time. They looked at it, touched it and said ‘yep, it’s wet.’ They wanted to include another company that specializes in water and fire damage, so that company came two weeks later to look at the water stain, touch it and say ‘yep, it’s wet.’ Those guys decided to bring in the insurance agency (to give a coverage quote for the repair) and an inspector, who came to visit two weeks later, look at it, touch it and say ‘yep it’s wet.’

Do you see a pattern emerging? We certainly did, as the leak persisted, the stain changed and grew mold and eventually began to actively drip through the ceiling into the kitchen.

No actual WORK took place until 6 weeks later. It was a two-front attack, tearing out the damaged portion of our kitchen ceiling and our neighbor’s shower in search of the leak itself. And it was an unqualified disaster.

1) The guys who tore out our ceiling were contradicted by the insurance agent, who said they were supposed to remove the WHOLE ceiling, not just the damage.
2) A different company was working on the shower tear-out and leak hunt – the same one that failed to find the leak years earlier.
3) They found a TON more damage than they expected, including rotten building materials and a penicillin farm’s worth of mold.

They brought in an industrial dehumidifier and ran it for a week, during which we had no use of the kitchen and our neighbor had no shower. A guy came to tell us to stop running the dehumidifier (but left it in our defunct kitchen). The damage was considered so severe that they needed the insurance company to reassess the situation and come up with a new quote of what they would cover for repairs. Then the companies involved had to come up with a plan for how to perform the repairs within the budget. And the whole time, we had no kitchen, our neighbor had no shower and the whole apartment reeked of mold and rot.

We started to get really worried. Are these apartments even safe? Did we need to stay at a hotel while the repairs are ongoing? Is this a full tear-down situation? Do we need to MOVE? Then the most amazing thing yet happened.


Nothing for 2 more weeks.

Worry morphed into anger. If you’re reading this, you know how much we LOVE to cook. I sent a plea out to Twitter for decent slow-cooker recipes, because the stove and oven were off limits. Eating out everyday sounds glamorous until you actually have to do it, then it’s just another chore, an expensive chore. Our storage rooms in the back were now holding the bulk of our kitchen and it’s cramped and we can’t find anything. And none of the parties are speaking to us or each other AND NO ONE IS RESPONSIBLE.

Finally, we had a date for the next stage. On Monday, they came to tear out the whole ceiling and the rotten wood supports and masonry and expose the giant beams that separate the floors. And the beams are soaked through. As an added bonus, they didn’t adequately seal the kitchen off and there is a revolting, choking layer of dust all over the living room and everything in it, since nothing was moved out or covered.

Given the extent of the damage, it’s possible that the entire first floor might need to come out and be rebuilt, if not the whole building.

So now we are looking furiously for a new apartment, preparing to move under duress. On the bright side, the kitchen is already half packed.

9 thoughts on “Apartment Therapy”

  1. Snooker

    Wow! I’m so sorry for you both. It sounds like a nightmare! Good luck with the apartment search. Who knows, it could turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

  2. shoreacres

    Oh, my gosh. This sounds remarkably like Tropical Storm Allison destroying a house i was rather fond of, except that happened over two days, and was rebuilt within a year. That mold business is worrying. It really can cause health problems. Well, and I’m sure your blood pressure’s not so good.

    What happened to this business about the Germans being all Achtung! and everything? Prompt? Dependable? Precise? Oh, my gosh, again. Would you like me to come over there and whip those people into shape? You don’t deserve this!

  3. claowue

    Good luck finding a new cool and affordable apartment!
    It won’t be easy, especially if you are under pressure – and the new semester is about to start next month…

  4. CJ B.

    Definitely good luck on finding your new place. We liked the “charm” of the apartment you’re in. But indeed mold + dust + wet + old building = oy vey. We’ll get the full scoop Friday. What a major pain in the youknowwhere. We’re sorry you have to go through that.

  5. Steven

    That sounds nightmarish! I had no idea this was happening to you guys. I remember how oddly spaced your kichen area was; I hope you’re finding better stuff.

  6. Sarah1976

    Thanks for the commiseration, folks. I really needed to get this off my chest.

    Luckily, we’ve found and secured a new place. We don’t take it over until November 1, but given that the next steps being taken to fix our current place are still only diagnostic, having a definite end point for this circus is a huge relief.

  7. sarahstaebler

    This sounds depressingly similar to the state of OUR apartment. I feel your pain. Glad you’ve found a new place. It makes me sad because I love where we live, but it’s made me start to (slowly) look for some new digs, too.

    1. Sarah

      @sarahstaebler Ugh, sorry to hear that you’re dealing with this, too. I was reluctant to look for a new place as well (our neighborhood is wonderful), but it was the right choice. I’m finally sort of at peace with it.

  8. […] been busy, like everyone, of course. We’ve been concentrating on the resolution of a small real estate drama, and trying to squeeze progress in that area around not one, not two, but three vacations planned […]

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