Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lessons to be learnt!

The last week and a half have been very eventful, hectic, and interesting for me. There are so many lessons to be gleaned from the events that have happened.

Let’s get to the lessons incident by incident.

First incident:

Exactly one week ago, on January 14, my entire work group was herded into a meeting room at 11 am, to announce the letting go of 2 of our colleagues, and our director. The lay-offs were very sudden, and with immediate effect, stunning the entire group.

Of course, with the departure of 2 colleagues, some of us were affected, in that we had to take on the work that was left behind. I happened to be the one who had to take on the work that was left behind by one of our departing colleagues.

I don’t think I had an immediate initial reaction to the news of that day.

Of course, I was taken aback by the suddenness of everything. But I have learnt to control my reactions and emotions, to allow my learned rationale to have time to kick in and really think through the whole situation.

Part of me was a little upset that they have chosen this time to throw me into the new task, and it was a tedious task and process that made a lot of our senior managers upset because of the discrepancies that always result from the very manual process.

Honestly, what were they thinking of, shifting a 7-month pregnant woman into something that is potentially very stressful? I know it’s not personal, it’s business. But then again, anything can be personal!

It seems that my easy-going nature, strong relationship management skills, and analytical prowess are working against me in this instance, rather than for me! =P

Anyhow, after some deliberation, and of course, talking about it with my mentor and my hubby, I have decided to take this change positively, conserve my energy, don’t spend unnecessary energy fretting over the situation, and do and improve what I can for this process in the next 2 months before I go on my one year leave. I am determined to leave my current position on a good note! =)

Is it a tough decision to make? Yes, in some ways, it was. I want to rant and rave, and lament on the unfairness of my treatment, but that will only make myself even unhappier, and everyone around me ill at ease. So, what’s the point?

That being said, I voiced the exact same thoughts that I have laid out above to my new acting manager in my one-on-one with her yesterday.

So, she is aware that I didn’t think it was appropriate to put me into the new role because of my current condition, but I also recognize business is business, and I have given my word to her that I will do my best, despite my feelings of “unfairness.

Hey, now you cannot fault me for not speaking up and standing up for myself, right? ;)

Not a word on this anymore. Just wish me more luck in my new role. =) And guess what so far, I seem to be managing it quite well. I’ve actually gotten into the good books of a few of the senior managers that I have to work with already. ;)

So, what is the lesson here?

I think it is: when life hands you lemons, it is really possible to make sweet lemonade out of it. You cannot control your environment and the events that happen to you, but you certainly can control how you choose to view it, make the best of it, and learn from it. Is it easy? No…but it is worth it.

Second incident:

I had a long night last night, and an equally long morning, as I spent a good part of the night putting together documents to support a hearing that we’ve applied against one of our tenants. And this morning, we sat through 4 hours of hearing all the different cases of landlord and tenant issues, with ours being the last.

To keep a long story short, we’ve been having issues with this tenant that we inherited when we bought our rental triplex in May 2009.

We were supposed to possess the house vacant, but this guy simply refused to move out, citing that the formal owner did not serve him formal termination letters.

So, we serve him formal termination letter, as per his request, as we really wanted to renovate the entire house. We wanted to upgrade the electrical network for the whole house, which requires breaking down walls and ceilings, and would render the house inhabitable.

But he came back with a letter from his free legal aid, saying that if we want to undertake renovation, we need to give him 120 days notice. At this point, we have already contracted workers, and paid our deposit.

And the thing was he wasn’t even supposed to be there in the first place!

Anyhow, we decided to continue work on the other 2 units, and leave his apartment untouched for the most part.

But this tenant started paying his rent late every month, except for the first month. And he wasn’t even paying the full rent for the entire apartment. He only pays half of it. I even have documentation to prove that the apartment was to be rented out for $900, but he only pays $500.

We kept trying to work with him. We didn’t think the rent for the basement apartment should be $900, and we even adjusted it to $750! We told him he is welcome to find a co-tenant, which was what the original arrangement was for the $900 rent.

But he has been giving us one story after another, saying he needs to rent the place for his business, and he is building his life up, etc, etc. And then in October, he stopped paying his rent altogether.

