Thursday, October 7, 2010

Maintenance -or - The Knighting of Sir Bennett

I would love to rant about the maintenance issues that we have and continue to have, with our apartment. I could go on for pages about what was done wrong. But I think I would be happier just to give you a brief account of what happened and move on.

It all started when I heard what I thought sounded like dripping just before going to bed. In the end it was just water in the drain pipes from the apartment above ours, but at the time it worried me. The next morning I decided to poke around in the ceiling to check for any water. We have a whole bunch of access panels in our ceiling, so naturally I wanted to take a look in them.

It turns out that above each floor is a two or three foot high plenum for return air, which also hides all the wiring and plumbing (well at least the plumbing and wiring that is not cast into some of the solid concrete walls). When I first looked up there I was really disgusted by all the trash and dirt left up there, which all of our air must flow over on its way back to the air conditioner.

Things that I found in the ceilings:
-A really nasty old broom
-Several kg of sand and gravel
-numerous cups, bottles and food wrappers
-a box of 50 light bulbs (which is actually pretty cool, because all the ceiling lights are little halogen bulbs, which are hard to find and expensive)
-fiberglass drywall joint tape
-tons of extra wiring conduit
-a bunch extra of metal ceiling beams

I wonder if to meet the LEED requirement for low construction waste they hid extra trash in the ceilings...

So, anyways, I saw that there was a huge amount of mold above my closet. So I tapped on the false back of my closet, to see if it was wet or dry, and it just fell out, the nails holding it in being rusted, and the wood that they were holding it to being waterlogged. Here is what I found behind the closet:

I called up maintenance, and had a confusing conversation, which resulted in the opening of two "tickets":

-00102232: Moulds behind the closet in the bedroom. Need to check and replace.
-00102234: Closet full of water. Need to check and replace.

Anyone who has worked with the ticket system for IT or maintenance before will know that it can be a terrible or wonderful system, depending on how well the rules are written, and how strictly they are followed. They follow the rules very very well here, probably because their jobs depend on it. But the rules appear to have been written very poorly.

I was called once or twice a day over a period of a week while the work was being attempted. The calls were almost always exactly the same: "Hello sir, Mr. Steven Bennett, I am calling from [indecipherable] about your moulds behind the closet. Is the issue resolved? May I close the ticket?" And I would respond something like: "No, nobody has even come to look at it" or (at around two in the afternoon) "They were supposed to be here at 10AM to do the work, but they never showed up" or "They are here right now working" or (after the first failed attempt) "The moulds and the water are still there, but they have a nice new coat of paint over them"

Evidently they take complaints very seriously, because after I wrote "I am not yet satisfied, more work needs to be done" at the bottom of one of the sheets that the workers need to get signed when they finish a job, I was knighted! From then on the calls started with "Hello Sir Bennett, ..." and even the workers started calling me "Sir Bennett" or "Boss".

So they sent out an inspector to take pictures of the mold to send to a supervisor. When the inspector discovered that the closet had already been put back in place, and that he would have to stand on a chair and take pictures from in the ceiling, he asked if we had taken pictures of the mold while it was visible. When I told him we had he asked me to transfer them to his SD card. Later I was instructed to email the pictures myself to the supervisor.

Hmm, here goes another try at the "Brief Account":

After two days the workers came back and agreed to cut out the waterlogged drywall, even though it would be alot of work. In the process of doing this they found that the air conditioning line was still dripping as I had told them. They said it was just condensation, and told us to never open up the window curtains because it would "let in sun, makes much moisture". That was the third or fourth visit from the same HVAC guy, and he was getting upset that we had the nerve to set our thermostats above 15C (59 F).

Eventually the quality of the work, and my willingness to have our bedroom torn apart day after day reached a nice little equilibrium, and I just told the guy on the phone that Sir Bennett surrenders, and to close the ticket.

Interestingly, they didn't know what to make of the "closet full of water ticket" and we had people coming by to look at our water closet. I took that great opportunity to have them look at our downstairs bathroom toilet which had recently started to leak.


  1. Whoa, that looks horrifying! I'm surprised it has gotten this far, but if I hear what you found up in the ceilings it seems quite evident that there hasn't been a lot of maintenance.. Anyway, I hope this won't cause a lot of trouble for you in the future..

  2. Yeah, the mold was pretty bad. It wasn't really a result of lack of maintenance, it is more due to the fact that they slapped these apartments up in record time so that students could move in. Couple that with crappy pay, very long hours for the workers, and minimal training and it's a wonder our apartment stands upright.