I currently live at 521 4th ave w in Seattle, WA. I have had a rough time getting my electrical issues fixed and will use this space to provide extra documentation of the events as they have (and will) unfold. I hope to see a resolution to this that is satisfactory to all parties soon as I like this apartment and location, however it has been a week with no resolution as of yet, despite repeated inquiries to management.
Let me tell you my story….
I am going to rewind a touch before launching into the specific of the current debacle. I moved in a couple days before the end of June, 2013. I noticed the lights tended to flicker, however since the building is old I shrugged it off to old wiring and did not think much of it. Turns out this would be indicative of the major issue to come. Now back on to the current issues.
Wednesday August 27, 2013
Last week, I think Wednesday August 27, 2o13, I reported an issue with the circuit breakers in the electrical panel to management. The day before ( Tuesday 26, 2013) I heard a strange popping noise coming from my kitchen while sitting in my living room. It was intermittent and I was unable to locate it. Wednesday morning I was standing in the kitchen and it seemed to be coming from the area near my refrigerator. I opened the circuit breaker to see a shower of sparks coming from the lower right breaker labeled Lights. As soon as the sparking stopped I flipped the breaker off ( Sidenote: I already had 4 breakers off as I was told the baseboard heating units fail ON. There are no safety mechanisms to prevent them from heating up and causing fires in case of a short or thermostat failure. Another story… ).
I had some sensitive electrical gear on that circuit that had gotten hammered pretty hard. Over the course of time the sparking had gotten bad enough that all power was being lost to the circuit as it arced across the breaker box, thus causing horrible power fluctuations in the gear and the lights to go off.
Instantly realizing this is a pretty big issue and a hazard to not only myself but also the other tenants I decided to take a shower and leave the apartment for the day so the manager could come in and fix it without feeling awkward that the tenant was around. A polite gesture in my opinion. After showering and packing I wrote out the proper work order form and turned it in. In addition to the work order form I also called the Local Building Manager ( LBM ) ( I think his name is John, confusing cause the General Manager’s ( GM ) name is also John. I have heard he is the son but I actually know nothing about him, obviously not even his name! ). After telling the LBM the issue he promised to be at my apartment in a couple minutes because it sounded like a serious issue. By then I had turned off and unplugged everything from the circuit so it was not sparking. The issue was not showing, however the LBM promised he was going to get a guy in to look at it that day.
That afternoon I came back to briefly drop off some stuff before joining my friend Sam for a sail. I expected a note from the LBM on the resolution, instead I found a chair that was not mine, a toolbox, and the circuit panel taken apart. I called the LBM and he mentioned the possible need of an electrician and that the boss wanted to come look at it for himself and would be in the following day. The LBM showed up shortly before I left to clean up. He thought the heat fan in the bathroom may be pulling too much power and causing an overload ( <- That should sound suspicious to you ).
Thursday morning with only the bathroom light on I heard the popping noise again and again saw sparks. I had turned the breaker on to see in the bathroom. I called the LBM to let him know that even with the fan off and only the light on the sparks were still happening. I wanted to let him know everything I noticed in case it would be helpful with his investigation. He thanked me and said that he was on it. I told him I was leaving for the weekend soon and there was no rush since I would not be there, and that I would make sure the breaker was turned off before leaving.
Sunday I returned home. I was exhausted from being awake most of the weekend and did not check the breaker. Instead I went right to bed, though only for a half hour before needing to leave again. Before leaving I noticed a note taped underneath the light switch next to the apartment entrance. Unfortunately I did not take a photo of it to add to the documentation here. It was from John Peranzi, the GM. In the note John stated that the issue was with the fan in the bathroom, that one was on order, and would be in late the next week. Since I had already learned that the sparks still happened with the fan off I called the number John listed on the note to let him know. Voice mail answered and I left a message stating the fan may be an issue but is not the real problem and that with just the light on the circuit breaker sparks. I *never* received a call back.
