Adventures In Sewage

This week’s episode of When Aging Low-Rises Attack involves an overflowing drainpipe in the stairwell just outside my building, which is designed such that, should it back up, the water (or, in this case, “sewage”) has nowhere to go but under the fire door at the end of the building and into the hallway immediately outside my apartment.

So, for a day or two, the hallway smelled suspiciously like bag full of rotting gym socks.

That was a week ago.

Then the hot weather started creeping in. The management has informed me that they are “waiting for the carpet to dry” so that they can have it “professionally cleaned” which as of right now, when they said they’d be doing he cleaning, has not happened. In the meantime, somebody sprayed it with something, and for a few days it smelled like a bag of rotting gym socks plus a bag of used chewing gum.

Since then, it’s only gotten worse.

The heat brings the stench of dried sewage into our apartment, and we haven’t been able to live here for three days. My family has been putting me up overnight. The smell crawls into everything; damp towels left to hang dry stink of it in the morning, water left in the kettle has to be poured out, the kettle rinsed. We come by every day to open the doors and windows and turn on the fans to try and air the place out, and then leave again. So we can sleep someplace that, you know, doesn’t smell like steam coming out of a sewer.

I’m so fucking angry right now that I can barely stand.

Update: Just as I finished typing this, somebody walked around in the hall spraying air freshener around. My hands are twitching.

6 Comments

  1. Lara
    Posted July 15, 2005 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    It is situations like this that withholding rent was invented for.

  2. Mike Hoye
    Posted July 15, 2005 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    We are currently in the “one month free” part of our lease. Next month is the “last” half of the “first and last months’ rent up front” part.

    Believe me, I wish that was an option.

  3. Posted July 15, 2005 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Oh dear god. My sympathies.

    I’d suggest calling the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal at 1-888-332-3234. The suggested way of dealing with maintenance problems is verbal request, written request, and getting in touch with either your municipality or the Maintenance and Standards Section of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Quick summary is here. You can also file paperwork with the Tribunal, asking for a rent abatement or reasonable costs incurred.

    I’ve never had to take it farther than having an inspector show up; apparently the presence of someone with a public service employee ID badge lit a fire under the slacking ass of my landlord and/or the people who work towards the company’s stated goal of “minimizing repair and maintenance expenses”.

    At a guess, best-case scenario is the landlord gets someone in to actually fix the hallway carpet and pays you back for any paperwork fees, plus expenses incurred by having to stay elsewhere. Worst-case, they might really not be able to clean the carpeting until it dries (Jesus, it’s *sewage*–can’t they rip it up and replace it?), and you can’t speed anything up.

    Best of luck.

    (Also, a general note: while witholding rent is a commonly recognized tactic, it’s not legal without Tribunal approval, and I wouldn’t give this godawful wretch of a landlord[1] a leg to stand on.)

    Love and coffee,
    Frances

    [1] It’s not Frank J MacDonald Property Management, is it? If so, my sympathies.

  4. janice
    Posted July 16, 2005 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    Mike… do not call the ORHT, call Property Standards and/or the Health Unit. What you are dealing with is hazardous to your health. Anything that has been in contact with raw(ish) sewage needs immediate attention. Call now. Even if it is the weekend – leave a message that you’re living in hazardous conditions.

    I’m not making this up. I had the same problem in 1996 (it backed up into Mike’s basement room). My landlord back then knew exactly what need to be done (and the insurance I had paid for all the furniture, etc that was tossed).

    I’m pissed off on your behalf now. GD useless landlords….some of them anyway. Too many of them actually.

    So, call and get an inspection done asap. You’ll need this if you want to clobber them at the tribunal. Clobbering is a lot of fun IMO.

  5. janice (again)
    Posted July 16, 2005 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    “Waiting for the carpet to dry” is just plain ridiculous… I’ll bet dollars to donuts (your dollars, my donuts) that the Public Health and/or Property Standards folks will make them remove it now. Get whomever to inspect your apartment while they are at it. JIC

    The ORHT will take care of things post cleanup (unless you’d like to terminate your lease immediately… you can probably get that done in a NY minute right now) by giving you some cash if you ask for it nicely and fill in all the pretty forms. The Tribunal specializes in wasting tenants’ time (not in the sense that they won’t listen more that the silly ass scheduling can have you waiting for hours for your case to be heard), so if you’re moving it may not be worth it.

    Take pictures and get an inspection (for documentation purposes). At the very least, the landlord will be forced to fix things properly before the next tenant moves in.

  6. janice
    Posted July 16, 2005 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    Actually, withholding the rent is not illegal, it is “not recommended” because you “may” face eviction. I’ve done it several times with my landlord in Kingston. But you don’t have anything to withhold now.

    I just reread your entry and realized that you’re looking at two months of hazardous living (given we’ve got more rain on the horizon). If you get a Property Standards inspector (the ones in Ottawa used to be very good, maybe they still are) to write up a violation (which is definitely the case) and you can prove by witness or recording phone conversations (more fun than you know!) that the problem has existed for a week now, I’m positive you could (and really should) get out of the place with two months rent (don’t forget the interest :-) in your pocket. Can anyone put you up for that space of time (move your furniture into storage or someone’s garage … cheaper than rent) I’d recommend SecureMax on Catherine unless it’s way too inconvenient: 24hour card access makes moving logistics simpler by half.