The whole, complete story of our apartment flood

Our building is old and surrounded by trees. The tree roots have been working their way in and messing with the pipes for years. On June 27, this resulted in water leaking out of our toilet and shower and all over the bathroom. Our neighbor was having the same problem at the same time. When the plumbers arrived, several hours after the problem began, they decided they needed to remove one of our toilets in order to access and snake the main line of the building (or some other technical phrase like that). Ours would grant the most convenient access, so ours it is, eh?

So, the water was turned off, but I guess when you take a toilet off, you have to also release the pressure (or something). The plumber, in his infinite professional wisdom, neglected to do this and removed the toilet all willy-nilly, allowing sewage water to spill all throughout the apartment.

I was not home at the time, but my husband was, and he describes the situation as such:

I was sitting on the couch waiting for them to get done and I just heard, “Damn, that’s a lot of water.” So I looked and I was like … Yeah. That is a lot of water.

Matt then leapt into action to save the most important thing on the ground of the apartment: The desktop computer tower. He unplugged the last cord and picked the tower up about one second before water engulfed its prior location. He got some sentimental items (yearbooks, scrapbooks) out from under the couch with only minimal damage, but there were … a lot of things that were not so lucky.

I arrived home from work to an apartment that looked like this:


Matt and I then pretty much stood outside our apartment with our neighbor waiting to hear from our apartment management regarding what the heck was going to happen.

So there we were, waiting.

And waiting.

And waiting.

Apparently the emergency maintenance contact, which is the maintenance manager, wasn’t really a great contact that day because he was at the hospital with his dad.

And I feel for him, obviously. But like … have another contact designated, then. I don't really have to tell you why it's unacceptable for the “emergency, after-hours maintenance number” to be unavailable in the event of an emergency, right?

Anyway, hours later, we finally heard back from someone at the apartment management office. We said we were going to go to a modestly priced hotel and we just wanted to make sure we were going to be reimbursed for all our expenses, and he seriously and truly would not say, “Okay, yes, that’s fine.” He hemmed and hawed and said he’d need to get approval on Monday. I ended the conversation along the lines of, “Okay. We will be staying in a hotel at least until Monday and we will be paid back.” We also made it clear that Matt would be at the apartment management office at 9 a.m. on Monday to figure out where we were going from there.

When we left that night, we had no toilet -- just a hole in the bathroom floor. It was clear that a lot of our stuff was ruined, but we had no idea how much. And, of course, pretty much all of our floors were still covered in nasty, smelly, disgusting water. We gathered what we could to last us about a week, not having any idea how long it was really going to take.

It was a Saturday night, already 7 p.m., in Los Angeles. We called six hotels before we found one that had an opening at all. That one was about $350 a night. We called a few more and finally landed in a Rodeway Inn in the tiniest hotel room I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I’m pretty sure the bathroom was a closet at some point in its past. And a small closet, at that.

Monday morning rolled around and Matt, after getting quite a bit of runaround, found out they would be reimbursing us $150 a day for the duration of the time we were out of the apartment. Lovely, except that hotels cost about $150 a day. We are in Los Angeles, after all. The other thing about hotels is they don’t really have kitchens or anything, so if we were going to be staying in hotels, we would need extra reimbursements for all the fast food we would need to eat. Nope. $150 a day. That’s all they would do for us.

The brilliant, wonderful catch of the $150 a day reimbursement was that they were giving us that amount no matter what. No receipts required. So we got smart and decided we would use Airbnb, pay about $70 a night, cook our own meals and make a handsome profit.

That is what we proceeded to do. We had some of the most lovely Airbnb hosts.

We also had some of the weirdest Airbnb hosts.

The first place we stayed, from Monday, June 29 - Friday, July 3, was lovely. The woman we were sharing with was super nice and she had the most friendly cat. We were sad we couldn’t book it for the rest of the time, but it was already booked up.

Oh, quick sidebar: We were on a total wait-and-see basis. So on Monday, our apartment manager told us to plan on getting back in on Friday, so we booked through that Friday. But then on Wednesday, we were told that we would need to extend it through Sunday, planning on getting back in on Monday. Throughout all of the Airbnb stays and moves, we were hauling around all our day-to-day life items, including but definitely not limited to: a backpack, a duffle bag, an armful of hanging clothes, a bag of refrigerated food, a bag of regular food and my work bag.

Back to the timeline. On Wednesday, when we were given that information, we looked elsewhere. We eventually booked a cute room in East Hollywood for that weekend, Friday, July 3 - Monday, July 6. Then on Thursday night, about 12 hours before we were going to check in, we got a message from that person:

Hi Kristin! I'm so sorry for the late notice, but we've run into complications with my apt-- I got some dates mixed up and it turns out that my room will not be available for the full weekend. Obviously I don't want to leave you guys hanging, so we would be happy to accommodate you for tomorrow night at a lesser price, but I'll need to ask that you check out on Saturday instead of Monday as planned. Or, if you don't want to be hopping around too much and want to find a new place for the entirety of your trips, I totally understand if you need to cancel completely.

I mean, honestly.

We looked for a bit to try to find a place to stay starting the next day, but we really couldn’t, unfortunately. This left us in the very awkward position of staying in an apartment we knew we weren’t welcome in. The apartment was super nice, though, and Matt made friends with one of the roommates while I was at work, so it was okay overall.

So we booked this other room for Saturday, July 4 - Monday, July 6. We arrived on July 4 and … It was an entire Airbnb house. As in, there were three bedrooms plus a tent -- A TENT -- you could rent out individually, and the owner and his wife lived in the garage. So the total amount of people staying on the property was 10. It was messy, it was nothing like the pictures, there were huge rips in the couch’s upholstery that were covered by a throw blanket … Ugh. And there were two channels on the TV, so that was super fun. The house was also decorated by movie posters of all the terrible movies the owner has been in.

On Sunday, July 5, the last night we had booked in that location, we got this email from our apartment manager:

Hi Kristen and Matt,
I hope you both had a safe and enjoyable 4th!
Just wanted to follow up with you both and let you know that j did speak with the workers in regards to the flooring work going on in your unit. There was a bit of delay with the drying time, but have started already with the installation and repairs. Thy will need 1 additional day, so we are safe to say you may move back in Tuesday.

Oh okay cool, let me just grab an extra night’s stay real quick. NBD.

So as quickly as we could, we booked a night at an apartment really close to my work, which was fabulous since I walk to work every day anyway. This person didn’t have a profile picture but did have lots of great reviews, so we booked it. We stayed there, and it was fine, but … the person was using a fake name to stay anonymous because of the nature of their job (talent agent) and their assistant was in the apartment almost the whole time we were. The assistant literally works out of this talent agent’s apartment while the talent agent is traveling for work. So hilarious. Matt didn’t work that day, so he was pretty much just hanging out listening to the assistant make calls. All day.

At about 4:30 p.m. on that day, which was Tuesday, July 7, we got another email telling us to go ahead and extend our stay until Wednesday. The talent agent’s apartment wasn’t available, so we found somewhere in Hollywood. She accepted our reservation around 6 p.m. and then messaged us back at 9:50 p.m., saying:

So sorry something came up and I must cancel your reservation. My sincere apologies for the inconvenience. I've spoken to airbnb and they will reach out to and assist in making another reservation.

I was so sad and so mad. Both. Definitely both at the same time. We frantically searched for another place and landed somewhere else in Hollywood, and you guys, this place was so shady. It was a two-bedroom apartment with three people living in it. We had one of the bedrooms. This is a very small space for three people to share, especially when inviting in two other people at a time. There was no TV and there was no room to sit at the kitchen table, but there was an adorable kitten! We basically hung out with the kitten all night. That part was cool, at least.

The next day, Wednesday, July 8, we got an email around 2:30 saying the apartment hadn’t passed the inspection. Uh … oops! We were told to go ahead and extend until Friday.

So Matt found someplace around 5 p.m. and thank goodness they were able to accommodate us for that night, because we were awfully close to just having to get a real hotel. Our final Airbnb was the best one, in a fabulous house with a great couple, three dogs, three cats and chickens. Chickens! In LA!

We moved back in on Friday, July 10, and our apartment was an absolute wreck. Our apartment managers had been great the whole time, for sure, but the workers doing the actual renovations were all contractors who don't technically work for the company.

