CHAOSTOCOSMOS

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Everyone else's fault ...

Isn't everything? Well, things are going from bad to worse really. Tuesday and the (piddling) toilet is still turned off at the stopcock, the water is still turned off to the (trickling) water heater and the (gushing) washing machine (I didn't even try to use that today, because I couldn't face the thought of cleaning up another flood) and now I have a tap intermittently dripping in the kitchen.

The insurance company phoned me late yesterday and again this morning to ask if the water heater was still dripping, which I said it was (because it is).

They said they would send "repairers", but they didn't say what type or which year. Someone phoned me at almost 9 p.m. to ask what problem I have. I said many. They said, just give me one, so I said, I guess the toilet is most urgent.

They are supposedly coming round early in the morning.

We'll see what they're prepared to do, but the guys in the office won't confirm to me what's covered by the insurance - I've asked them twice - and it's looking increasingly like they merely wish to consider fixing the immediate emergency (irrespective of cause and notwithstanding that emergencies needing immediate action or remedy can't occur when it's up a mountain, after dark), but they seem to be ignoring any other damages resulting from the same event.

What I bought was household contents insurance to cover my things in the event of floods, fire, theft, etc., of which this emergency cover was just a part. That's why I expect the insurance to cover damages to my things (like the washing machine, at least), or other flood damaged belongings.

And the more I think about the questions I asked the rep when I took it out and the conversation we had, the more convinced I am that she said I was covered for those kinds of examples. They're long overdue, but I'll need to get new glasses before I can read through chapter and verse of the small print!

Meanwhile, it looks like I will have to find and pay; another plumber, to fix all the other leaks; whatever type of gas specialist to look at the water heater.

And then there's the washing machine that should still be under guarantee. That last word, mind you, seems to be generally meaningless in Spain.

The insurance company office did also give me the number of a free legal advice line that is apparently included in my cover, which should give me answers on my rights and who is responsible for what.

Unfortunately, I doubt they will be able to tell me anything that I have not already studied in some depth. The problem I've found is that knowing and claiming ones rights are two very different concepts here.

A landlord may well be responsible for all sorts of things, but expecting them to assume that responsibility is usually (in 100% of cases in my previous experience) met with a sudden end to the rental contract.

Landlords physically harassing tenants who are "difficult", i.e. want things to work, be provided as per the contract and the law, is so common here that the police just shrug it off and say they can't do a thing. Just move, they say.

Whether my experience indicates that people are more likely to harass single female tenants or not, I can't prove, but I do think so and, obviously, when one is alone and female, it is a far more intimidating and dangerous situation.

Then there are the water bills, currently running to over 200 euros. The absolute low spot of the day came around lunch time, when three "jobsworths" (what you'd expect) turned up from the council. They do the water.

About 2 1/2 to 3 years ago, they'd been working on the tanks in my lane (they now insist this had nothing to do with my water supply, something I would still dispute.) While they were working on that, I'd had to go down to them to tell them that there was a very loud noise of running water, day and night, alongside the house and that the water pressure in my house was really excessively high and that I was concerned it would break something.

Just doing my best to prevent a disaster. Not an unreasonable thing?

Of course they told me there was no problem.

Never is, til it happens to them.

What happened? The house was flooded out again, of course.

What REALLY pissed me off about it was that the bloke came up specifically to ask me if the pressure was OK. As I got up to check and answer him, was when I saw the "wall of water" coming through the house. He saw it too. He immediately claimed that the pressure had nothing to do with it and wasn't ever changed. Hello, you just knocked my door and asked me about water pressure.

Then, he turned and walked away, leaving me to deal with a house full of water on my own. Out here is so rural, he knows there is nobody in reach to help. It doesn't even matter who or what caused the flood, all I know is that I would be absolutely incapable of walking away and not helping someone in that situation. Anyone who can be that nasty, is many leagues lower than pond scum.

And he is one of today's gang of three. A good start, not!

So first he swears blind that the water pressure does not go up and down, ever, so, of course, it cannot have damaged anything. And our things are inside the house. Jobsworth says the council is only responsible for what's outside.

That means other people in the area, who have commented to me that the water pressure goes up and down and comes with airlocks in it (and that this situation has been increasing lately) are telling lies and imagining things too, are they? And the insurance company staff and the plumber they sent have both seemed to accept (they've not questioned nor refuted) my suggestion that a surge in pressure was a reasonable - possible - cause of such breakages / floods.

The landlady's brother-in-law is actually a sensible bloke and didn't seem to find it unreasonable or ridiculous of me to suggest it, when I said to him that I though that an increase in water pressure had been the cause of the problems.

Everyone I have spoken to so far, in fact, except the water man from the council, has heard of water pressure going up and down. Curious that, isn't it?

Even waterman 2 agreed with me that the pressure is higher at night. This is the pressure that does not go up and down, ever, by the way. I do hope you are following the logic here so far. (If you are, you're the only one.)

Now, after they finished the work 2 1/2 to 3 years ago, they left me with water pressure that was never the same as it was before. It was never good, but ... Then and on one subsequent occasion, I've had to talk to them to tell them that the pressure had dropped. They didn't disagree with me. On those occasions, I told them that there was no longer enough pressure for the gas water heater to start up, as an example of the problem.

Funnily, I based this statement on the fact that the water heater wouldn't start (but always had previously), after being able to note a difference in the amount of water that was coming out of any tap (incl. cold) and the amount of me it would get wet at one time. I've told them there's a problem and requested they fix it. As you do. Yes, of course, I think that increasing the pressure (putting it back to where it was), would be the solution. I don't know what they did.

And, you don't need me to explain that I did not ask them to do something that would be wrong. But no, our Jobsworth water man was today trying to twist this around to say that it's my fault if the pressure was too high and broke everything. (Pressure that does not change and could not break stuff, remember?)

So, I gave them the "wrong" instructions and they just followed like sheep?

Oh, please! Any fool knows that this is not what happened. I did not demand "the wrong thing" and they would not have done it, even if I did.

By that logic, if I told them to, they'd jump off a cliff, would they? Yeah, right!

The bloke was then demanding I tell him EXACTLY what pressure I wanted - in a snotty / snarky tone - totally unreasonable, because no consumer, Spanish, English or otherwise is going to know this. It's obvious that I can't tell them HOW to twiddle their knobs and, that I cannot be responsible for their actions.

All during the conversation, he would contradict everything I said. He would not listen to a word I said and would interrupt me to disagree, even when I was trying to answer a question he'd just asked me. Then he shouts down to his mates the virtual equivalent of "Give her the least pressure there is". The shoulder shrugging at the "unreasonable woman" was more than evident.

The height of ignorance: they tried to get in their van and drive away.

Meanwhile, since it was "our fault" (according to him) I'd asked him to explain to me EXACTLY what it was that he wanted us / the landlords to do and kept insisting on this. It took me several goes to make him explain to me. This is not a lack of Spanish. He was deliberately spouting a load of psuedo-technical mumbo-jumbo nonsense jibberish at me while walking away. Nobody can understand that. You can't deal with people this unreasonable.

Then he says that the problem is a lack of maintenance on the part of the landlords and that only the old and already breaking things break (as a result of the ups and downs of pressure that "don't" occur.) Lack of maintenance figures, greatly and, it does account for the toilet, or at least the fact that it was more vulnerable to the effects of the pressure surge. I still say that even old things would not be so summarily seen off, other than by some serious fault in the water supply, pressure ups and downs, airlocks ... I'm not making those up.

The theory breaks down because the water heater is not that old - not old enough. And the washing machine is mine and it's virtually new.

Usually, not everything; the water heater outside, the plumbing in the bathroom, the tap in the kitchen, the washing machine in the utility room, all breaks at the same time, coincidentally. Generally, that sort of thing only happens when it's caused by some unforeseen event. (Excess pressure, maybe?)

So then he says the landlords have to pay for a regulator to put between the water meter and the house to prevent damage from the ups and downs of pressure - those very same ups and downs of pressure that don't happen?

Next he comes out with a cracker. You must "never" use a washing machine plumbed direct from the mains water. They "have" to be fed by water from a tank on the roof. The landlords are, according to him, "obliged" to fit this.

The house was built in 1957 and it's never been "obliged" to have one before.

He also didn't say it when he was out in my utility room 3 years ago, standing in front of my washing machine, knowing full well where and how it was plumbed in. Then, he'd told me that you always have to turn the mains tap off and on to it every time. That too is ridiculous, as everybody with half a wit knows.

And everything you could say to him, he had an immediate excuse, scripted, I should think, to ensure that the council is not going to take responsibility.

There are millions of homes that do not have tanks on their roofs and who do have washing machines. My landlady's own house for one, so I think, in the end I got her to see that he was trying to hoodwink both of us with this nonsense.

She came up here making assumptions - couldn't have waited to hear what I had to say to see that I was actually on the same side as her - initially, defensive and ready to "put the blame on me" (i.e. wriggle, as they always do, out of any responsibility or cost) for not fixing the leak.

The valve wasn't leaking before, but I had told her, a couple of years ago that the cistern was on its last legs. Who's fault is it that wasn't fixed in the interim?

Then when I reminded her that she'd been here when the local shopkeeper had also commented on the ups and downs of the pressure, she couldn't argue.

The town hall also sent me up a print out today. This shows that the 63 euro bill - that my landlady has just received (in April) and presented to me, actually covers the period of November - December 2007. The bill for 70 euros is for January - February 2008 and, the one for March - April will be even higher.

They can't even send a bill for 4+ months? It doesn't help, does it?

While the landlords' lack of maintenance might not help, the council's siting of the water meter (virtually in a barranco, a long way from the house (50 feet ish), so I can't get to it to read it), the extreme delay in sending out accounts (which might help people to notice anomalies in time), plus their erratic water pressure (though they deny that happens), seem to me to be the main culprits.

The hissing noise on the toilet started at the same time I noticed stronger pressure from the water coming out of the taps, on Thursday, April 3rd. I turned off the stopcock and attempted to get the problems fixed on the following day.

There was no sight or sound of water from the mains leaking in this house before that. Obviously, I've thought over and over on this, but I'm satisfied with my conduct and that there is no way I could have known or acted earlier.

In fact, I still don't know where all that water has been going since November, because for all the excuse making they can do, the water people don't actually work or investigate anything. They have another stock answer. It went through the meter. Not our problem. For all I know, someone could have cut into the pipes along that 50 foot stretch and is irrigating their fields with it.

The mental energy I've wasted today, being forced to deal with these unreasonable people, has left me completely and utterly drained. To top it all, I'm actually writing this stuff up for a reason; to catalog the events, because I may need it all (translated) later. And this is the second time I've typed most of this today, because the computer decided to crash to the "blue screen of death", yet again, which is yet another problem, yet to be solved and paid for.

Well, unless I want to be homeless, I'll have to fix and pay for all of it.

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