Sinking in Wonderland

Sinking in Wonderland
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Once upon a time, we lived in Berlin Germany. It was a wonderful place and we had a wonderful house. It was in the perfect location, the public school our 4 young children attended was right over our back fence and we could ride down idyllic bike paths to their events and to the shops. We were a short walk to the train that delivered me to work and took the family to museums, restaurants and cultural events.

There was just one problem. Some water managed to find its way into the basement of our wonderful home before we moved in and that set off a series of unfortunate events. The water itself wasn’t the problem, it was quickly dealt with as we took possession. Damaged carpet and wall coverings were replaced – the first time it came in. But it kept making an appearance after heavy rains and nobody could pinpoint where it was coming from so theories multiplied and plans were put into motion based on those theories.

Compounding the problem was the fact that nobody had the final responsibility to fix it and we, the tenants, were the ones that had to deal with the fall out. Unfortunately, we were also the last ones anyone asked for info on the issue.  The owner was absent and hadn’t seen the house in years, the US government leased the house for us and essentially sub-let it to us. They provided some support, but issues like this were the owner’s responsibility. The owner contracted with an engineering firm to design the repairs but they never spoke with us (the tenants) and just surmised the problem was seepage through the basement walls and designed the fix around that assumption. They contracted with a sub-contractor to do the work and since they didn’t provide any onsite supervision, the sub performed sub-par work on a fix that was a guess.

The owner ended up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to trench around the entire home, install waterproofing and French drains, rebuild all the basement window wells, sink a holding tank in the yard, and re-landscape the entire yard with swales and drainage. The owner also had to pay for the damage the sub-contractor did to heating and electric lines while trenching blind. We lived in a home that was under some sort of construction for 2-3 years, always hoping it would get better and we could enjoy the location again. In the end, the problem hadn’t really been fixed. We moved and the US government dropped the house from its list of rentals.

The problem was never seepage through the walls – they were always bone dry. There was an oil tank out in the yard and the line that ran into the basement furnace came through a conduit through the wall. That conduit sloped into the basement and the top of the tank flooded in heavy rains. There was clear evidence below this conduit that this is where the water had been coming in. The fix should have been preventing the water from getting into the top of the tank and waterproofing or relocating the conduit into the basement. It was a less than $1000 fix that cost the owner north of $200,000, 3 years and a steady rental income.

If the owner had used someone like a property manager to oversee the entire issue, She could have saved a lot of money and heartache and in the end, kept a good tenant. Yes, a manager will add a small percentage to a job, but a manager that took ownership of the issue would have communicated with the owner, the tenant and the vendors to arrive at a better solution and the owner would have paid about 10% on top of a $1000 bill ($100) instead of flying blind and wasting more than $200,000.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash