My name is Ann DiLorenzo, and I am a Property Manager at Kidder Mathews. I have 10 retail centers from Imperial Beach up to Los Angeles. I must thank BOMA San Diego and all my vendors, especially my plumbing and restoration vendors, for the knowledge that I’ve now acquired from water issues at my retail centers and from my work with the SD Housing Commission. If it wasn’t for them, I would have panicked not once, but twice in the past two years after experiencing flooding at both my own apartment and while visiting my daughter. This knowledge has given me the power and confidence to take charge in what might have otherwise been disastrous situations.
Last year, a visit with my daughter went from great, to cold and wet within a few days. What happened next is not your ideal vacation story.
It was December 22nd, and we had no hot water or heat – all of this, just days before Christmas. I had my daughter call maintenance to come and check the water heater and thermostat because of the snowstorm and freezing rain expected that night. By December 23rd, a day later, we had still heard nothing from her apartment complex’s maintenance department. I had her put in a second call as well as speak to the people at the front office, who told her they were dealing with a list of maintenance requests, and she was “on the list”. They also told her to put on the electric fireplace until they could get to us.
At 4:00am on Christmas Eve, I awoke to the sound of my daughter screaming, “My floor is wet!” As she panicked, I told her to call the emergency line for maintenance. She didn’t have the information, so we called the main line, and I told her it would either connect her to an emergency line or give her a number – it connected her. She left them a very detailed message letting them know that half her bedroom floor was wet, about an inch of water, and it was getting worse. Maintenance called back and told us to move her mattress along with anything else into her bathroom and the dry side of the room.
We were almost done moving everything by the time they showed up about 15 minutes later. He turned off the water to her apartment, checked the water heater and told us that the pipe had broken, and a plumber would be by as soon as he finished work on the pipes that had burst in another space just three buildings away. The plumber showed up and told us that while my daughter had a waterless water heater, the main pipe to it burst, and it was good that they turned off the water. They fixed the pipe and slowly turned back on the water praying it wouldn’t bust any other pipes. They put a single fan in her bedroom to dry out the rug, ugh… and didn’t pull up any of the carpeting or padding. In the meantime, maintenance came back and fixed the thermostat – it was set for gas heat, and they have electric heat, so he reset it. I told the maintenance tech that we needed to have the rug and the padding pulled in the bedroom so that everything could dry out properly and mold would not start growing since there was so much water. He said he would talk to his supervisor because they do not typically do that. I told him that I work in property management and pulling up the rug and padding was the only way to stop mold from setting in, so they needed to get that done as soon as possible.
By this time, it was 11:30am on Christmas Eve and we had been up since 4:00am. We decided to try to sleep for a little bit. This didn’t last but maybe an hour when we were all awoken by fire alarms going off in the apartment and her building. My daughter’s roommate went into the hallway and yelled to us that there was more water all over, a few inches at least. I immediately told my daughter to call maintenance. She did and left a message. We then walked into my daughter’s bedroom and found a waterfall in her bathroom – yes, this was where we put her dry mattress, clothes, etc. from earlier in the morning. Water was coming in from the vent in her bathroom ceiling and the fire sprinkler in her closet. We immediately unplugged the single fan that the plumber left in the bedroom to dry out the carpet, which I knew wasn’t going to do anything since they didn’t pull up the carpet and padding.
A few minutes later, the maintenance tech came running. He ran into the apartment and headed to my daughter’s bedroom, where he found the waterfall in the bathroom. He immediately turned around, ran outside, and turned off the water to the entire building because water was running down the side of the building as well. A few minutes later the alarms stopped.
Maintenance came back with a ladder as we were trying to find anything dry in the bathroom and closet and get it to the other side of the apartment that was currently dry. He removed the vent in the bathroom and told us that a fire sprinkler pipe had burst and there was a 12” piece of pipe missing. We also found out that since my daughter’s apartment was on the top floor, she got all the water when the pipe burst.
I had my daughter call the front office to find out where they were going to put us until their restoration company came out to remove everything that was now wet and start the drying process. She was told they were not responsible for relocating us. When she told me this, I had her call them back and let them know that her mother, who is a property manager, was in town and they had better find us a place to stay and get a company out here to start the restoration, so mold doesn’t set in. I also told her to tell them that they need to make sure their company removes the drywall and ceiling in the bathroom and closet, the bathroom floor and counters, as well as the carpet and padding in the bedroom and living room, because water was already in the middle of the living room heading towards the 2nd bedroom. We could also see water in the drywall of the bedroom walls and living room walls. The manager she spoke to that time had met me when I moved her out there, so he knew who I was. He said he would call her back when he had more information on where we were going to go stay.
He ended up calling back and they put us in one of their furnished model apartments. She had also called her insurance company to let them know what was going on and what the apartment complex was doing and not doing. The following week, they still had not put any fans in the apartment or removed any of the carpeting/padding or drywall. Nothing had been done to start the restoration of the apartment. I told her to keep talking to the office manager at her complex about getting this cleaned up and to keep her insurance company in the loop.
Two weeks after the flooding, they still had not done anything to have it dry or cleaned. At one point, the apartment complex manager called her and said that once they have everything cleaned up, they would be moving them back into their apartment. I told my daughter that unless they gut the place, that would not be happening. Mold is not something to mess around with. I told my daughter to tell the insurance company what her apartment complex said and ask that they step in because she was not going back into that apartment.
Finally, 4 weeks after the flooding, the apartment complex let my daughter know that they were gutting her apartment and would find her a new one to move into. I’m so glad I’m a hands-on property manager who wants to learn everything about her properties and that I have vendors who are happy to teach me about what they do.
My advice to property managers is this: learn as much as you can from your vendors, even if you think you will never need it. (Someday you just might!)