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Home Repairs, Maintenance and Executive Housing Management

What do you do if your roof is leaking?

Who do you call if your water pump breaks down?

Where do you find a reliable repairman?

How often do your air conditioners need to be serviced?

How do you pay utility bills?

Why is the swimming pool turning green?

Dealing with household management and maintenance problems often prove to be some of the most frustrating experiences that expats have living in Indonesia. Due to poor workmanship and/or the poor quality materials used in the construction of many houses and the rigors of the tropical climate, home repairs and maintenance are constantlyExamining the breaker box needed. Common problems include leaks, problems with electrical wiring, plumbing and breakdown of electrical appliances, insufficient voltage to run numerous electrical appliances, and clogged rain drains.

There are several options available to expats in order to get the help that you need. These range from "do-it-yourself" or "get your domestic staff to do it", through hiring a tukang (a low-skilled or semi-skilled laborer), calling your company's maintenance personnel, to executive housing maintenance services.

Large companies sometimes have a maintenance agreement in place with their expat employee's landlords or a service company which is set up to handle housing-related problems for their expatriate staff, but most expatriates are not so fortunate. Most leases that expats hold will state that major maintenance issues will be the responsibility of the landlord, however for smaller issues they will have to deal with repair and maintenance problems themselves.

Housing Repairs

For general house maintenance or repairs of household appliances there are numerous contractors or companies offering their services. Post an inquiry on the Expat Forum to to find recommendations from other expats. If possible, it is always a good idea to consult your landlord to ask who he recommends or get a repairman (tukang) who has been recommended by an expat friend who has used their services and is satisfied with them.

If you are not able to do this or not satisfied with the repairman that your landlord has sent, there are now many online options for various problems. In most cases they are reliable and are concerned about the review you will give them as normally good reviews on line leads to more work for them.

One of the main difficulties in dealing with the repairmen (they usually come in teams, rarely alone) is the language barrier. Miscommunication is common and your explanation of what you want is often met with blank looks, or perhaps even worse, nods of understanding when you are sure they haven't got a clue what you want! You can also ask your driver or maid to help find someone or to interpret for you

Your average tukang will most likely never have seen the interior of a true western style house and therefore has no idea of what a westerner would consider common or the level of workmanship that you are expecting. An Indonesian tukang is seldom a highly trained tradesman as you would expect to find in a developed country. Most probably they have never been schooled in their trade or used modern power tools. In most cases, their tools are extremely basic and their knowledge is limited to problems that they have been exposed to or their friends have told them about.

Commonly there are two ways of hiring a tukang, a set fee for the entire job (called borongan), or when the client supplies the materials and pays the tukang a daily wage for his labor only. Both of these methods of payment have their drawback. If you agree on a set fee for the total completed job, be careful that the tukang uses materials that you have agreed on. Often tukang will try to gain additional profit by using inferior materials to increase his profit margin. This is very important if you are having construction done and the proportion of cement to sand is being compromised! It is also common that the width of iron used in structural building support is switched for a lower grade or smaller iron, which results in a weaker building structure. It should be VERY clear to both parties as to which material you want to use prior to agreeing on a price and you or a trusted mandor (project manager/construction supervisor) should supervise the job.

Unfortunately, the outcome of the other common payment option where the client pays for the material and pays labor on a daily basis lends itself to prolonged jobs. Most tukang do not work at a very fast pace. This becomes even more pronounced if they are getting paid by the day. To an expat the pace of work can be extremely frustrating. Before work beginsConstruction site it is suggested that you discuss an estimated time frame with the tukang and suggest that you are not too flexible if the job exceeds the expected time. Tukang may need to be supervised during the day to check that they are not sleeping or having numerous cigarette/coffee/tea/snack/chat breaks. It should be understood that the tukang is responsible for bringing his own tools. If you have the required tools for the job/s and the tukang uses them during the job, make sure that they are returned to you after the job is completed and they don't go home with the tukang.

