Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

One apartment, hold the mold


Moving south to a supposedly good area of Athens is not reflected in the construction of this home. The latest issue — a furry foe called mold.

To recap our 3.5 months here:

1. Doorbell didn’t work
We bought parts and fixed it at our expense.

2. Toilet had no seat or lid (A first)
The plastic one provided by our landlord for 1.99 broke after one use. We spent 29.00 for a new one and installed it.

3. Fireplace is poorly built and has no flue (A first)
See, “No smoking in the house” for details. Fireplace now sealed off, and the landlord did not appear surprised. Wonder why?

4. Double pane glass is a hoax (A first)
Glass is not fitted to frame on sliding doors and windows. Nothing we can do, it’s just cold and noisy; I sleep with earplugs (a first).

5. Window and door frames not fitted to wall
Big gaps allow breezes from the mountain range to whoosh into the house; bugs, rain, dirt and noise enter at will. I did a lot of caulking, weatherstripping and plugging.

6. Outer doors let in light when closed, so it’s never dark when we sleep
We’d bought and put up drapes, but had to take them down because condensation forms on the cheap uninsulated glass, moistens the drapes and causes mold.

7. No insulation
Landlords told us there is insulation, but it’s a lie. It’s freezing, it’s noisy. See, “How to stay warm in winter” if you have the same issue.

8. OTE installed a “Miracle on Thiseos Street,” but service is shoddy
We live in a “dead zone,” where DSL can blackout at any time and for days. Installation of a new cable was started for us at the beginning of March, but the strikes interrupted that until today. We have a phone number, but it has never worked and we’re still expected to pay our bill; if we don’t pay, we’re required to schedule and pay for another installation after we’re disconnected.

9. The dog downstairs
I love animals, but this is a ridiculous creature. Howls all day, barks at absolutely everything, but runs away if you bum rush him. Some watchdog.

10. The landlords downstairs
Nice people, but bad landlords and their surround sound big screen and stereo leave little to the imagination. Cooking often smells like something died in the building from which there is no escape!

11. Radiator fell off the wall
* Added morning of March 27

12. Kitchen cabinet door fell off
* Added March 28

13. Knob flew off kitchen cabinet
* Added April 18

14. Roof started leaking
* Added November 2008, January 2009
Destroyed: a) Standalone closet we purchased for the living room and everything inside (my shoes, boots, coats, hats, bags); b) kitchen wall against which the food pantry stands; c) second bedroom wall against which the desk (once) stood.

Martin told me there’s a Greek saying that goes something like, “If you don’t praise your house, it will fall on you.” OK, but what if you praise your house, and it’s falling on you anyway? Shall I try cursing? LOL!

Fuzz is not fashionable

On Sunday, I thought I saw some specks on the wall where we’ve placed our bed. Upon closer inspection, it’s mold. Great, another first. More prolific near the ground and sparse as one goes higher, it’s only on one wall, which not coincidentally faces the elements. Fine. I clean it up according to sound advice I found in “Mold Resources” from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Telos, right? Wrong.

Last night I went into my good closet to fish out a tailored suit from my days in New York as a “rich American” and what did I find? More mold. Superb, another first! I make a habit of covering everything expensive with plastic, but other items were not so lucky and covered with fuzz and stinky mildew. The closet wall — also facing the elements — is overrun with big black spots and streaks (like water was running down the wall), and there are water stains on the closet floor. To me, it looks like it’s happened before and was simply cleaned up and painted over for the next unsuspecting tenant…which would be us. We already called the Tenant’s Rights Agency, and it could take months and legal action before anything is done.

At this point, we have two choices:
1. Show it to our landlords, watch them fain ignorance, have them blame us and ask us to pay for it.
2. Show it to our landlords, they’ll promise to fix it and then do nothing, as past history has shown us.

So then we’ll have the choice of:
1. Moving (again), breaking our lease (again), incurring moving costs (again) and losing our deposit (again) *Sigh*
2. Living with discontent landlords downstairs and exposure to spores that could make us repeatedly ill. Woo hoo!

