Anyone who calculates buying vs. renting knows that it is necessary to include maintenance costs into the expense of buying. What one can’t account for is the “gotcha!” nature of the pratfalls of ownership. You never know what might be hidden in the walls of your home. If you’re a renter, you don’t care; that’s someone else’s problem.
Often these problems start as a trickle and end up a river. I’ve dealt with problems like this in the past. It must have been my time up at bat in this game again because thanks to my home I’ve had the
week month from hell.
FRIDAY – July 1st
It started with a trickle. Not one, but two. I noticed the emergency drainage pipe from (what I assumed was) my air conditioner was flooding the pan in my washer and dryer closet. Around the same time I was made aware that my second bathroom had a trickle of water constantly running from the tub faucet.
SATURDAY – July 2nd
Like celebrity deaths, home problems must come in threes and on July 1st my clothes washer simply stopped working. No power. Nothing.
A plumber was scheduled to come the following weekend for the bathroom and I had a technician come look at the washer immediately. The technician charged me $24 to look at the machine and said it would be “maybe” $400 to fix it during the following week (this was July 4th weekend, after all – a perfect time for things to break). I thanked him and decided to do some research. I ended up getting sold a Sears repair deal for a $319 flat fee that seemed to be better. The repairs and the entire machine would be covered under a year warranty. The only catch was that I’d have to wait until July 12th for anyone to come out.
I thought I’d get my plumbing problem fixed in the interim. I let my tenants/roommates know that I’d have a plumber come the next Saturday. When the plumber cancelled that morning one of my roommates said he knew how to fix the leaky faucet.
SUNDAY – July 10th
The previous owner of my home had made some wacky “improvements” behind the scenes to the kitchen faucet (among other things) that made it much more difficult to replace a year and half ago. On Sunday we spent over six hours, one trip to lowes, one trip to sears and two trips to home depot trying to find the right tools to get the bathroom faucet handles off, trying different things every time and believing we just “didn’t have the right ratchet set” etc.
Yes, I’m talking about those handles – the ones that you’re supposed to be able to twist off with your hands. At one point my tenant managed to yank the stem/handle assembly out of the wall. We discovered that the previous owner had (either himself or someone he hired) put pipe sealer all over the place – and most generously in places where one shouldn’t put sealant at all – effectively sealing the stem assembly to the wall. We replaced the washer at the end and put the stem back in. However, when it was back in I noticed that a washer from a different part of the stem assembly was still sitting on the counter. Bad news. We knew we had to take the stem back out. Hours later it still wasn’t coming out. I called a plumbing service and scheduled an appointment for Tuesday. However, I could hear (and feel the vibration of) water in the line, which should have only happened if someone downstairs was taking a shower. Nobody downstairs was home. That was worse news. I could NOT wait until Tuesday taking the risk that water was leaking out of the pipes that whole time in the wall. I called an emergency plumber who came to examine the situation within 90 minutes (for $156).
As we already knew, the stems were cemented to the wall, making a piece that is supposed to be taken off by simple hand turning into mangled metal. However, by 9pm he had taken both stems out and chipped off as much of the sealant as possible before changing the washers and putting them back in. The evidence can be seen if you look closely at the handles. That gold line is where the silver was scraped off by the wrench. The rest of that handle is mangled, but luckily that part is mostly covered up by the removable part of the handle.
Little did I know – that fix would be the EASIEST of all the things that were breaking down around the house that month.
MONDAY – July 11th
On Monday I made contact with an AC repairman to come out the next morning. I called my HOA and arranged for pick up (I have to leave a $100 deposit check) of a roof key that night.
TUESDAY – July 12th
A sears technician arrived around 8:30am on Tuesday the 12th and almost immediately said he couldn’t do anything because he needed another man to get the dryer off of the washer. Sears installed this set-up in the first place, so they should have known these were stacked or at least asked when they took the service appointment. He leaves with an ambiguous statement that he’ll call me either later today or in a few days.
Shortly after that my AC man arrives to fix the AC leak. He flushes the lines, takes $50 and leaves. This is still morning and the AC isn’t running.
9:30am – I haven’t heard from Sears so I call and complain. I get nowhere with their customer service, they tell me I’ll have to wait a few days or till next week till they can reschedule two technicians to come out. I go to work after returning the roof key that the AC man didn’t end up using.
12:30pm – Original sears technician calls me from his personal phone and says he has located another technician to meet us at the house. I drive home and meet them.
1:30pm – The technicians conclude they’ve found the faulty part, the control board, but they don’t have one with them. They have to order the part from a shop in Van Nuys and have it couriered. Their dispatcher tells them to go on other service calls and come back when the part is delivered.
While waiting for the delivery I throw out some water damaged items from the AC leak like this folding table:
When I try to vacuum up the mess my vacuum cleaner motor dies almost instantly. I put it on the porch as it was literally puffing out some noxious smoke.
2:45pm – I take delivery of the part from the courier and call the technician. No idea when they’ll arrive.
5:15pm – Two sears technicians finally arrive. After 45 minutes or so they realize the new part does nothing to fix the problem.
6:30pm – The technicians say that the new part they need is not available and has to be done on “emergency” order. They do not know when it will arrive, but the earliest they could come back is Friday (but they won’t know till tomorrow if the part would be here by then anyway). I inform them I will not be home Friday. They say that a scheduler will call me tomorrow (Wednesday) to set a new repair time for next week.
The technicians slide the washer back into the closet and close the top. They move my dryer more out of the way – but my living room is still unusable (they had to remove the closet door as well). It isn’t that I’m angry that my dryer is going to sit in the living room – it’s that it is now going to be inoperable for two weeks. Where before I at least could wash my clothes myself and dry them in the dryer – now I have neither appliance available…
WEDNESDAY – July 13th
9:00am – nobody from Sears has called so I call in. The first person tells me that the part should arrive at my house in the next two days. I inform him that I work – and I won’t be home during the day to accept it. He takes my work address and puts me on hold to attempt to reroute the package. After being on hold for a while a new customer service agent answers the phone – with no idea that I’d talked to a previous agent. I have to explain the whole situation again – giving all my info again. This time she says that she can’t change the routing of the package and that I’ll have to call back “later today or tomorrow” to find out the tracking number to request the package rerouted. She also says that the technician scheduled the next visit to install the part for July 28th. This is not good news and she says they “may be able to schedule sooner once you have the part.” I am told to call back later.
2pm – Called Sears again – still no tracking # so I asked them to call me when they have it. Rep said they would call “later today”
5pm – missed call from Sears technician (the one who was at my house Tuesday) telling me he is sure the part will arrive over the weekend and I should “go ahead and schedule an appointment for Monday.”
6:30pm – another customer service agent tells me no matter what my technician said they can’t schedule my appointment before I have the parts. They now have a UPS tracking number but “it is wrong” and I’ll have to call again the next day to get the “right” one.
8:30am – AC repairman does a more thorough flush of AC drainage system and believes the problem fixed, never using the roof key.
9am – I call Sears and I’m given the UPS tracking number and told the soonest appointment I can get is July 25th between 1 and 5pm. I ask the person on the phone to check the delivery status as I’m not in front of a computer (the AC guys were actually still working at this point and were making too much noise for me to go to my room to get online). The Sears agent says she can’t access UPS’ web site from her work station so I’ll have to check the status on my own later.
9:15am – The AC repair guys leave. I try the UPS number and it doesn’t work… call back to sears… new agent puts me on hold – comes back says there isn’t a tracking # at all… puts me on hold again… for NINE MINUTES…then told me the tracking number was a “mistake” and they’ll call me later today with a real tracking number. I then asked if there was a complaint department. Yesterday they said no when I asked that same question, but this agent said they “do all that through email.” I asked for the email address and was put on hold again. After a few minutes a new customer service rep came on and started asking questions. She then put me on hold to “see what she could do.” After five minutes I was HUNG UP ON! I immediately called back and was told by a new agent that I should “call back in an hour because all the managers are in a meeting.” She also said the Sears phone lines automatically drop calls after they’ve been on hold for more than two and a half minutes. I’m speechless….
THURSDAY – July 28
Of course this only required five minutes and a new (fairly inexpensive) showerhead to fix. I thought was done for the month finally. Then, when I tried to brush my teeth before going to bed I discovered that…. The cold water in my bathroom is turned off. Now, the water lines going to my master bathroom are separate from the rest of the condo. Why the plumbing was arranged this way was for contractor convenience I’m sure as my shower shares the wall with my next door nieghbors’. However, now I’m in the difficult position of running around asking these people if they shut off the water for some reason before I call a plumber. Of course, noticing this at 11pm at night and not planning on being home again until late Sunday night makes this a problem.
FRIDAY – July 29
After knocking on my neighbor’s door after work I discovered that, yes, they had been the ones to shut off my cold water. They said they didn’t know which valves were their own and must have turned off mine by mistake when they had some plumbing done on Thursday. We had a lengthy bitching session about our crappy HOA management company. The building management refuses to give me any information on WHERE the exact plumbing valves are for my unit in the garage. This is a bit of a problem with a large building of nearly 100 units. Of course, if the building manager was going to take care of all the issues themselves this wouldn’t matter, but they have repeatedly stated that nothing (apparently anywhere at all in the building except for the swimming pool) is their responsibility. They also refused to file an insurance claim for my stolen drainage pipe nor refund the money I had to pay THEIR plumber to fix it.
At first when I inquired about the possible illegal piping in my walls I received a taciturn response that the property management company doesn’t keep track of any renovation records. I cc’d the association president and he told me I’d be receiving a different and more information filled email soon.
MONDAY – August 1st
I receive a new email from the property management company that, golly gee, they actually DID keep renovation records but don’t show any regarding piping in my unit. They still claim to not have any idea where any of the pipes GO, and told me to talk to the city of Los Angeles about that.
When I came home I checked the tube I installed for that drainage pipe. The tube apparently isn’t clamped on tight enough, as a small drip was still escaping and coming down next to the washer.
I give up.