Monday September 2, 2013
Monday was a holiday and I had family visiting. We went sailing from when they arrived around 10 am until about 5 pm, and returned to the apartment around 5:30 pm. I was exhausted and slept until 8 pm after they left, then I watched a couple tv shows on my computer and went back to sleep. The light in the bathroom was no longer flickering, but shutting off for minutes at a time. Because it was a Monday I figured John would have worked on the dangerous electrical. I was wrong.
Still no contact from management. The issue is getting worse. During my shower the light stayed off most of the time.
The circuit was still on the fritz. I took a shower around 2:30 pm, during which the light in the bathroom stayed off most of the time, not because I had it turned off. The switch was on but the light not staying constant. After getting out of the shower I called the GM again. No answer. I called the LBM who answered, told me he would forward the message to the GM. Called the GM back and left a voice mail asking when the fix was coming and telling him I would get an electrician myself and bill it to the apartment complex if need be to ensure not only my safety, but the safety of all the other tenants and the buildings around them. No response.
A friend who used to work as legal aid looked at the tenant laws in Seattle. It turns out there is a clause saying electrical or life threatening hazards must be fixed in 24 hours. I was recommended to call the city tenants line. I did. I was helped by two very nice people, a guy who works with the inspectors and a gal who does tenant law. After I described to the nice man what have read above he told me that this is a high priority issue. All the inspectors were out for the day already but one would come the next day. I was then transferred to the gal because I have never called and filed a complaint against my landlord before and wanted to know what the process was like, and what protections I have. She had me walk her through everything that had happened and at the end told me that the steps I had taken were good and to document as much as I could. She also wanted me to write a letter to the GM reminding him of the situation and letting him know that an inspector would come by the next day if the situation was not resolved.
You can download a copy of the letter – Notice to 4th ave w.
At 5:57 pm I received a blocked call while working out of a nearby coffee shop. I was just wrapping up to leave town for the evening. I do not answer blocked calls so I let it go to voice mail. Turns out it was the GM John. I am not sure why a business would want to block their caller id, but it has been that way for each call. I will attempt to get the voice mail recording and post it here. I called him back and had one of the strangest conversations of my life.
To start off he told me he needs a number he can reach me at that I answer ( Ironic since I do not recall him *ever* answering his phone ), so I again told him I do not answer blocked calls. I asked him why an electrician had not been over to check the unit and he said something about us needed to establish a level of communication and then asked if I had an electrical training or certifications. I told him I did not see that as relevant and ask the same question back to which he responded, “a little”. My answer was to tell him I have a computer science degree and as part of that degree I have electrical engineer training. He seemed stumped for a moment and then replied by saying it is “different”. Since he has training he wants to look at it himself. I told him that was fine but had not happened yet.
We went around in circles with him acting like it was a travesty that I was not at my apartment that evening. I told him I was out of town for the evening and that is just how it was. He had permission to enter the apartment to take care of the issue. For some reason John asked if I was ever around during the evening in a way that insinuated that I should always be home. He really wanted me to be there so I asked him to come at 10 am the following morning ( Wednesday ) to which he refused. When I asked him why he said, “I have other appointments”, to which I said, “I find it hard to believe that something which could burn down your building is not a priority to be fixed.” His only response was, “Good point”.
The conversation went around and around in circles. The GM John tried many times to make me out to be the bad guy, which I had none of. John claimed he had heard nothing about the circuit breaker box sparking, only the fan, to which I very strongly replied that not once in any of my communication did I ever say it was the fan. In everything written, spoken, or in voice mail I only ever spoke about the sparks. He did not argue that and instead moved on, which makes me suspect…
John asked me if I had taken out and breakers or opened the breaker box. I told him I had never removed a breaker and the only time the breaker box was ever opened was when his men took it apart.
