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repaired bathroom. Ah, what luxury! The day before, two
workmen had put the final touches to repairs on the ceilings in both my
bathroom and the adjacent closet. These were necessary because of
water damage caused by a leak–a six-year leak.
When I moved
into my current apartment in Paris in 1997, I noticed that the bathroom
and closet ceiling paint was flaking a bit. My new landlord told
me that this was caused by a leak in the bathroom above mine, but that
it had been fixed. She even hired a team of Polish workmen to
scrape, re-plaster and repaint. (Since my landlord at that time was
Polish, she used what I call the “Polish connection”, a network of
undocumented Polish workers who are paid under the table for really
top-notch work). We had a special arrangement for the lease, so
she paid for the work. You would think that was that. But no,
this is Paris where simple things like a leak in the ceiling become
sagas. Let us continue.
It seemed to me that the ceiling
started to look a bit frowsy again soon after the work was completed.
Nothing dramatic–just a slow deterioration. Soon after that, my
landlord decided to move to Switzerland and sold the
apartment. The new landlord presented me with a rental contract
and pretty much the same rent as before. One thing you must know
is that in France, the landlord is normally not responsible for repairs
for water damage. Your insurance company is. Therefore, you are
required by law to have homeowner’s insurance when you rent. I
took out a policy and thought nothing much more about it.
the meantime, the flaking continued to get worse. But, since I’m
renting the place, I can live with it. Suddenly, one evening I
hear a clinking sound. By morning, my clothes closet is flooded,
including all my sweaters and knit tops. I am no longer a happy
camper. What is going on?
It’s at this point that I check with
the guardiens of my building. They inform me that the water leak comes
from beneath the bathtub of the apartment above mine, but, the bathtub
is tiled in. The landlord, Mr. Ruggerio, simply does not want to
go to the expense of breaking down the tiles in order to fix the leak.
He continually says that he will, however, in order to stall. I
then find out that since the leak concerns two private apartments,
there is nothing anyone can do. Taking him to court would last
years and even then, I would not be assured of a positive
outcome. It seems that this game had been going on for six years.
wanted to speak directly with the renters above me, a Sri Lankan
family, with about seven people living in an apartment the size of
mine, a studio for one person. Even this presented a challenge as
the wife refused to open the door when her husband wasn’t
there. Finally, I managed to march upstairs and knock on the door
when he was there. We exchanged insurance information, and he
assured me that the leak had been fixed. Then my closet flooded again.
this time, the damage was so great that it was affecting parts of the
building between the privately owned apartments (“les parties en
commun”). This proved to be the key moment, because at this point the
Syndic could finally come into play. The Syndic is the building
management company, and at last they were able to contact the landlord
directly to insist he repair the leak. They even sent out a
plumber, at their expense, with a humidity checker. Yep, it was
still wet on the ceiling. It seems that every time someone above took a
bath, water dripped into my apartment.
Soon after that, I found
a handwritten note in my mailbox. It was from a woman, saying that she
was the upstairs landlord and had never been informed of the leak (six
years, uh huh), and the repairs were being done that very week in the
apartment above mine. I phoned her at the number she had written
in her note to thank her. While speaking, I couldn’t resist badmouthing
Mr. Ruggerio, who after all, had refused to repair the leak for six
years. But of course–the villainous Mr. Ruggerio had quickly sold the
apartment to this nice lady without telling her about the leak!
“Oh yes, Mr. Ruggerio. He’s my father.”
father? Oh boy! Protecting his daughter? Who knows. What
mattered is that in the end, finally, the upstairs leak was
repaired. No more drips. No more floods. No more flaking
paint and plaster. Voilà, a happy end to one more Paris saga.
Feldman is an intercultural specialist working with English speaking
expatriates to help them integrate into french life, both
professionally and personally. In addition she works with French
executives who need to communicate internationally.