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Need advice: squirrels in the air vents and worse (apartment management FAIL)
My apologies for how long this will get, I want to include all relevant details (and odds are I'll forget some stuff because I have memory problems, but anyways). Here goes...
This all started in about May of 2008. I heard odd scratching/scampering noises through the vent in my room up near the ceiling, and at first thought it was a small dog or something I was hearing upstairs. (We're not allowed to have pets in this community, though I do know people try to sneak them in.) After a while I figured out it was something in the vents, and thus informed maintenance.
Understand for a moment that I live in a residential program for disabled adults with mental health problems. The Program, as I will call it, rents a bunch of apartments in this complex, and there is one central apartment we all refer to as the "office" and that's where activities are held and meds are monitored, that sort of thing. So, when something breaks down or whatever, I call the Program office, and they call maintenance. That's how it's supposed to be done. I have never actually spoken directly to the complex management about this issue. I am kinda afraid I will completely lose it on them if I do, and I've felt that way for quite a while. I don't want to talk to them. They have proven what they think of my roommate and my situation quite well.
I have kept records in a notebook as to a bunch of the times maintenance has been called, and the claims of what steps were taken (a trap was placed eventually); I have also kept records of my own meager attempts to plead with the Program itself for more help. To make a long story short, the problem has continued unabated. And not only is it surely a disgusting mess inside the vents by now, with potentially-diseased dander and such coming out every time the heater/AC turns on, but those rodents are loud especially when they get to fighting (there is more than one). When they fight, it sounds like a cat slamming into metal over and over. Normal scampering isn't quite so bad but still creepy and wakes me easily. They can be in there at any hour of day or night.
I asked the apartment upstairs very recently one night in exasperation, if they could hear the stuff going on below them. Turns out they have the exact same problem, in their vents and walls. It wasn't much later we got one in our walls too. Also, I learned that an apartment across from the guy upstairs had the same issue before the people there moved out (so I would assume it continues). I was also shown where the little bastards are getting in, it's through the bottom of the upstairs guy's heater closet they've chewed through, accessed via the balcony like on our floor as well. Those closets all connect by floors (three floors on my side). I've seen large holes around pipes in the floor and ceiling of my heater closet before maintenance finally repaired the door (earlier this year) that was so trashed it didn't even close properly. The key to that closet is one we don't have.
Now there's something dead most likely in a wall behind one of the hall closets. The closet reeks and right by it by default (thus the hall) but not the vents or any other room we can figure out. The smell bleeds through the rest of the apartment when there isn't a stronger smell around to combat it, and we have to keep our bedroom doors closed because of that. We've cleared the closet out completely hoping maintenance would at least come look even though there is no obvious visible source for the smell; maybe a very thin crack in paint in one corner. My roommate tried putting a strong air freshener in there; now it just smells like dead critter in a field of obnoxious lavender. And while we're at it, there's been a problem with roaches that has never been properly taken care of, and we keep our place clean. Guy upstairs, same problem.
There has been a building fire elsewhere in the complex this year. After doing my own research on squirrel control / prevention, I've found statistics that say squirrels chewing on electrical wires inside walls account for 40% of residential type fires. Also I have found a local business that would take care of this problem, but of course that costs money (at the very least, management can't claim nobody does that kind of service). It is anyone's guess how many apartments in this complex have this problem; for what it's worth, nobody else in the Program has it.
Recently an inspector who checks out the Program specifically came through, and we told him about this issue. Supposedly he was going to call building code enforcers to come check it out. This hasn't happened to my knowledge, but from his reaction it appeared to be a grave issue (duh, but it was about time we got some kind of response like that... I pretty much hold the Program at fault for this as much as the complex management, as they have failed to properly advocate for us and we are not living in a safe and healthy environment promised us by the client rights).
You may wonder why I myself haven't done more about this. Why it might look like I've just sorta let this go on and lived with it. Hmm, disabled with mental health issues? I'm not an aggressive person. I've even been told by others I need to be more of a b*tch to get things done, and yet I really hate that thought because I'm not one, I've been trying to keep what good parts of my character are left after years of abuse and my particular combination of psychological labels. I tried to deal with this the way it was expected, and the so-called rules fell apart a level above me. It's my fault that other people don't do what they're supposed to do? Argh. Also, stress makes me sick (severe migraines). I've been so sick lately it's nuts. As you can imagine, this whole situation has not helped and the fact that I already sleep badly enough in perfect silence means that with the squirrel issue I am also not sleeping properly at all.
So what I'm looking for is what to do. Who to call. Who to report this to. I am figuring this problem is at the stupidly-retarded/dangerous level. People above me for several tiers have failed. Within the Program itself I have followed the client grievance procedure almost to the top now; trying to build up the nerve to write the top guy in person is yet another big stress factor. Somewhere there has to be an official or organization I can ask for help. Yes? I hope so...
I have some tape recordings of the squirrels making noise chewing / fighting / scrambling around. There is one vent in the kitchen that is absolutely foul even on the outside and can be viewed easily. I have my notes in the notebook. There are records at the Program office for when maintenance has been called (and they have even forgotten to write down some, so more calls have been made than are on record). I have a roommate even less able to advocate for herself than I am. I am afraid of losing what housing I have as this is all I have right now and my SSI income is laughable, though if I have to I might be able to afford a very cheep room for rent, considering what the Program charges. I'm on every waiting list for other housing I can get my hands on, and if I had more money I would be leaving here without a second thought. Even posting here is difficult, but I will be very grateful for any information I can get.
Thank you all, today I managed to call several different numbers trying to find the right one, and am now waiting on an inspector from Montgomery County Housing & Community Services housing code enforcement to call me back and schedule an inspection. I did speak to someone there in person already so hopefully things will actually move forward within the next few days. (And yes I did think about calling the news or a consumer-type hotline, but we'll see what this does first. I have social-related disorders so... the news thing is kinda scary even if it might also get things rolling.)
Thanks Gabrielle, I will look at that site too. Yes, the Program should be an RRP unless they've managed to fall under some other system but I doubt it. They're already finding themselves in hot water for other things, but even if housing code enforcement can get the complex management to get their rears in gear, it won't fix the Program's issues. So yeah, I should be reporting this to somebody in the upper reaches of mental health care too. Urgh. So sad, I came here for help and I swear the only reason I've gotten any better is in spite of them. Even if I manage to get out of here myself, there's still the other residents to consider...
Last edited by lady_shane; 12-02-2009 at 06:04 PM..
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