We ended up showing it to our landlords, and they knew about it. They explained that the roof needed to be fixed since before we moved in and they neglected to call anyone, thinking it wouldn’t be a big deal to wait until after winter was over. (Note: Two winters passed and a lot of complaining before anything was finally done, and by that time it was too late to save our health or our possessions for which we were never compensated). They also didn’t feel a need to warn us. Figures.

Fun with fungi

From reading about mold — this must be the “exotic” part of living in Greece everyone keeps telling me about — this is caused by dry wall rot, a leak either in the roof or the plumbing, ill-constructed balconies that tip toward the house and allow water to seep into the concrete and through the walls, excessive humidity in the house or all four. If no repairs or renovations are planned by our landlords, our choices are pretty much a dehumidifier/fan, vigilant and continued cleanings, sandbags and/or a waterproof barrier on the balcony, or moving. For the time being, we’ve moved all of our furniture away from the wall and put lamps/fans in strategic areas to keep them dry.

Living in New York for 2 years and spending a year in Miami — where weathermen use adjectives like, ‘oppressive’ and ‘overbearing’ to describe humidity in those cities — never ruined anything of mine. But non-humid winter weather in Greece molds my walls and wardrobe? Ridiculous. I can think of some other choice words, but I’m trying to keep it PG-13.

So thank you Greece for all of these “firsts” and forcing me to own a tool set since 1999 that both impresses and frightens all the men I know, but I’d rather have one good apartment, hold the mold. Is that really so much to ask? 😉

Related posts

Cockroaches and courthouses, landlords and leases
Give me a break!
O klimatismo dude no cometh

* Hat tip to Cheryl for providing much needed comedy relief that brought tears to my eyes, including: “If you can’t beat it, wear it” and “Isn’t it nice to smell like a problematic basement?” and “Your landlord should look at his sh!tty house.” My other favorite is not PG-13. 😆


  Kat wrote @ March 27th, 2008 at 13:00

Oh very nice mpanio! Malakies! 😉

Katalaba na mou les, but we are in difficult situation. Every euro we spend on moving or a complaint is money we do not have to leave the country. We just got finished losing our 500 euros deposit from the last bad house, 600 euros for moving, countless euros to set up the phone/DSL/house, making all the repairs, etc. Not to mention, I’m the one who is responsible for all the packing and unpacking…I really hate it, and I’ve done it twice already in one year. I hate mold too, but to me this is not a clear choice because I want to move my life, not my house.

In the past, I have brought complaints against landlords and won, but it took more than 5 years and 5.000 euros (translators/laywers/witness expenses/lost wages), and I have not seen a single cent of the money and damages awarded to me by the court 2 years ago. To force it, I must again go to court. I do not believe I have the time, patience/sanity and money to do it again.

Ironically, if I were an illegal tenant, I could leave with no problem or penalty. But of course, a lease in my name is required for my permit, so I had to do it the straight way. Stupid me for being legal.

  Stathis wrote @ March 27th, 2008 at 12:00

Μήπως είναι καλύτερα να αλλάξετε σπίτι? Ή να κάνετε μήνυση?

πάντως είναι να μην σου τύχει! Εμένα μου πλημμύρισε το σπίτι επειδή η απω πάνω έβαλε να πλύνει τις βελέντζες στην μπανιέρα και άφησε την βρύση να τρέχει και μετά πήγε στον γκόμενο να κοιμηθεί!!!!!

  deviousdiva wrote @ March 27th, 2008 at 14:21

Sounds like you’ve got it easy ! LOL

  Robert John wrote @ March 27th, 2008 at 15:40

Time for you to move out of that god-forsaken country!

  FMS wrote @ March 27th, 2008 at 16:40

How have you managed to lose deposits? Every good Greek knows that you refuse to pay the last month’s (or 2 months) rent, so that the landlord cannot steal the money! I did this with my last landlord (who was a lawyer) and who kept on reminding me of what the law requires. I simply informed him that I didn’t have the spare cash to afford it… To make up the difference between the (high) deposit and the rent, I also left one unpaid bill. Later, I sent a letter of explanation, inviting the former landlord to request any extra monies owed (he didn’t).