We have been trying so hard to work with him, and keep giving him the benefit of the doubt, when he says he will have the money to pay week after week, but to no avail.

Finally, on December 19th, I called him, and I offered him a way out, saying that if he moves out, we will forgive all the rent arrears, and we will not pursue him for any of the rent.

He simply will not hear of it. He simply refuses to move out. And now, he is accusing us of not maintaining his apartment, talking about mould in the apartment, when he doesn’t even want us to work on the apartment, as we will be disturbing his art work.

I had no choice but to file an application to evict him and to recover my damages. I really didn’t want to do this. I was so prepared to just see this as a business loss. I want to cut my loss, just get him out, renovate the place properly, and then look for a new tenant. But things do not always go according to what we want eh. It’s Murphy’s law.

So, today was the hearing. During the hearing, when the Landlord Tenant Board (LTB) member presiding over the hearing says he is eligible for legal counsel, my tenant immediately jumped on it. So, we had to wait for him while he spoke with the LTB legal counsel.

After he spoke with the LTB legal counsel on site, who advised that he could seek an adjournment today so he could seek outside legal counsel, my tenant jumped on the offer and asked for an adjournment.

At this point, I had to step in and I pled to the Board, asking for priority hearing, as I am the one who handles all the paperwork and research, and I will be giving birth in 2 months’ time. The good news is that the Member has agreed to put forth our case as a priority case, and wrote that in the Order.

While I had the chance, I also told the Board Member that we are trying very hard to work with the tenant, and am working according to what the law says, but it has been very difficult. I believe he does sympathize with us, but the law is the law.

So, now we are in limbo again.

It makes me wonder about the legal system here in Canada.

Wayne and I try so hard to be law abiding citizens, going by the letter.

We want to provide a clean, safe and healthy environment for our tenants, and we are very flexible with all our tenants. We always give them leeway when they pay their rent late.

But at what point enough is enough?

People like to paint landlords as being the greedy, evil capitalists oppressing the little guy.

But after sitting through an entire morning of hearings, I can honestly say that 90% of the cases I saw today, it was the tenant taking advantage of the tenant-favouring rules and laws system here in Ontario, and messing with the landlords.

Am I biased since I am a landlord? I probably am. But I know that I stand for myself, for my hubby, and I know we have done the best that we possibly and humanly can.

Short of supporting my tenant financially, paying for his apartment and his utilities with a smile, I do not know what else I should be doing to ensure that we are being treated fairly.

Up till now, I am still not quite sure what are the lessons I am supposed to glean from this mini-saga.

Is it not to be compassionate, and start legal proceedings the moment a tenant is late in paying rent to avoid being screwed over, upside and under?

Is it that a certain particular ethnic group is not to be trusted, and we should be wary of?

Is there something else that we are not doing for our tenants, which resulted in us having to go through this weary process?

I am a very strong believer in not doing unto others, what I don’t want others to do unto me. But unfortunately, in this case, we are being done, even though we do our utmost best to be good landlords.

*Sigh* I guess this is part of the learning process of being a landlord here in Canada. We will have to learn to work with it, and through it, if we want to be successful in this.

On a positive note, we are very lucky that we are not currently relying on the rent to service the mortgage on the rental property.

I shudder when I think of those landlords who may be facing the problem of non-paying tenants, and they are relying on that rent to pay the mortgage! If they are not able to pay the mortgage, what happens to the property?

Now I can only pray that we will have an agreeable resolution in our next hearing, which is scheduled for late February/early March.

If it means that the tenant will be staying on, we will be fine, and we will work with him, as long as he does not give us the run around chasing after him for rent again and again, and he gives us access to our house so that we can do the appropriate maintenance work.

It’s so ironic that we as owners of the house has so little rights to our property! What is this world coming to eh. Sure makes you wonder! ;-)

Alright, this has been one long rambling post. Hopefully, I made some sense. And hopefully, the universe hears me, and sends me positive and good vibes.

Baby, Wayne and I will be sure to pay these positive and good vibes forward! =)

Till I write again!

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