Near the end of the conversation he told me that another reason an electrician had not come was because I put in the work order going into a weekend and the electrician he normally works with was off. I asked why another was not called and he insisted he has a guy he works with. He also said that due to the holiday weekend electricians were not available. I told him that with an issue as major as sparks flying out of a breaker box he should have tried to find one and that I knew I could. He agree that an electrician could have been found but only wanted to work with his electrician.
When the conversation finally ended he told me that he would go over that evening and look, to which I responded with a thank you.
When I returned home it was about 12:56 am. I opened the door to find the letter I had written shoved under the door with a hand written reply on it. Here is a copy of the letter ( Click to enlarge )
This is the text it contained:
- This is a cute letter
- System was working fine. What did you do to it?
- Your power is NOT totally out
- Who broke the connection chip on the backside of the breaker??
- Your responsible for what happens in your apartment
- Breaker was working fine when you took possession
Why was I being blamed for the issue??? ( Unfortunately some web searching later I found out this is a common tactic of his with tenants ). Why would I ever need to remove a breaker? I live in an apartment partially because I have the benefit of never needing to fix anything. The landlord is responsible for doing that. I certainly do not ever see the need to remove a breaker… The breaker worked fine when I took possession? Well no it actually was already failing as evidenced by the flickering and power drops that continually got worse. I did not know this when I moved in though. Was I supposed to inspect the electrical box and make sure the backs of all the breakers were intact? Seems a bit silly. Maybe I should pull up the carpet to make sure the floor is not rotten too? This blame game is not only ridiculous it is highly unprofessional.
I noticed another letter on my table a few minutes later. It was a work order fulfillment paper ( Click to enlarge ).
It says ( I think I am deciphering this correctly ):
- Bath fan motor issue = “Nothing wrong, its fine”
- 20 amp crausihines ( <- No idea what that word is!!! ) mini breaker replaced. Someone sprung the attachment clip by removing breaker incorrectly and forced into place. This caused it not to seat properly in its slot causing contacts to ( Cannot read the rest )
- “Make sure no-one removes breakers or panel cover.”
- When using a powerstrip use a metal one with a 15 amp intercepter
So what I am getting from this is also an accusation that I broke the breaker and have been removing them. I have only ever switched them off or on. Again, there is no reason why anyone would need to open the insides of a breaker box or remove a breaker when living in an apartment. And what is this deal with the power strip? Yes I have an extension cord and power strip running across my living room to my media center, but that is because the plug near the media center is on the bad circuit… I have never had someone tell me what sort of power strips to buy before, this is just strange. I am also very experienced in how much power I can pull off a breaker and I the load on that circuit is almost nothing.
I was tired and ready for bed but after reading those notes I felt nervous and unsafe. In my own apartment! I think the manager watched me walk into the building, which made me feel even more nervous. I was unable to fall asleep for a few hours.
After the events of tonight I would feel more confident about the inspector still coming over even though one of the breakers was replaced.
Inspector came over. He could not ding anything with the sparking breaker box, however there were enough other electrical issues that it sounds like the manager is going to be getting a notice to make some upgrades so the breaker box will be inspected anyways.
Thursday September 12, 2013
Lost power to everything, not just the fault circuit. This is the second time that has happened.
For the record I have hardly any electronics plugged in. Here is the list:
- Mac Mini
- 2x external hard drives
- Stereo amplifier
- Apple TV
- Computer monitor
- Fish tank light
- Fish tank heater
- Fish tank air pump
- Small lamp
So you see that I use very little electricity. Most of these devices are powered off the majority of the time.
Saturday September 14, 2013
I do not know if this is related or not, but it may be worth noting that an illegal entry was made sometime today after 4pm and before 1am.
Do your research
Unfortunately it looks like I should have done a bit more research before moving here. There are 25 reviews on http://apartmentratings.com, of which the manager is specifically called out in each, with the exception of the positive posts, which look like they could be by the manager as they are all generally the same.
If you are interested in contacting the manager of this apartment you may do so at:
One company name I see: Emerald City Commercial
The other company name I see: Fourthwest Square Apartments
Seattle City Contact 206-615-0808