A general principle for all: make sure that others have to sue you, and not the other way around. The reason? Apart from the cost, winning in a Greek court seems to be fairly meaningless. Kat’s experience in [not] collecting damages awarded seems quite common here.

Kat Reply:

The last deposit was lost because my fiance decided one week before we were moving, that we were indeed moving. Therefore, that month’s rent had been paid 3 weeks previous and we were current on all our bills. I’d stated my objection to paying the rent earlier that month when there were rumors of a move AND I stated my objection to this current apartment, but my voice as an experienced renter and woman do not carry as much weight in this house as a stubborn man in his own country who has never lived away from home. (I love my fiance, but he is chauvinistic and illogical at times. I have said this to his face, so I’m not speaking behind his back.)

I myself have never lost a deposit in any country/city I’ve lived, except to the man I took to court, but that was a situation in which he broke into the house, changed my locks while I was out of the country, rented my home to someone else (thus collecting double rent from that person and myself), rendering me homeless when I returned, and I was forced to go to police to accompany me and get my things (some he stole) or I could have been arrested. You can read all about it on the “Cockroach” post referenced above.

  Cheryl wrote @ March 27th, 2008 at 18:13

Oh Kat, now the radiator? When it rains, it pours. You poor thing.

About being ill, I’ve honestly been wondering if that’s why we’ve been so sick this year, aside from every nasty virus the kids pick up at school. My sister swears that’s why I’ve been sick so much. I’m sick again…yippee.

We talked to the guy that sold us the house about the mold. He was like, ” oh, we thought that it was only because the house was closed up so much”. I just don’t understand how the inside of a closet is black and someone can pretend that it’s not a problem. Yes, we looked at the house, we just didn’t open the closets in the problem bedroom…only the ones in the kids’ rooms. Ti na kaname? We own this problem now.

BTW-glad to help you laugh a little about this since I know it’s not really funny.

  Kat wrote @ March 27th, 2008 at 20:31

DD – Truly, I’m in the paradise I’ve always dreamed of. LOL!

RJ – You know, it’s funny you should say that. If you’ve read other posts of mine, you know that my original date to depart was September 2006, but I fell in love and got engaged…silly me. 😉 So whenever something happens, I kind of feel it’s a sign that I’ve indeed stayed too long and affirms my decision to go. I was dead against taking this house and the last one, but part of being a couple is making compromises even if you know they’re wrong, so you can rub it in the other person’s face later on. 🙂

C – A long time ago in my 20s, I kept coming down with flu-like or infection type symptoms, doctors would give me something, I’d get well and fall ill again. They couldn’t figure it out, until finally someone asked if I sat near an air conditioner at work. I sat in front of one. Turns out that air conditioner’s filter had never been changed, so I kept catching molds from it. Once they changed it, I got well and stayed well. I’m not telling you this because it necessarily applies to you or to make you paranoid, but it’s something to consider.

Talking to you about things makes it easier somehow because you know what it’s like to live back there, and you know what it’s like to live here. I don’t have to give peripheral information. Like you said, we share a solidarity in our sense of humor and persistence to be happy in the here and now, even if our everyday lives may differ slightly with you being in a house in the north with kids, and me here in an apartment in Athens with my new furry friends. 😆

Didn’t you know that if you ignore problems or put them on the street, they’re no longer problems? Out of sight, out of mind…or blame the public sector. Get with the program, will you? Filakia

  The Former Butterfly wrote @ March 27th, 2008 at 20:25


What would you do if the landlord threatened to kick your butt if you didn’t pay and physically got in your face, and refused to let you get back into your place.

Twenty years ago, this happened to me at my first place, and made me very uncomfortable. Fortunately, I had a very nice neighbor who was much bigger than the landlord and when he saw what was happening to me, he stepped in and the bullying stopped cold. Although I’m not averse to fighting for a good cause, I felt ambushed by this guy since he was not a violent type I thought and was shocked by his extremely aggressive behavior.

Since then, I’ve grown a pair and realized that aggressiveness in Greece is just bravado and not really a threat. I can scream and yell and get in your face as good as the rest of em. But, initially, coming from the states, I took personal threats seriously because as you know, in the states sometimes people make good on their threats, unlike Greece.