When calling a repair shop you may find that the person you need to talk to is not there and your calls are not returned. They may promise to come at a certain time, then after you have stayed home to wait for them they don't show up. Estimates of when a job is likely to be completed are often inaccurate. Sometimes the repairs made are actually only temporary or stopgap measures, and the problem will recur shortly after the guarantee period has ended.

One of the best stories we've heard of this common problem was from an expat on the Expat Forum who had a chronic leak problem in his house. He'd tried several repairmen, but no one seemed to be able to fix it. Along came Fix-it Man number 4 who solved the problem! The family was so relieved, until a month later when the barrel that had been placed in their attic to catch the leaking water crashed through the ceiling into the house! Normally there is a reason why quality repairmen charge more for their services.

Prices for repair services are not fixed and there can be huge differences between companies and the quality of their work. It is always best to compare prices and, if possible, check previous jobs that the workman has done to make sure they can produce the standard of work you are expecting. Negotiate before agreeing on a price as well as a time frame for the job before allowing the repairs to begin.

The repair and maintenance processes are often complicated by the fact that homes in Indonesia are undoubtedly constructed differently than homes in your home country. What would never even be considered safe because it isn't "up to code" may be common place methods of construction in Indonesia. Electrical wiring and plumbing may not be well planned out and the "easiest” fix may be taken when a problem arises rather than a better long-term solution which most likely involves disassembling cement walls or tiled floors. Many owners will also look for short-term solutions to problems in order to save money.

Your Responsibilities under your Lease Agreement

It is very important for an expatriate living in a rented house or apartment to be aware of which maintenance matters are the responsibility of the landlord, and which should be handled by the tenant. Major structural problems, plumbing or well water problems, for example, should be taken care of by the landlord and this should be included in the lease agreement. Smaller maintenance jobs are normally taken care of by the tenant. In many cases, the determination of who is responsible for the repairs is made in the contract by stating the amount of the repair. We recommend that you include in your lease agreement that cheaper repairs are the responsibility of the tenant, and more expensive repairs are the responsibility of the landlord.

Because of the common practice in Jakarta of paying the full lease agreement cost for at least one year (up to 3 years) in advance, the tenant has little leverage in ensuring the completion of any repairs or improvements agreed to in the lease agreement which are to be carried out after the agreement is signed. Some landlords are very helpful and take good care of their properties, however there are many who are reluctant to invest any more money in the property after they have received their rental payment. Experts suggest that prospective tenants be very specific about what they want and have the property well inspected before signing a lease agreement. "For a property that has been unoccupied for some time or has undergone large scale renovations, we recommend a full housing audit."

Many tenants opt to hold back a portion of the rental payment until all agreed upon renovations or repairs are done. Or they make the final payment after a specific period of time (for example, one month) after they have moved in so that they can "discover" if there are any additional problems with the house after living in it for several weeks. These provisions, of course, should be written into the lease agreement.

Air Conditioning

servicing air conditionersAir conditioners (AC) need to be serviced regularly by a professional maintenance company. This is due to the buildup of dust, dirt and mold within the interior blower and exterior compressor. Failure to have your AC systems serviced regularly can cause the AC unit to not function properly and may endanger your family's health, especially if you have family members with allergies due to inevitable buildups of mold and mildew. Ensure that the service includes a complete cleaning of the interior/exterior air filter, blower, and condensation coils. The service should also include a Freon level inspection. The Freon level in most units should be maintained at 70 PSI (Pressure per Square Inch).

The lack of regular AC maintenance or the misuse of the unit by running it non-stop can result in poor AC performance, leaking, and further damage to the compressor and other components. Typically this routine air conditioner maintenance is the responsibility of the tenant.

