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After the Big Storm, the Big Repair

Personal property damage may be covered by insurance

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Water damage — including a now-inactivated light fixture — in the South Campus apartment kitchen of Lizzy Snell (COM’10). Photos by Brianna Healy (COM’12)

In the aftermath of a storm that dumped eight inches of rain on the Boston area in just three days, Boston University officials are scrambling to respond to more than 600 reports of water damage and flooding in over 150 buildings on campus.

“The worst part is just the sheer volume” of service calls, says Bill Walter, assistant vice president for operations and services at Facilities Management and Planning. “I’ve worked here for 30 years, and this is the largest number of storm-related complaints we’ve ever had.”

The combination of rainfall and driving, gale-force winds that persisted through Monday night brewed conditions that had an unusually severe impact on both older and newer buildings. In Warren Towers, for example, water beating against the caulked seams of windows eventually seeped through and flooded some rooms.

Major damage was dealt with quickly. Warren’s dining hall, beset with roof leaks, is fully up and running again. And a West Campus walkway closed when Sleeper Hall lost a 22-by-50-foot piece of outer rubber roofing has been reopened.

Meanwhile, many students living on campus are wondering when their carpets, stained ceilings, and damaged furniture will be repaired. Hundreds of students who returned to campus after spring break found themselves at the end of a long list of callers to Facilities Management & Planning.

John Fiorillo (CAS’13) with damp notes and textbooks in his Warren Towers room.

John Fiorillo (CAS’13) returned to his double in Warren Towers on Sunday morning to find the shelves near the windows warped by water damage. “All my books and my roommate’s books are damaged,” he says. “And they all smell pretty bad.”

Alice Gomez (CAS’10) didn’t discover the water damage in her 46 Mountfort Street bedroom until Monday night. “When I asked how long it would take to come and fix the problem, I was told that there were around 350 people ahead of me,” says Gomez, who has lived in the apartment for three years.

Gomez says she had to throw out posters, storage boxes, and mattress padding ruined by a ceiling leak. She now has to decide if she will file a claim for property damage, a process many students are confronting for the first time.

In one extreme case, Lizzy Snell (COM’10) woke up Saturday morning to find leaks and water stains in her South Campus brownstone. She laid out seven pots and pans to catch the drips and moved her futon out of harm’s way. “I called B&G,” says Snell. “They said, ‘We’re having a lot of calls about leaks; someone will get out there as soon as they can. I said, ‘I understand. There’s a lot of old buildings.’”

But two hours later, she says, her kitchen light fixture started to flicker and she noticed a water stain forming around the light and around her fuse box. She called again, and an electrician showed up within 15 minutes. When he unscrewed the light fixture to remove it, they discovered it had filled with water. “He dumped the water, took out the lightbulb, and fixed the wires,” she says. “He said it was safe and not dangerous anymore.”

David Zamojski, an assistant dean of students and director of the Office of Residence Life, says the University has some rooms available for students whose quarters are not habitable, but so far only one student has moved. “At this point,” says Zamojski, “we’ll take it day by day.”

Paul Clancy, director of the Office of Risk Management, says students with property damage can fill out a Student Property Damage/Loss Claim Form and turn it in to their resident assistant, who will verify the claim and forward it to the Office of Risk Management. Read the University’s full policy on reimbursement here.

“The RAs are the first line,” says Clancy. “They’re closest to the student and the mostly likely to know whether a claim is legitimate.”

He urges students to use common sense when filing claims and not to throw out damaged property until the claim is settled. “If clothes got soaked, it doesn’t mean we’re going to replace the clothes, but we might pay to clean them,” he says. “If a laptop has damage, let it dry out, then try using it. Don’t use it while it’s still wet. It’s not just blanket acceptance” of any claim, he says.

Marc Robillard, director of housing, says BU typically encourages students to file property damage claims with their private insurers before filing a claim with the University.

“Once the RA signs off on a claim and sends it in, it’ll probably take at least a couple of weeks,” Robillard says. “There are a lot of claims coming in and Risk Management is going to be swamped, but that’s life.”

Katie Koch can be reached at katieleekoch@gmail.com; follow her on Twitter at @katieleekoch.

7 Comments

7 Comments on After the Big Storm, the Big Repair

  • Anonymous on 03.18.2010 at 10:12 am

    so proud

    bet this kinda sh*t doesn’t happen at harvard. maybe we can borrow some MIT folks to design buildings that both work and are not eyesores

  • Anonymous on 03.18.2010 at 10:22 am

    The only problem I have about this whole situation is that Warren Towers’ dining hall and the windows directly outside of it leak every time it rains–albeit not as badly, but there are always a few drip buckets set up. After the storms, I’m not exactly sure what is done aside from cleaning the carpets and replacing the ceiling tiles, because the same problem recurs with the next storm. The extensive damage caused by this nor’easter (at least in the dining hall and outside corrider) is almost inexcusable because it is well known that the ceiling and windows leak already. I understand that this last storm dropped a huge amount of rain, but I feel this is no excuse for these areas. I’m largely disappointed with the management of Warren Towers–and probably will be shaking my head again with the next rain storm.

  • Anonymous on 03.18.2010 at 10:43 am

    RE: MIT - (eyesore and leaks)

    It’s funny that you’d request MIT to design buildings that both “work” and are not “eyesores.” Have you seen MIT’s Stata Center built by architect Frank Gehry? Albeit cool and beautiful, it’s like a building straight out of a Tim Burton film. Many people consider it an eyesore, and it’s LEAKING!!! Back in 2007, MIT filed a $300M lawsuit against Gehry for creating a building that (although might look cool) doesn’t function properly. Read the Globe article:

    http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2007/11/06/mit_sues_gehry_citing_leaks_in_300m_complex/

  • Anonymous on 03.18.2010 at 12:18 pm

    oh

    what an innocuous pictures to have for this article. would any new applicants like to see pictures of my room? or of some of my friends’ rooms for that matter? >.<

  • Anonymous on 03.18.2010 at 12:20 pm

    50,000/year

    I can tell you what the $50,000 isn’t going towards.

  • Anonymous on 03.19.2010 at 1:15 pm

    maybe once they go through and actually rennovate or tear down the sh*tty dorms and replace them with functioning dorms, this won’t happen.

  • Interesting Policy on 03.19.2010 at 4:52 pm

    Laptops?

    I’m somewhat confused how letting a laptop dry out does not count as a property damage claim as that would already void most manufacturer warranties. Anyone know if the policy on laptop batteries is the same as on cell phone batteries?

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