Today I’m sharing a personal story that has nothing to do with plant-based nutrition or fitness, nevertheless I hope some of you can benefit from it.
On October 31, 2022 we (my partner and I) moved into an unfurnished 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom apartment that we found on Idealista.pt (the largest rental site in Portugal). The apartment was listed as fully renovated and with a kitchen fully equipped with brand new appliances. It was listed as available on November 1.
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We contacted the listing agency to schedule a visit. The listing realtor gave us a virtual tour as the renovation work was still ongoing. We were a bit put off by the price, but the relative large size (144 square meters or about 1,550 square feet), the abundance of natural light, the charming neighbourhood of Campo de Ourique and the confirmation by the real estate agent that the owners accepted dogs (which was a must for us) prompted us to schedule a second visit, this time in person.
During that tour, we met the owner who happened to be doing the renovation work mostly himself as we found out. Being only a week from the advertised availability date, we were surprised to see that one of the bathrooms was still missing the shower and toilet, and that none of the kitchen appliances had been installed. We were reassured however, by both the owner and the real estate agent that these were quick, minor works and that everything will be ready by the move-in date. We also learnt that the hardwood floors which were in visibly bad condition throughout the apartment, will not be replaced. Furthermore, we were informed by the owner that the kitchen will come with a large double-door fridge and that there would be a clothes dryer in addition to the washing machine (a rarity in Portugal). Music to our ears!
5 month rent in advance
The listed rent price was 3200 euros per month which is about 800 euros above the average rent. According to the data available on Global Citizen Solutions, the average price per m2 of an apartment in the center of Lisbon is 16.85 euros/m2. So for this 4 bedroom, 144 m2 apartment this comes up to 2426.4 euros. Clearly, this apartment was way overpriced, like many apartments in Lisbon due to the high (mostly foreign) demand and limited supply. After some internal debating, we made an offer of 3000 euros per month. The offer was accepted and we signed the contract and paid 5 month rent in advance which the landlord required (3 of these months as a security deposit). Despite the overprice, we were thrilled to have finally found a permanent home after 2 months of searching, living in AirB&Bs, scheduling visits, and negotiating multiple offers.
My previous lease was up on October 31, so we asked if we could move in a day earlier than November 1st. The owners said no problem. We thought it was very nice of them!
Here comes the move-in day! Super excited!
Upon arriving to our new home, I see that the owner and another man were still frantically working, trying to finish everything off.
To my surprise, the kitchen looked the same as the week before when we visited, there were still no appliances and some cabinets were being installed. Some of the doors to various rooms throughout the apartment were up but we could clearly see that they weren’t properly installed as they couldn’t close and were misaligned with the door frame. After a full day of work, at around 8 or 9pm, nothing had really changed, in fact the doors had been completely removed. I was told by the real estate agent - who turned out to be a personal friend of the owners - that they were having a few issues but nothing to worry about, that next day all doors will be up and all appliances will be delivered and installed.
Another couple of days passed by, the owner was working all day long on cosmetic touches such as applying fake plants to some of the walls, putting up stick-on tiles on the kitchen walls but yet still no doors had been installed and no appliances had arrived. It became clear that despite the promises from the landlord, the apartment was not ready for delivery at move-in. We did not have a pre-moving inspection as stipulated on the lease because the landlord was still working in the apartment, and every day we were told “it would be tomorrow”.
My frustrations grew as during this period, I had to use the restroom that had no door or any kind of privacy screen. Surely, one time, the owner walked in on me while I was using the restroom. I felt absolutely humiliated. Beyond that, I had zero privacy from 9 am to 9pm.
Then we received a message that the owner had to leave the country because of family emergency and that upon his return a week later, everything will be completed.
Here I was in an apartment that meant to be our new home, relying on fast food deliveries and having no privacy. There’s also no heating in the apartment which was another shock to us especially considering the rent price. So I bought a space heater that turned out to be pretty much useless as there were no doors to keep the heat in…
"This is Portugal"
While they were abroad, I was constantly asked by the owners to be on standby for deliveries. One day, I should receive the microwave, the next day the oven, then the extractor fan or washing machine. Every day there was something to be delivered, but often the appliance would not arrive and the owner would bemoan that “this was Portugal”. I put on hold my plans to buy bedding, furniture, and everything else an empty, unfurnished house needs. I was stuck at home waiting all day hoping for the best.
“You know I’m calling the police on you, right?!”
The day after the owner left the country, I thought let’s clean up and wash the floors. Ohh, what a mistake! As I was finishing cleaning the floors, I heard a knock on the door late in the evening. I was looking trying to see who could it be since I didn’t expect or knew anyone. There were two ladies standing in front of my door. I opened it.
Without saying “Hi”, they started to question me: “Who are you?”; “Do you live here?”; “You know I’m calling the police on you, right?!” my heart sank as I couldn’t even grasp the situation, why these people were so mad at me even though I had never seen them in my life. And calling the police on me?! I’m thinking what have I done?? I literally had no clue what was going on. I thought they must have got the wrong door. Then 5 minutes into questioning and shouting at me, I finally found out that they were my downstairs neighbours!