More information on Air Conditioners & Air Conditioning in Indonesia


Electrical Outages

Disruption of electrical service happens in Indonesia however it is more common in the 2nd and 3rd tier cities and the provinces than in Jakarta. Unsafe wiring is a hazard in older housesThis can be caused by tropical storms resulting in broken connections, broken cables or debris falling onto the power lines. Most of the time the reason for the power outage is not obvious and is almost always unannounced. For problems regarding electricity supply the State Electricity Company (Perusahaan Listrik Negara, PLN) has a 24-hour service line where you can report outages anywhere in Jakarta. Call 123 for a tape-recorded message in Bahasa Indonesia and press 1 to leave your message. You may need to have a staff member or Indonesian-speaking friend leave the message for you. If you can ever manage to get a PLN staff member on the phone, they are usually not of much assistance and are unable to tell you how much longer the power outage will be. However, it is still suggested that you call PLN as they may not be aware of the problem and could then send someone to the affected area to investigate the cause.

If the phone reporting method doesn't give you satisfactory answers, you can send your driver or household staff off into the neighborhood to try to determine the source of the problem, if it is local. They can usually come back in a short time knowing the relative scope of the problem and whether or not any PLN staff are on the scene trying to repair the problems.

Power outages in Jakarta are far less frequent than they used to be, but some families will chose to have a diesel generator on standby. Depending on the capacity of the generator, it may be able to run a few lights and an air conditioner or it may be capable of supplying the total power needed to supply the home. The generator should be periodically checked to make sure that it is in running order should it be needed.

For more information on Electricity in your home

Information on Swimming Pool Maintenance & Repairs in Indonesia

Landline Telephone Repairs or Outages

Land line telephone service in Indonesia is not 100% reliable. Bad connections, disconnections and overloaded cables are commonplace. For telephone repairs or complaints call PT Telkom at 117. The operator will give you another phone number to call for the repair office in your area. Once again you may need to have an Indonesian language speaker assist you to place the call.

For more information on Phones in your Home

Gas Service

Bottled LPG gas used for cooking, water heaters and clothes dryersMost expatriates use bottled Elpiji (LPG) gas for home cooking, running some models of dryers and water heaters. The tanks can be purchased by your driver or household staff at a depot or shop or delivered to your home. It is suggested that you have a Gas Safety Gauge on your bottles to safeguard against any leakages.

If you live in an area of Jakarta that has piped gas, to report problems call the State Gas company (Perusahaan Gas Negara, PGN) at Tel. 315-0361 (24 hours). Be prepared to have someone speak Indonesian for you.

For more information on Bottled Gas

City Water

Many expatriate houses have their own deep well, water pump and water tower for water supply. Some homes leased to expatriates have water treatment systems installed. If your potential residence does not have a system installed, talk to your prospective landlord or your company about installing a water purification system. . If they are not willing to do this for the entire home, as this is a major investment, they may be open to install a small system that services the kitchen only. I In some areas piped water is available from the Water Company (Perusahaan Air Minum, PAM). Call 573-7023 for repairs or complaints between 8.00 a.m. and 4.00 p.m. Monday to Friday. The following numbers are also available for services in specific areas:

Central Jakarta 384-5421
South Jakarta 722-1875
Pondok Indah 739-8706, 725-7064
Prapanca 720-4111
Water supply 384-5421
Technical service 574-1921

A staff member or Indonesian speaker would need to make this call for you. These water supplies are for dishwashing, clothes washing, bathing and yard purposes only and are not potable. It is highly recommended that you use bottled water for personal consumption.

For more information on Household Water Treatment Systems

For more information on Bottled Water

Utility Bill Payment

If you are responsible for paying your own utility bills, the procedure is as follows. Bills will usually arrive by mail, however can arrive late. If you are renting however, it is highly likely that the bill is being sent to the owner's address and you may never receive it. Talk with your landlord about how they can send the bill to you in time for you to pay it. If you do not receive your bill you may call the following numbers to find out the amount of payment due. When calling these numbers, have your account numbers ready.

Electricity bill call 350-1412
Telephone bill call 109 or 147
PAM bill call 3190-0777 or email palyja.care@palyja.co.id

When you move in to your new house your landlord or property consultant should provide you with specific information as to where and when you must pay telephone, electricity and water bills as the payment points differ depending on the location of the house.

