Welcome to Renters Week Horror Stories, a weeklong feature where Curbed shares the downright terrifying stories of regular Chicago renters and landlords. Have you had an awful experience with a roommate or a landlord? Or perhaps you're a property owner who's had to collect rent from the tenant from hell. Either way, be sure to share your story to qualify to win a two-night staycation at a local boutique hotel. Take a quick gander at the official rules and be sure to submit your tales of renter anguish and horror to our tip line right away!
It was December 23, 2008. I lived on the 24th floor of a high rise on Michigan Avenue, in a tiny studio apartment. Before dawn, I awoke to a loud rushing sound, and got out of bed to call the 24-hour doorman downstairs who I thought would want to be aware. As a swung my feet out of bed and put them on the floor, I felt a squish. My feet sank into a totally soaked carpet. Squish.
Deciding to skip the phone, I left my unit and went downstairs to talk to the doorman personally. He was surprised to see me, still in pajamas and barefoot, but said he'd call the maintenance man right away. He advised that I should head back up to my unit, and maintenance would come knocking. I went back to my apartment and my entire place was flooded about an inch. I squished back to my bed on high ground and waited. Maintenance came an hour later and was very surprised to see all the water in my unit. "We'd heard there was a leak, but no one above you has standing water, and no one below you either. We're investigating it but the building owner is on vacation and so we can't really do anything until he gives authorization." While they were there, we all heard a loud crash in bathroom, but upon looking, we couldn't actually see anything that had caused it. It was as if the crash happened behind the wall.
The sun rose and the day began. I moved everything that wasn't already waterlogged to higher ground and hung out in the building's community room with my laptop, waiting for news. Around 10 a.m., the head of maintenance found me and very calmly explained what he had discovered, and it was not good. I lived in tier 12, on the 24th floor. On the 36th floor, someone in my tier had gone away for the holidays and left their window open. The extreme cold had caused the water in their toilet to freeze solid and fall backwards through their bathroom wall and then down, taking every pipe with it as it went, landing behind my bathroom wall. Because my floor was the bottom floor of a firebreak, the toilet landed solidly there, instead of continuing to fall.
It was two days before Christmas, and I had to leave with no notice due to obvious safety issues. They needed to remove all of the carpeting and lower drywall and replace it because it had been exposed to dirty water. They needed to open up my bathroom wall to get at the broken toilet behind it, and fix all the pipes going upwards from there, so one from the building was able to guarantee when I could come back home. In the end, I was displaced through the first week of the new year. I couch-surfed through Christmas and New Year's and ultimately lost most of my furniture and pretty much anything that was touching the floor that couldn't be bleached.
No one from the management company contacted me through all this, just the building maintenance guy, so I contacted the management company once I was able to move back in to see if I could not pay a prorated rent amount for the months I couldn't fully live there. As a response, the building manager sent me a sympathy card. Like, the kind you get when someone has died. A sympathy card, signed but with no note, slipped into my mailbox.