They told me that water is pouring in their apartment from the ceiling and they knew it was coming from my apartment. They told me that it had happened before and that they already informed and asked the owner of the apartment to fix the pipe (what they thought he had broken in the first place during the renovation).
They forced themselves into my apartment and walked up and down the corridor, checking each bathroom and the kitchen - I assumed looking for possible cause of the leakage.
While, I understood their frustrations and assured them I wouldn’t use the water in the apartment until a plumber came out to check the pipes, I didn’t see the need for the threatening behaviour nor for them refusing to leave my apartment after me asking them politely to leave at least five times. Then I told them that I’d call the police right away if they didn’t leave the apartment. This worked, and they finally headed out and by this time they were on the phone with the owner’s wife.
another (unexpected) knock on the door
The next morning, sure it was another (unexpected) knock on the door. This time, it was the police. They asked what had happened the night before and I recounted the events of the previous night. They were very friendly and assured me they were not there to take me away! :) What a relief! They also told me not to use ANY water in the apartment, since no one knew what was exactly causing the problem. So, from this point, I was forbidden to use the kitchen tap, the 2 bathrooms, so no shower, no tooth brushing (not above the sink at least!). A plumber called by the owners came in the afternoon, but couldn’t tell what pipe was damaged. He said he would need to do a test with some dye liquid (which the downstairs neighbour refused to allow).
So, no solution. I was freezing, relying on take-away food and I didn’t have any water in my home.
The owner messaged us that they were sure that I could use the small bathroom but I just needed refrain from using the sinks in the kitchen and the main bathroom. That day, when I first brushed my teeth, I was terrified but there was no knock on the door, phhh.. I dodged a bullet!
The next week, the owner came back to Portugal and installed the - now arrived - appliances, including the electric oven which I had to carry up 2 floors as the delivery man refused to bring it up. Great! Now I had appliances!! Ohh but wait….happiness didn’t last long…The fridge that came was nothing like what the owner had promised. Instead of the promised double door fridge we got a small fridge that wasn’t designed for a family. And the clothes dryer…wait the what? No, no dryer, “it was a misunderstanding from owner when he himself told us that we were going to have a dryer as well”. He even said, he wanted dryer because it rains a lot and it’s good to have dryer… but suddenly that memory was lost.
I was super happy for having a washing machine finally, but again…”Don’t use it yet because it could be connected to the same pipe that is causing the leakage” we were told by the owner.
Few more days passed by - we are about 3 weeks into having moved in - another plumber came with the owner and a lawyer after agreeing with the downstairs neighbour that the plumber could do the checks in her apartment as well. Again, there was no solid conclusion, but now I was told that I could use the kitchen sink.
"It's just a Quick fix"
Then a few days later, the owner said he knew what’s the problem was and it was an easy fix. Sure it is, he came back with his tools and did some work. ALL IS DONE! Yuppeee! Water problem fixed! Well…you know what I’m going to say next right? Of course the problem wasn’t solved. The first time I opened the bathtub tap, I got a message from the neighbour that the “water is pouring inside her apartment”, and then few days later when I started the dishwasher, I got the same message…
Let’s stay positive! The washing machine pipe was repurposed by the owner and we could start using it. Only to realise that it moved excessively and was extremely loud, and I mean EXCESSIVELY!! It didn’t seem normal. It was actually dangerous because if I hadn’t caught it on time it would have tore the cables and pipe out from the wall. When I told the owner, he said it’s not the type of washing machine that can be fixed to the wall.
Yet, I didn’t give up, because it’s just didn’t seem like a reasonable thing to have to hold and watch the washing machine every time I turn it on, besides I didn’t want to get electrocuted. After a quick google search, I found a video on manufacturer’s official site. It turned out the washing machine wasn’t properly installed, the owner left the securing bolts in the back of washing machine that are only there to secure the internal components of the device during transport and should be taken out before first use. I looked at the instruction manual which is in Portuguese (that I don’t speak yet) I still immediately saw an entire page with bold letters and illustrations on how to take the bolts out. Sure thing, we removed the bolts and the washing machine was running smoothly and almost silently... yay girlpower!
It’s now been 2 months since we moved in and we have 3 doors installed - without handles and lock - and the rest of 7 rooms like my bedroom, office, living room, kitchen etc still have no doors. The big space heaters that was promised by the owner’s wife when she came to apologize for the conditions and inconveniences we’ve been through, turned out to be another “misunderstanding”... And the financial relief that was also promised by the owners for not having the apartment in liveable conditions also never reached us…
Last note to add: the neighbour from below came to apologise for her and her friend’s behaviour for the night they verbally attacked me and refused to leave my apartment. She also brought a nice bottle of Portuguese red wine. I accepted her apology and we say hello now every time we meet in the hallway.
By sharing our story I hope others in similar situation can learn from our mistakes and avoid paying costly price for it - emotionally, mentally, and financially.