Brief Encounter: November 2007

One of the beauties of Vienna is the quality of life. You can find a centrally-located apartment that is sizeable, with Viennese glamour all-inclusive while still being more-or-less affordable.

And yet, as life is, things that are too good to be true usually are. In this case, the downside will usually appear in the form of a grey-haired, limping, mumbling person who calls himself the Hausbesorger – what in Paris is call le concierge, in New York, the “Super”.

The job of the Hausbesorger is to keep up, organize and regulate certain needs of the building itself or its tenants. In most other countries this causes almost no trouble, as the relationship between tenants and management is minimal and respectful, often even friendly.

Not in Vienna!  Here, the Super is your enemy. And all last year our Hausbesrogerin was on our case with complaints about plants in the hallway, bikes in the Hof, and a seemingly endless list of small fees to cover minor repairs to the building.

But this fall topped the list. For several weeks in September, Fr. X  tried to make our life a living hell. Just back from summer break, we were met by her ancient, brittle voice, inquiring over the phone how our packing was going, and if we would be out by week’s end!

“What the #%$&(“/@ ?!? We had not received any warning! After the initial shock wore off, my flatmate and I decided that management couldn’t just throw us out and that the last word had not been said! We proceeded to collect information on who owned our apartment, cheered at the discovering that of the three owners, we knew the son of one of them. We had him over for a bottle of wine with him, wailed our sufferings and learned that after 65 years, the house managers were being fired!

Turns out they had been going off on their own, telling tenants that they had to pay for renovations or to move out. The sacked couple were angry and vindictive and had made us the target. So in the end, our contract was extended and (bonus!) our bathroom finally renovated. We even got an apology.

We learned a lot during those few days: stay cool, consider every option, never despair – and be aware of corrupt Viennese property managers.

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