Most bills must be paid by the 20th of the month. Late payment can result in a fine or termination of service. Reactivating a service can be difficult and costly. By paying bills early in the month long lines may be avoided. Your driver or trusted household staff can pay the bills for you as long as you feel confident in trusting him/her with large amounts of cash or even better pay them on line through your ATM or online banking. For electricity and water each house is equipped with a meter and a meter card and employees from PLN and PAM will record information monthly on this card.

You can also arrange to have your bills paid by automatic debt from a local bank account if you have one. This avoids any late payment and having to trust household staff with cash payments. Your monthly statement sent from the bank will include the amounts debited and these can be compared to your bills from the utility companies. If you have a local bank account, it is possible to pay your phone bill online or via ATM in many cases, see BII and BCA services.

When you are moving into your residence, your landlord should provide you with a copy of the last month's paid bill for your reference, and to ensure that the accounts are paid up. You may also choose to check with the appropriate utility offices prior signing a lease agreement to ensure that the balances on each account are paid. This will protect you from paying for services that you have not utilized. Keep a record of all receipts and payments. These receipts may be turned over to the landlord when you depart. It is most likely that the landlord will hold the security deposit to pay the portion of the utilities bill that is still outstanding on your departure since the billing date will most likely not coincide with your move out date. Note the reading on the meters on your departure to be able to calculate what portion of the following month's bill is your responsibility and how much will need to be withheld from the security deposit.

Executive Housing Management

An alternative to dealing with all of these problems yourself is to use the services of a company to look after all the housing-related headaches of expat employees on the company's or individual's behalf. Many multinationals that have a large number of expats working for them will take advantage of this service. Housing Management is a comprehensive and professional service extended to expatriates and corporate clients to manage residential properties that they lease or own, including property management, housing audits, and consulting services.

For those that use Facility Management services, they can have qualified, certified technicians carry out a pre-lease inspection to ensure that the house or apartment is electrically, mechanically and structurally sound. Any problems discovered are rectified before signing the lease or repairs are negotiated into the lease agreement. Depending on the outcome of the audit, it may indicate to the company or embassy that the home does not comply with security and safety standards and therefore a family will need to select an alternative home.

Under the Executive Housing Management preventive maintenance program residential properties are audited to determine the condition of the electrical, plumbing, roofing, structural, mechanical, and safety components. Each home is then scheduled into a quarterly maintenance program that will inspect, service and repair problems at the property. A professional team is available 24 hours a day to answer emergency calls and respond quickly to home repair or maintenance problems.

Services can also include management of payments for household utilities, services, and community dues. Executive Housing Management makes all of the regular monthly payments and the client only needs to deal with one invoice. Optional services including pest control, pool cleaning and gardening services are also available to clients.

The Facility management team normally is required to present a quarterly report to the procurement team of the multinational/employing organization. This report includes the number of calls they took over the period, the type of repairs that were performed, the timeline in which it took to resolve the problem and then most importantly the feedback from the tenant on their satisfaction. This report is then normally used to share with the cooperate office to be included with the costs and care of their expats employed overseas.

Executive Housing Management can take the headaches out of your home maintenance and management needs. These services manage the home for a single family or a portfolio of homes for a company, and deliver quality services, in a timely manner that are cost efficient.

Related Articles:

Leaking Roofs and their Repairs
Rainy Season Woes
Swimming Pool Maintenance
Air Conditioners & Air Conditioning in Indonesia

Mini Glossary:

Tukang Workman (skilled or semi-skilled)
Tukang kayu Carpenter
Tukang listrik Electrician
Tukang A/C (ah-say) Air conditioning repairman
Tukang batu Brick layer
Tukang kebun Gardener
Kuli Person who normally carries heavy objects (coolie)
Mandor Job supervisor

Last Updated August 7, 2023