Home Living in Germany Household Die Waschmaschine ist kaputt! And Other Household Dramas
Last update on July 31, 2019

We share the joys and traumas of household maintenance in a rented apartment.

Joy! I came home today to find a brand new Sibir WA-F 263 washing machine in the basement. It’s so clean and shiny, and it works. Unlike some other lucky people, our building is sadly deprived of careful, conscientious, and clean-obsessed Swiss, or at least they never use the washer. As a result, the old (very old) washer in the basement had rust blooming inside its door and was generally a filthy mess.  I suspect this lack of care finally led to its demise about two weeks ago, probably due to lack of filter cleaning.

I was actually the last one to see the old machine alive, although I categorically deny having anything to do with its death. I do most of the wash in our own machine in the apartment. A nice, clean, well-loved machine I might add.  But the dear little Fust can only handle about 5 kg in the wash and 2.5 on the dry cycle. So I do towels and similar in the basement (when I can’t justify doing them two at a time in my machine).

With great trepidation, but also excitement, I loaded the blanket that had been abandoned two weeks ago to the washroom sink into the new washer. I read and re-read the instructions in the French manual. I find German appliance manuals are still beyond me. I set the program and off it went. I noticed that the machine itself can display program information in English. Nifty.

…Just a minute...

Okay. I had to go back downstairs and make sure the washer wasn’t getting unbalanced during the spin cycle. All good. Just a little post-traumatic paranoia.

photo Copyright 2006-2011 Kathy Lyon

When the old machine broke, I checked the board in the vestibule for instructions on who to contact (there weren’t any) and then took down the repair number from the machine itself. Still unsure of who to call, I checked in with the management company/rental agent. She said they would call it in and let us know. A few days later a form appeared on the washer indicating that service had been attempted, was not complete, and the owners had been contacted.

The rules for who handles what in a Swiss building remain unclear to me. For example, when the trash hadn’t been picked up for two weeks, I called the agency.  I assumed that as the ones representing the owners (who are being billed by the city for this service) they would handle it. Wrong.  I was told it was up to us to contact the city. I did (by email), and the trash was picked up.

Pick up is still a bit irregular

When we first moved in we never had to pull the bin to the curb, but since the road construction started, it seems like we get skipped when we don’t do this. Officially we are supposed to put the can at the curb, it’s just odd that for two months we didn’t need to.  But now we do this ourselves–Tony and I. No one else in the building has ever assisted or even cares as far as we know.

In the US and in Paris, the owners would hire someone to haul a large bin back and forth to the curb, as well as to clean up the common areas.  Here, as evidenced by both the laundry room and the garden, it is up to the residents.  There is a maid service that comes once a month to vacuum the hallways and stairs, so that’s nice. I hate to think what it would look like otherwise.  After staring at the same McDonald’s cup and empty cigarette cartons beside the trash bin for a few weeks and hoping the maid service would get it, I got out my own ZüriSack and cleaned up the garden.

photo Copyright 2006-2011 Kathy Lyon

As far as things breaking inside the apartment, that’s pretty much on us. In Switzerland, the tenant calls the repair service, not the landlord. The exception is when something is already broken at move in. The agency called for and paid for repairs to our washing machine when we moved in. However, in general, rental contracts specify a limit up to which a tenant will be responsible for repairs. For us it’s 200 CHF. Considering the cost of a service call, that’s actually a pretty low limit.

When the toilet stopped flushing (just before a guest arrived, of course), we called the plumber (Sanitär).  Not actually having any idea which one to call, I checked in with the agency for a recommendation. I got one and called. I’m happy to report that the plumber was excellent; he came out and fixed the problem in 24 hours. Unfortunately, the bill came in just under 200 CHF.

Just to be clear, aside from my not all veiled suggestions that our neighbors are slobs, I’m not complaining. Different isn’t wrong. In fact, I would love to be able to tell my tenant back in Seattle to take care of the garden, and the tree trimming, and the leaves in the driveway, and the gutters, and any appliance break-downs himself.

…Just a minute…

Okay. I’m back. The wash cycle finished. Worked like a champ. Bravo. Guess I’ll have to figure out how to clean the lint trap on this model and make sure this washer lives a long and shiny life.