x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Think do-it-yourself is a lot of work? Try the maintenance crew

Having a maintenance crew on call in our block of flats seemed wonderfully useful - until we had to call them.

My husband and I decided living in an apartment would be a lot safer and more convenient in the first couple of years of our marriage because of the security features and access to maintenance people should anything go wrong. With the busy lives that we lead, we want convenience at our fingertips.

It turned out to be not so simple.

I like to think I am a very independent woman who can get a job done by myself, or at least play the game like a man. But in all honesty, that wasn't the case when I had to have maintenance done in our flat.

After living in our brand-new flat for 14 months, in a community that is still under construction, we discovered a growing ceiling stain caused by a leaky pipe at the entrance to our home. On top of that, the air conditioner in the master bedroom decided to stop blowing cool air.

Like any normal person would, I called the maintenance number given by security and explained my situation. They logged the complaints. The water leak was considered an emergency, so they dispatched a handyman immediately. Without the leak we would have waited longer, as non-emergency maintenance requires a minimum of three days between request and action.

The team assessed the situation and said they would come back the next day.

The arguments began almost immediately. Not only were the crew's timings inconvenient because their main working hours are the same as mine, but I discovered that the idea of 24/7 service was wishful thinking. For instance, if a pipe bursts in the middle of the night, we're on our own; the people with the tools and know-how to fix problems work only from 9am to 6pm, and evening staff are not always qualified for big jobs.

The next day, after I left work early to accommodate the maintenance team, my apartment was raided by men; during the second assessment big holes - about 80cm by 80cm - were carved in my walls to reach the busted pipe.

Why did my flat have to be ransacked for this work? The root of the problem is this: contractors throughout the UAE build high-rise buildings without thinking of maintenance. Breaking walls and cutting through ceilings is inevitable.

This, I later discovered, was because contractors and builders are under pressure to save costs and finish jobs in a hurry. The faster they deliver their projects, the more money they make, especially when real estate is booming.

But the consumers suffer the consequences: there were four different teams doing four different jobs in my flat on four different days.

First they carved out chunks of my ceiling. Then they patched the problem. Next they fixed the ceiling. And finally they painted.

Not only was it a all a waste of time - mine and theirs - it was also quite costly, as all the jobs added up.

On top of all of that, there is always the post-job cleaning that one has to do, no matter how careful the maintenance workers were. I have a small child at home.

All this made me realise that when you pick a home, you really need to look into how the place was built. Otherwise, so many issues will appear to cause an inconvenience, add additional expense or even permanently damage parts of your place.

It also made me realise that maintenance companies should hire more women and review their processes so no one has to go through what I did.


Aida Al Busaidy is a social affairs columnist and former co-host of a Dubai television show

On Twitter: @AidaAlB