Plumbing Issues During COVID-19
24 March, 2020
I was perusing /r/renting and stumbled upon an interesting post from a renter in search of advice. Their landlord was trying to bring their bathroom up to code during the COVID-19 pandemic. I reached out to this reddit user and got a bit more detail.
For the purposes of this post, we'll be referring to the source of this story as Anonymous Hedgehog (AH) and all other roommates as roommates.
Anonymous Hedgehog and roommates set out to find a 2 bedroom / 1 bathroom apartment in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They stumbled upon the unit they ended up leasing while it was under construction. Their eventual landlord conveyed the apartment would be ready to live in after a few weeks. It fits their needs, so they decided to sign a lease and move-in when it was ready.
After the construction was finished, AH and roommates did a move-in inspection. It was a bit shoddy and they had concerns. Their landlord assured them that the few concerns they had would be taken care of before move-in.
Instead of moving in all at once, AH and roommates moved in over the course of a month. During that time they uncovered dozens of problems ranging from missing smoke detectors to smashed light bulbs. After living there for a few months they noticed leaks from the roof. All of this was obviously frustrating to say the least. Their next course of action was sensible, but led to real misery.
Their next thought came naturally: "is this building up to code?". They sought a city inspection and, unfortunately, it was not. A myriad of repair people visited them the following weeks including: a plumber, electrician, HVAC mechanic, and more. Some of the repairs were started, in parallel, and left incomplete. For example, the ceiling was punctured and never filled. Meanwhile, COVID-19 was spreading to, and throughout, the United States.
Within the last few days, the landlord informed AH and roommates that their bathtub would need to be removed to replace the pipes beneath it. The shower would be out of commission while the pipes were being replaced. And, to make things worse, it would be a multi-day project. That was truly terrible given cleaning ones self is a primary deterrent of infection (COVID-19).
How It Was Resolved
AH had a conversation with their landlord and was able to convince them to delay further construction while they are sheltering in-place. Though, construction left unfinished is obviously a nuisance.
What Could Have Been Done Differently
The tenants did every thing in their power to solve issues as they came up. They did every thing right. They talked to their landlord as much as possible, sought fixes in a timely manner, and contacted the city when problems persisted. AH shared that they may have been able to do more due diligence on the property before hand and checked if the property had been inspected recently.
I believe the landlord could have done a few things differently:
- Market the unit a little more honestly and provide a guarantee the building would be finished on time. When a building has finished construction, it doesn't necessarily mean it's ready to be leased.
- Hire a construction manager to keep a closer eye on bringing the building up to code.
- Communicate promptly and openly with their tenants. The most important thing a landlord can do is offer good customer service. Otherwise, they'll earn a deplorable reputation and some services, like Padfever, will make that known.
- Finally, I think they could have phased construction a bit differently. Instead of puncturing AH's ceiling and leaving it, they could have punctured and fixed within a few days.