  Cheryl wrote @ March 28th, 2008 at 00:05

Kat, We’ll be ripping out the closets when it gets warmer. After K fixes the problem…we’ll see. We’ve also considered moving the bed in the room that now serves as a closet…but it won’t fit. So we run the dehumidifier daily, but it doesn’t really seem to help. I’m afraid to see how much mold is between the closet and the wall, I’ve seen the other things that we’ve worked on around here…

re:- 2nd paragraph. Right back at ya!

Finally, LOL! You’re too much!

  FMS wrote @ March 28th, 2008 at 01:41

Former Butterfly: yes, such confrontations can be nasty. I saw them in England, rather than in Greece, so they are universal I guess. For my part, somehow I have always managed to avoid criminal and violent landlords, so it is only observational. Generally speaking, the expression “his bark is worse than his bite” can be applied in Greece. {Note well: this expression should not be used liberally in relation to Russian and Albanian mafia that you can find in Greece]

Kat: I hope that you are now convinced of male superiority in all of these matters!

  GANIG wrote @ March 28th, 2008 at 11:13

I tend the to agree with the comment that it is time to get out of Greece. The Athenians that rent these boxes are forced to do so as they have no alternative other than to move to their villages where there is no work. In your case, you could easily walk into a beautiful home (I cannot speak of europe, but it’s an excellent time to buy in NJ, NY or CA) with a backyard and everything most Athenians dream of and also to get a better job as well. AND NO DAILY FRUSTRATION AND NO INSULTS. Well, you might get bored at times as life might not be as exciting, but you need to think of priorities (and missed opportunities) as the years go by fast…and Greece will always be there to visit.

  EllasDevil wrote @ March 28th, 2008 at 20:31

Well well well…

What can I say? You ABANDONED the ‘true north strong and free’ (that’s the northern suburbs of Athens BTW and not Canada) to live ‘down there’ with that lot

But… we’ll still welcome you back up here when you come to your senses!


  melusina wrote @ March 28th, 2008 at 20:34

Kat, the mold is SO scary for your health, I hope you can find a way to keep it at bay somehow (or force your landlord to fix it asap). I can’t believe they aren’t living with the same thing in their place? Do people here just not understand how unhealthy it is???

We had one hell of a mold problem on Kos – and our landlady’s offered solution to the problem? Paint over it! The weird thing was – the mold came in winter – it wasn’t humid or warm, although it wasn’t cold cold either.

Other than that, I think overall we lucked out with our rentals. Our apartment in Athens was good except for a massive ant problem (hey, the cats made their bread and butter in that place). On Kos we had the mold and a landlady who needed LOTS of attention (and having a doctor living downstairs meant she got free medical advice – to this day – she still calls us now and then to talk to my husband about her various health problems!). On Litochoro, we were blessed with good landlords who were almost never around and friendly when they were, who fixed the toilet right away when it broke and were quite sad when we left.

In our house now, I’m terrified of the first sight of mold. We have no windows in our bathrooms so we run the bathroom fan for awhile after a shower to deplete the humidity. Supposedly the house has been built to fight mold, but I don’t trust anything anymore.

I hope somehow, some way, you get a silver lining here.

  graffic wrote @ March 29th, 2008 at 02:04

I live in a ground floor, and the fight against the mold is constant. I have some small areas with humidity but not mold (yet). For me the trick is to remove it as fast as it appears and change the “air” of the house often. But you know that in winter I moved the table near the radiator because I was freezing and the house was frozen.

One week ago (with the strikes) I fought against two big cockroaches. I believe they teleported inside the house because there is no hole big enough to allow them inside. Also with some spiders but those were piece of cake.

Now it rains and I’m thinking to continue writing under the blankets (I´m cold).

My landlord, as all landlords tries to avoid fixes, but at least they seem like nice people (they = couple).

Tomorrow I have “general cleaning”, I’ll find out if the mold started the invasion after the rain.

  3ni wrote @ March 29th, 2008 at 02:58

I had this problem in my uni accommodation. The problem was never solved as the university just sent the cleaners in. I took matters in my own hand and although this is super powerful stuff, it works and what’s more it keeps the mold at bay for at least 3 weeks (mine use to last for 6 weeks, even in winter and without the problem being fixed). I used Mr Muscle drain cleaner (yes … drain cleaner). You can use any alkali (I found this to work better than any acidic bleach). All you have to do is smear it on (with gloved hands and mask with windows open for ventilation) and leave it for an hour. Then just wipe it off. It will just come right off. Then what I do is put a thin layer (slightly diluted) on the area and leave it to dry. I should hasten to add though that it also eats away at the paint, so you would see that the colour is a bit faded. But given the risks to your lungs, I’d say I’ll be happier with faded paint.

  biosios wrote @ March 29th, 2008 at 09:52

“M – The word I’m thinking of starts with an ’s’ and ends with a ‘y,’ but it’s not superiority.”

you stubborn American woman Kat! hahahahha 😉

men at better at lots of things than women, esp when it comes to salary negotiations. men are just better at negotiating in general. women are better than men at some things too, i’m sure, but i’ll have to get back to you on it 😉

as for apartment complaints, i’m not surprised 😉

  Kat wrote @ March 29th, 2008 at 11:33

C – I told you, sometimes there’s no difference between laughing and crying. Get well soon!

M – The word I’m thinking of starts with an ‘s’ and ends with a ‘y,’ but it’s not superiority.

GANIG – As you know, my priorities are in order, I already hold excellent jobs in the USA and UK, and you aren’t saying anything I don’t know. However it’s not as simple as me showing up in the USA with a non-American fiance/spouse — there are legally binding financial and immigration burdens on me as the U.S. citizen that I don’t care to go into publicly. But I appreciate your concern nonetheless.

I may still buy a home there, even though we plan to settle somewhere else.

P.S. I don’t consider living in a ramshackle house with mold and occasional basic services to be “exciting.” 😉

ED – Listen here northern person, when you’re given a choice between ‘A’ and ‘B’ and both choices are bad, it comes down to the lesser of evils. The problem is, you can never know if the “new” one is better until you actually live there; it’s not like you can interview the former tenants and get the dirt (although wouldn’t that be great if you could?). I’m reminded of a different comment on this site containing the phrase, “Better the devil you know.” I like the north better, simply because I feel people are nicer and the neighborhood was set up better than this one, but we’re not moving back to EllasDevil territory despite that warm, non-mocking offer. Filakia 🙂

Mel – I don’t think they’re living with the same situation because they live in an apartment they actually own and therefore care about, whereas our apartment (we found out) belongs to the landlord’s sister, who lives in a beautiful home with her husband somewhere else. She is unemployed and every euro spent on repairs is therefore money out of her pocket that I’m sure she’d rather use for shopping or whatever. But she’s really no different than any landlord I’ve had in that regard, except Mr. A who was the one landlord in 10 years that fixed things immediately and responsibly. It’s good to hear you’ve had a majority of good experiences.

Your Kos situation mirrors ours now. It’s winter, it’s dry, it’s mild. OK, it rained yesterday, but I think the closet and wall were vulnerable much earlier to moisture (rain, snow from 2 months ago) and are only now showing mold because it took that long to infect the porous material and surface. That’s just my guess.

Graf – Thankfully, we have not seen any roaches or 8-leggers, but I could see where you might have visitors. They find ways to get in through tiny holes and tend to hide anywhere warm and moist. I highly recommend a few of those traps — one near the toilet, two in the kitchen (under the sink and in a cabinet) and one under the radiator; they eat the bait and die somewhere else. It is good to allow air circulation as you said, but because the uninsulated house is so cold in general (like your house), it’s not something we enjoy, especially right after we’ve had a nice warm shower. Brrr!

3ni – The EPA recommends detergent and water, and that has worked so far…we’ll see. I don’t use bleach or plan on using drain cleaner because even when we use it for the drain and have the bathroom door closed and windows open, it’s incredibly toxic (which is the reason it strips paint). Should what I’m doing not work and the landlord not fix the real problem, I will seek safe alternatives.

B – Yes, I’m so demanding, wanting a basic box to live in; I’m sure that your uncle would just mutter, “Ax, einai kseni.” Maybe you should join my fiance is the chauvinistic corner. If the negotiations part is true about men, why did I need to remind him to bargain the rent down and how to do it? Salaries cannot be measured since men earn more than women despite equal education, skills and work ethic because of gender discrimination (worldwide) and patriarchal tendencies (GR); many women are automatically viewed as weak/lesser and therefore have to work twice as hard as any man to prove otherwise, but called bitchy when all they’re doing is acting like a man.

A lot of women think I act like a man so careful who you address, and I’m not afraid to take you on. I have a whole list of things women are better at, proofreading their comments is one. 😉 But I still love you.

To all – A kitchen cabinet door fell off Friday evening. Maybe I’m on a “Tool Time” DIY show and I just don’t know it.

  satan_my_lord wrote @ March 29th, 2008 at 12:10

move out…don’t be malakas

  GANIG wrote @ March 29th, 2008 at 14:37

What if people are listening?. In modern Greek, the word malakas is used metaphorically in everyday speech to define the individual who does not get it and repeats the same mistakes over and over again….

  Kat wrote @ March 29th, 2008 at 15:10

S – What’s more malakas? People not listening to what I already said on this subject or giving unsolicited advice? 😉

GANIG – If I move to another house as the last commentator says, and it’s the same or worse than this one, wouldn’t that be repeating the same mistake? Look how many people said they have the same problem. So moving house doesn’t change anything, except we’d waste another 1500+ euros and take two steps back in our goal to leave GR. To me, that’s beyond malakas.

So if you’re saying that I don’t get it, I’ll again point to the fact that we absolutely do get it, which is why we’re saving money to permanently move away and end everything here. We’re not looking for a temporary band-aid. We want to purge the disease forever.

The situation is under control (as I said), we have no guarantee that another house in Athens will be better (as I said), and we’re not interested in delaying our departure from GR (as I said). That’s what I’m talking about regarding not listening to what I said on this subject.

Tora poios einai pio malakas?

I have no quarrel with you or anyone, so I’m not sure why you started down this path with me. But if you’re going to insinuate that I’m malakas (and then call me “the biggest of them all”), I have the right to respond in kind by pointing to the common sense and logic that contradicts what you say, in addition to the weakness in someone’s unsolicited advice to move. It’s not about self-righteousness — it’s about choosing the lesser of evils and fulfilling long-term life goals that don’t concern you. I don’t understand your choice to sink deeper into name calling, but it saddens me because we had such nice rapport (even when we disagreed) until today. I wish you well.

  makakas wrote @ March 29th, 2008 at 17:24

If you publsh my post I will have to tell you bravo, but I am sure you wont………

  GANIG wrote @ March 29th, 2008 at 17:18

I was only responding to your name calling of who is a bigger malakas and as it is common among Greeks you “tsimpises” (you took the bate). I would not take it all that seriously Kat and would not remove posts. I wish you well as well.

Kat Reply:

So you’re baiting me now? Jeez. The name calling began with someone else, but you stuck your nose in and joined, so then I responded to him and you. I have a right to remove things that don’t concern the topic of this post or contribute anything to the discussion. I believe readers appreciate being spared from spam, personal attacks and nationalistic monologues, of which 25 percent of comments are. I refuse to promote or give a forum to people who don’t deserve it; there are plenty of other sites offering the kind of content and voice they seek, and I won’t cave to bullying or be smothered by a mob majority.

  Kat wrote @ March 29th, 2008 at 19:05

Mak@kas – I’d be ecstatic to publish your personal attack on me, Albanians and my readers (of which only 22 percent are American), so people could see what kind of person you are. However my policy specifically states that any comments with profanity, racist and mean-spirited language are held in moderation. My aim is also to minimize Google searches on my site for wh*res, anti-Amer!can sentiment and words like g@misou.

It’s ironic that you say “we” and “us” — I assume you mean Greeks — as if you speak for all Greeks in the world, and “here” (which I assume means Greece) even though you live in Gravesend, UK. And bravo to you for gaining such a full picture of me by reading 20 posts of 215 total in under 45 minutes. Thavma! 🙂

Thank you for taking the time to notice someone as worthless as me. I hope you find happiness in your life so you can leave others in peace. Sto kalo!

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