This is part of the email I sent to our apartment manager detailing everything the workers did wrong. (The manager was extremely apologetic, of course):
First, and probably most importantly, there are a bunch of scuffs (and one sort of rip, for lack of a better term) on the walls / doors, I guess from when they were moving furniture and stuff. I can send you pictures if you want; I just want to make sure we're not charged for it eventually if / when we move out. Second, I feel there was somewhat of a lack of respect for our property on the workers' part. A few examples ... 1) There were some mini posters that were very clearly damaged / contaminated, and they had been placed inside a nightstand with a bunch of stuff that hadn't been damaged. These obviously should have been kept separate. 2) They left some large-ish trash items related to their work in one of our really small trash cans, one of which has some sharp edges and sticks out way above the trash can. 3) I found something that had been on the refrigerator in the trash can. I don't know if it fell down or what, but it wasn't damaged, and it's certainly not okay for it to be thrown away. 4) Some of our furniture items weren't even close to the same place as they were before, for instance, a bookcase was in the closet, blocking half of our clothes. Obviously that is not where it goes, and we had to move it all the way across the apartment. Lastly, and definitely least important, but something that bothered me, the tile in the bathroom looks crooked to the eye. They lined it up with the bathtub instead of with the sight line of the bathroom, so it looks off from pretty much every angle. Obviously not a huge deal or something you would need to redo, just something I feel they should know about as people who are installing flooring.

In addition to all that mess, we couldn’t even throw anything away yet because we were waiting to hear a final verdict from our renters insurance, so we pretty much just piled all the trashed items in bags in the middle of the living room and sat on the contaminated couches for a few days.

Eventually, we got the approval from our insurance to throw everything away and that they were covering it. Hallelujah, excellent, whatever. Except after all this, it would have honestly been easier for us if our insurance hadn’t covered it, because the apartment manager was totally willing to write us a check for the appraised amount if insurance hadn’t.

Why would that have been easier than going through insurance? Oh, only because our insurance company is making us jump through a thousand hoops to get the money. We got half up front, then we have to submit receipts showing the total amount has been spent. So basically we’re having to pay out of pocket and get reimbursed. That is not how insurance usually works, in my experience.

What stinks about renters insurance is you don’t really ever plan on using it. Like, with car insurance, you’re probably going to use it once every few years. Renters insurance, though, you can have your whole life and never have to make a claim. So we had no idea how crappy our policy was because we had never dealt with it.

Now we know, and we’ll be shopping soon, and willing to spend more per month than we did before, but we just got our second check yesterday and that is ridiculous.

After all was said and done, the damaged items that were covered are:

Our couch, loveseat, side table and dresser functioning as an entertainment center in the living room, all of which we’ve already replaced. If there’s a silver lining to all this it’s that we are really, really excited about all our new stuff, and it allowed us to completely redecorate our living room for almost nothing. This is actually super cool because new furniture was not anywhere in our near or distant plans at all.

The bookcase that held our DVDs in our bedroom. This one we’re having some trouble with, because we want to buy a media tower kind of thing that will hold them all and display them well, which the old bookcase didn’t do.

The dresser that lives in the walk-in closet, along with all of my tights, scarves, bathing suits and activewear. Do you have any idea how long it took me to build up my bathing suit collection? And you expect me to replace it all in a year? Ridiculous!

About five pairs of shoes. Some (Matt’s) will be easy to replace. We’ll just order the exact same thing. Others (mine) will not be as easy.

Our Macbook and the speakers for our desktop computer. This one is actually pretty sweet. I would never turn down a new laptop. The old one was from 2011 or something.

Almost nothing was ruined that was not replaceable, except that the workers seem to have thrown away the folder Matt was keeping the notes for his script in. So that’s a lot of extra work he’s going to have to do. We also lost the vast majority of the miniature posters that used to make up our movie wall. Those are obviously priceless and also unclaimable.

So, I think that’s most of the details? I hope you enjoyed this long, rambling tale of why I hate that specific plumber, whose name I don’t even know, and also a few of the Airbnb people, and also definitely the insurance company.

The moral of the story is four-fold.

  1. Have renters insurance.
  2. Make sure your renters insurance policy covers every type of damage, will pay you up front in one big check, and is actually covered for the amount that it would cost to replace everything.
  3. Don’t keep important things or any type of clothing on the floor.
  4. Don’t trust a professional plumber to know basic rules of plumbing. They may ruin lots of your stuff with one terrible decision.

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