Monday, 19 December 2011

Things I Took For Granted: Heat and Hot Water

I live in an igloo, you like it?

You know, I really do not like to complain about living in Germany. I rarely “miss” America or go on and on about how great things are back home, I typically just chalk things up to being different and do not assign value statements such as better or worse. This weekend shit just got real and my opinion of Berlin and the German way of doing certain things is at an all time low.
I am currently typing from my flat, my head hurts, my fingers are frozen to the bone and the tears that I have been crying out of frustration are practically ice-sickles. I sit here in the dead of winter without any heat or hot water. The gas line to my entire building has been shut off, and there is no communication as to when this will be restored. I am currently on Day 4 without these luxuries and although I am aware that I am fortunate because there are people without a roof over their head or bed to sleep in, I am still angry at how irresponsible my building owner has been in this situation. By Day 4 any residual heat left in the walls and floors are gone, everything is cold to the touch, and I can see my breath when I breathe.

When I woke up Friday the place was, as the Germans say, “fresh”. When I went to take a shower I realized I didn't have hot water either. I checked my combi water heater that occasionally needs more pressure. It looked a bit low so I did the usually ritual to establish the appropriate pressure and still nothing happened. The combi clicked clicked clicked and that “all systems go” noise of the fire igniting never came. I eventually called the plumber and he met me at my flat at 2:00. After tinkering around for 30 mins he emerged defeated and told me there was no gas coming into the flat. A light bulb went off in my head. That morning on my way to work I saw a letter taped to the front door. I didn't understand it, the first words were so “technical” that I took a picture on my phone and intended to ask someone to translate it for me but I never got the chance. I told him about the letter and he ran down to check it out.

The letter held the answer to mystery. I wasn't dealing with a temporary shut down, they pulled the plug indefinitely. They suspected multiple leaks and therefore shut off the gas to the building Thursday afternoon. A company would come on MONDAY between 7:30 and 16:00 to examine all gas lines into every flat to find the source of the leak. Immediately I was pissed. How on earth can you cut off gas on Thursday and then decide that you will not come on Friday, or even Saturday and that this could wait until Monday??? Ah right I know how, because the house owner doesn't want to pay for short notice emergency service, so it had to be Monday. Monday was not even the solution day, it was the day for them to find the source of the problem.

So I missed a day of work today, (on top of Friday afternoon), waiting for the pipe inspection people. The prognosis: gas leaks everywhere, the main pipe into the building and the main lines that lead into each and every flat. They will submit an offer for repair/replacement to the house owner and he may decide that he wants to consider other offers because these people may be too expensive. ARGH!!! Once an offer is accepted the work on replacing pipes and going into the walls should take two days. But it should be noted that they need access to everyone's flat and need to replace everyone's pipes and then retest for leaks and only after they are content will they advise the gas company to turn on the gas. This could take AGES, considering this is Germany and the holiday season, I'm not sure all will go smoothly.

I asked the pipe inspector person if they had electric heaters to give out. They said no , they ran out. Uh you shut off gas to an entire building in winter and your answer to me is that you ran out. GO OUT AND BUY MORE. There are children, old people, and pissed off Americans who live here, you running out is not my problem. I then said! You don't want to give me a heater so I can live in my house, so I suppose that is your invitation to let me sleep in your heated house tonight, right? 
This is a total disaster!!! Not to mention the legal nightmare I may have in front of me claiming back the cost of my electricity going up due to these resource sucking electric heaters, the cost of a hotel,  the days I am losing from work to tend to this bullshit and reducing my rent because the flat is unlivable.

My main beefs:

  1. Waiting until Monday in an effort to save money is irresponsible and I hope someone sues the house owner's ass. I know all the landlords are going to be PISSED that their tenants are refusing to pay rent for a portion of December.
  2. Heaters should have been made available on Thursday. You are cutting of a service and should provide an alternative. There should been a nice sentence on the letter “if you need or want heating elements call this number we will drop these off with a smile.” But no, they would rather be reactive instead of proactive and deal with pissed off cold people.Why do I even have to ask???
  3. As a renter in Germany I do have rights but the bureaucracy that I have to go through is complicated and time consuming, pretty sure they make things difficult to deter people from pursing compensation.

Why couldn't they find a leak in the summer time?bah and burrr! I'm going to stay with a friend and possible move my holiday travel plans up a few days. Someone made the comment that we most likely won't have gas restored until the new year.


  1. OMG!! I'm so sorry to hear this! That is absolutely ridiculous and made even more so because it is the OWNER holding most everything up. Get thee to a friend's place, woman! And after this fiasco I would strongly consider finding a new flat. The owner irresponsibility may show itself at a later date, in an even more dangerous form.

  2. If you are going to be in Germany for a long time you might consider legal insurance. This is defiantly a situation where a lawyer would come in handy and they would make sure you were reimbursed for everything and probably get you some extra money just for the inconvenience. Also, lots of German companies take a letter from a lawyer a lot more seriously than a complaining customer.

  3. Ugh, I hate very few things more than I hate being cold. It's such a helpless feeling. I'm sorry you have to go through this! I would probably seek a new flat as well, who wants to possible deal with a problem like this a second time around? I hope you're doing a bit better now :(

  4. Horrible time of year for this to happen!

  5. hey all! luckily i am in copenhagen currently with my boyfriend who has heat! LOL. i dont get back to berlin until the new year. i think the heat should be fixed by then. a bunch of people complained and threatened the building owner's life LOL so he got the pipe inspection folks to fix it asap. there will still need to be work done in the flat but i hope i come home to warm flat

  6. sounds typical!! you're right, trying to get business done around the holidays there is tooorrrtuuurre!!!

    1. @kk they actually came in when i was away in copenhagen. so the heat was on but i had alreay left. they responded as fast as they could on this one. i think if the flat owners didnt threaten to riot the building owner would have let it sit until new year