On June 26, I received a text message from my compound’s management office that, effective July 5, the heating company would shut the compound’s hot water for three months to fix a pipe. Not three days, or even three weeks, but three entire months. And what’s more: we’re not the only ones.
Needless to say, people were outraged. My landlord organized a protest of sorts, asking all his renters to meet in the compound square to discuss how to deal with the company and get the word out to the media. But people had so inundated the property management and the heating company that 40 minutes before the meeting started, the management office sent us another message, saying that after many communications and hard work, the heating company would in fact not cut off water, and would let us know their change in plans.
At the compound meeting that night, an official from the management company (our compound owns and runs a number of properties around Beijing and China) informed us that the heating company has been doing this to other Beijing compounds. According to our landlord and the company official, one compound near Dawang Lu in the CBD has been out of hot water for a month already, and another neighboring compound hasn’t had hot water for a few weeks.
The official also reassured us that the water company would not shut off our water without a backup plan. She promised us that the company had two innovative solutions for us since there was such an uproar: 1. They’ll create an interim pipe to give us hot water while the original pipe was fixed; or 2. They’ll continue feeding hot water out of the old pipe while a new one was built, and divert water through the new pipe when that was finished. All were suitably mollified for the time being.
I’m sure we can all see where this was going: they’re shutting off the water anyway.
Sunday night, I returned from a 10-day holiday to find that the hot water company planned to shut down water for three months effective the next day (yesterday). That means that, should everything go according to schedule, our compound won’t have hot water until October 15. We’ll be lucky if it’s on before November.
According to my landlord, there are two more new solutions: we can shower in the gym with more than 1,000 other people, or we can fork out RMB 400 for our own hot water heater. He also says there is nothing to be done; our property company can’t sue the water company because the water company is the big guy; landlords who will likely lose money can’t sue the property company because it’s “not a property company issue”; and tenants can’t sue the landlords because it’s “not a landlord issue.”
Since the heating company is essentially a monopoly, there’s not anything anyone can do. It’s also pretty likely that since this is no one’s issue, this will keep happening to more compounds around the city.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons author Matthew Boden. Screenshot by Ellis Friedman.