Plumbing problems abroad resolved – or are they?

May 25, 2017 | Visit Places

So. Following a ‘plumbing impasse’ at my little flat in Krakow, it all went quiet for a while. As you will remember there were a million and one issues that had turned a two week bathroom refit into an eternity. Read Part One of this saga here.

In true Polish fashion, the builder and the new chimney inspector had to meet at least once for a lengthy discussion about the situation.  Although I was not present, I can imagine it. My husband (on first arriving in Poland) could not fathom why, on meeting our friends at the airport, there was the need for a lengthy group discussion to discuss our immediate steps re. where we were going to buy food, who was going to do what, and where etc. Surely, this had been agreed before arrival?  What he didn’t appreciate was that in every Polish conversation there is a healthy exchange of opinions and each of us has to voice ours.  As there were six of us in total, this naturally took some time. Disagreements do not threaten rapport in Polish conversations: they are expected in Poland and enliven the discourse – while in England, we try to be diplomatic in every way and avoid any confrontation. Anyway, back to the impasse: thankfully, our builder and the new chimney inspector agreed that the boiler could stay in the bathroom but the vent would have to go out through the kitchen chimney, ie next door.


However, a Venn diagram of three overlapping circles now presents itself: you may wish to look away at this point.


Circle One: The chimney inspector, a man of utmost importance, remains involved:

  • The Veissmann installers came to extend the boiler pipes into the kitchen vents. The chimney inspector returned to sign the necessary paperwork at a cost of 200PLN.  Not so cheap for Poland prices.


  • I then received this gobbledeygook from the builder – lost in translation?
  • Which I think meant that the builder had obtained a document from the gas company to authorise reconnecting the gas, but it needed the all mighty stamp from the  building administrator.  We all know about this in Poland – no transaction is carried out without at least one huge rubber printed stamp. Thereupon problems ensured.  The administrator refused, saying the documents from the chimney inspector were only to certify the chimneys were in working order, but not the pipework in the chimney belonging to our boiler. This paperwork should be produced by the boiler installer, from Veissmann. So a long phone call ensued with said boiler installer, yet no agreement was reached. Stalemate. Again.


  • The man from Veissmann (suppliers of the central heating boiler) wrote to say that he agreed the gas company needed the necessary documentation from him about the chimney access work being carried out according to the law, but that the gas company also needed a separate document from the chimney inspector that this boiler chimney is certified as legal. He discussed this with the administrator who said he would send out another chimney inspector to do this work, of course for another fee payable by us.


  • However, this didn’t go to plan, as the builder wrote to me the following day saying the chimney inspector arrived at 10 o’clock the next morning to pronounce that he was under no obligation to sign the documentation as this is the responsibility of the person installing the boiler. No doubt he had to be paid for his troubles again. At four in the afternoon on the same day, the administrator arrived saying that he didn’t mind who signed the paperwork, the installer or the chimney inspector.  The builder didn’t understand why the Veismann rep had ordered the chimney inspector to come but he got the necessary paperwork from the chimney installer to the administrator who got out his mighty stamp and duly stamped the paperwork.


  • A week later I received the final completion document from Veissman and a copy of the boiler installer certificate.  Phew!


Circle Two: Gas safety problem in the building

  • The same day the chimney inspector signed the paperwork about the state of all the chimneys, I  received notification that following the inspection, there is urgent need to add valves to the gas pipework in the cellar of the building which apparently are to safeguard the safety and wellbeing of all the inhabitants from a gas explosion. In order to do this, the cellars would need to be cleared. “Oh la la”, the French would exclaim!


  • Two days later, I received an email  informing me that since many flat owners were behind on their payments (not me), the important gas work was NOT going to be carried out. I had just arranged with the builder to go into our cellar and throw out the rubbish the previous owner had left there. Perhaps Mr Angry was at work again?


  • Thankfully the day of the gas work dawned and I received an email to say the work IS going to happen as people had paid up! Clearly only threats work in Poland.


Circle Three: Resident’s campaign to keep the administrator

  • After a discussion with the administrator (who had resigned following the owners’ meeting) my good friend Gosia suggested I send an email to them pledging my support and appealing to the rest of the owners to keep them on. Our plumber had also given a quote for replacing the water pipes throughout the building and I gave my support for engaging him.


  • I duly sent the email (scripted by Gosia). Clearly the administrator had had second thoughts as voting forms appeared for the proposals he had presented at the unfortunate owners’ meeting the previous month.


  • Another week later, a letter from the administrator to say they are withdrawing their notice. 56% of people had voted for signing off the administrator’s budget and proposals. So we are in business again.


The work finally finished – or is it? The very latest:

Bathroom as it was, and a peek into the new – with boiler connections still to be tidied up

  • So a few days ago the work was finished, thanks to the builder who did more than  his duty to sort out the gas business.  Gosia represented all the paperwork with the stamp to the gas company, not an easy task as their offices are not in the centre of Kraków. So now we wait for the gas man to reconnect the gas and the meter.


  • The work started at the end of February. A two week job has taken three months to date. Perhaps this is normal for Poland, France, the whole continent?


  • So all is well, yet there is silence from the administrator about the main water pipes – so the danger of another flood, and reparatory work on my lovely new bathroom is at stake, again.If you have managed to read this far, take a bow. And if you are thinking of becoming a property owner abroad, I hope you like Venn diagrams…

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