House: a salutary lesson about the perils of renting

Nish, Field, and I have been living in this house for just over three years now. It’s a nice place: big, sunny, close(ish) to transport and close to town. My room is enormous (and I’m going to miss that A LOT). It has a woodburner and a heatpump and a dishwasher, all signs of a Proper Adult Residence (as opposed to our collective dodgy student flats, which instead featured things like mould, missing cat-door flaps, scarily illegal wiring, and/or no direct sunlight)

But the plumbing here has always been a little bit… dodgy. Temperamental. Cantankerous. Prone to fits of uncooperation.

It’s in another one of those fits now, and there is now quite a bit of soggy toilet paper and standing water on the main path to the front door. Nish blocked off that bit of path with a bit of rope and a note (because walking through raw sewerage: nobody’s idea of a good time), and so to get in to the house we now have to walk up one of the staircases to the back terrace, across the lawn under the washing line (which is shorter than I am, goddamn), and down the other staircase.

These aren’t well-constructed or well-maintained staircases, oh no. They’re built out of concrete, river stones, and paua shells (in what I can only assume was a misguided attempt at style). The steps are really uneven.

There’s movers coming tomorrow to pick up the lounge suite that friends are buying off us, and since clearly the lounge suite will not be able to be manouvered through the staircase-lawn-washing line-dodgy bit of terraced lawn-staircase-lawn-main path route, Field and Nish are going to get to spend a bit of time tomorrow morning attempting to clear out the loo paper. I won’t be doing that, because I have to go back to work.

The whole thing—and our property managers are being pretty good about it, and I do appreciate that it’s difficult to find plumbers in early January in Wellington—has been a bit of a salutary reminder of the downside of renting. I don’t necessarily think that I’d be able to get a plumber any faster than our property managers, but this has happened a couple of times before, and we’ve told them in our last three or so maintenance emails that the plumbing was making ominous gurgling noises again and would probably need looking at. As a homeowner, I’ll be able to get someone in to take a look on my own schedule, and in this case it would’ve happened several months ago.

Our property managers are good, as these things go, and there are good reasons why the property owner doesn’t want to do several thousand dollars worth of work while he’s got tenants (for one thing, I suspect the pipes need replacing, and they run directly under the only access to the house). But it’s still not my timeframe, and the lack of control is really frustrating.

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