All Parisians have a plumbing story, especially since plumbing in old Parisian buildings tends to be an afterthought.
My story started back in the summer of 2019. A split opened up in the hallway wall, with an odd buckling in the floorboards underneath. I called the landlord and he sent a plumber, who said the problem was under the floorboards, so to let him know when we got the floor torn up for him to examine underneath. The landlord told me to report it to my insurance (in France, your renter’s insurance covers everything in the apartment). I did. Nothing happened.
A couple of months later, on a brisk fall day, water began pouring into my bathroom from the ceiling. It was a Saturday, and my landlord has no weekend number. I ran upstairs, but my neighbor, let’s call her Madame Voisine, indignantly informed me that she could see no leak in her bathroom, which was just above mine, so I set up a bucket/towel/mop system that I continued until Monday morning when I reached the landlord, who called a plumber, who sauntered by on Tuesday. He punched a hole in the ceiling to find the leak, which was, quelle surprise, from Madame Voisine’s toilet. Again, I reported it to my insurance company. They said they would talk to Madame Voisine’s insurance company and the landlord’s insurance company.
The split in the hallway wall got bigger. My son and I began stubbing our toes on the floorboards as they inched upwards. I told the landlord. Nothing happened.
Then, one lazy Sunday afternoon in June 2020, we heard a creak, and a groan, and then a ka-boom. The bathroom ceiling had fallen in.
The floor was covered with chunks of wet sheetrock, the walls were slathered in goo and the sink and bathtub were full of debris. The ceiling lights blinked, swinging from exposed wires. The mess had splattered into the hallway, across the floor and up onto the walls. Dirty water dripped from the underside of Madame Voisine’s bathroom. We stared into the cloud of sticky gray dust, incredulous.
Because it was Sunday, there was, of course, no response from the landlord. I went upstairs to inform Madame Voisine, who came down and looked at the mess, completely baffled as to what could have happened, since there was bien sûr no leak in her bathroom. I took photos for the insurance company, and my son and I spent the rest of the day cleaning up.
Monday, the landlord was horrified to hear what had happened, and rushed to send over someone three days later to clean it up. Too late, I informed the hapless guy. He shrugged and left.
My insurance company talked to the landlord’s insurance, and they both talked to Madame Voisine’s insurance. A plumber fixed her bathtub, which, oh mon dieu, had a secret leak.
A dapper silver fox from one of those insurance companies came over to examine the place, promised he would get right on it, and disappeared forever.
Another silver fox from some company that coordinates insurance companies came over and examined everything again, then promptly evaporated.
Meanwhile, in the dining room, some lovely crown molding started to crumble, and an odd square shape appeared on the ceiling. I called everybody all over again, and the landlord sent his secretary over to take a look.
Ooh la la, she tsked. C’est pas bon.
Non, I agreed.
She told me that she didn’t like my upstairs neighbors. They had installed a shower (without permission) in their dining room, which was, bizarrement, just over the square on my dining room ceiling.
The plumber came again and mashed his little spiky tool into the wall. Putain, he said. Forty percent humidity in the wall. He left.
I began finding puddles on the dining room floor. New bubbles started appearing in the paint in the kitchen walls, and then in my son’s bedroom. Paint flecks and dust sprinkled the floor.
I wondered, what the hell was Mme Voisine doing up there? Was there some kind of The Shape of Water scenario, where she fills rooms with water to swim in? Does she fall asleep while filling the bathtub everyday?
Concerned about the musty smell, and seriously worried that the dining room ceiling was going to fall in, and annoyed by the zero progress on repairs, I decided to move. I was thinking about it anyway. When my son goes to college this fall, I’d probably just rattle around this big apartment by myself, sweeping up paint chips and hoping a piece of sheetrock didn’t fall on the cat.
Or on me.
Yvonne’s expat adventures…to be continued.
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Written by Yvonne Hazelton for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates.