This week’s lesson
What a week! Today is March 8th and I finally just got into my new studio. I learned a very valuable lesson about people and business this week. I learned to not trust and to get things in writing. I met my landlord about 2 months ago when I signed my rental agreement. I paid 3 months in advance and he told me the previous tenant would be out by the 1st…no later than the 3rd…and that he would take care and adjust my rent if it ended up the 3rd. Sounded good to me. Now I have, from time to time, popped into the building to measure this and recheck that and have even brought people with me to make some drawings. There are 2 guys, one being the actual tenant and one being his longtime friend, councilor and CPA. These guys are Mormons and both were very nice to me when I initially met them. Then, most of time I re-visited, it would just be the CPA guy there working away, trying to fix the other guy’s financials (because he was losing his business). I grew to really like this guy. He used to work a very unhappy 9 to 5 job (which I understood) and he was humble and sweet. He gave me some brief financial business advise and I designed him a new logo (for his new self employment), printed him some business cards and brought him cookies That I mercifully didn’t make).
On the 29th of February, a long awaited leap year, I showed up at the building, peeked my head in and yelled hello. They were both there on this occasion…along with all the furniture, desks, computers, files and gigantic tv . Nothing had been moved, boxed or organized. I asked what was up and they both said” Is this the end of the month already?” ALARM BELLS GOING OFF IN MY HEAD. Yes, yes it is. That’s when the tenant spoke up and said Oh, we’ll be out of here by the 3rd, no worry. Well, I wasn’t going panic because I had heard that it could be the 3rd. Sadly, I wouldn’t have that weekend to clean. I left after a brief, friendly conversation with the CPA guy, who at that time felt bad and actually gave me his own key. He walked me down to the mailbox to show me where it was while I asked him how his buddy was doing. I’m a nice person, I wanted to be sensitive to the guy losing his business. He had after-all, done alot of work to the room I would soon occupy…I didn’t want to rub salt into the wound.
I left and everyday, I would drive by. This guy has about 50 cases of bottled water on the patio outside the office and I knew when I didn’t see them, he would be gone. I at one time asked him if he was taking it with him (he had gotten it free from the beach games they have in the summer where vendors pass it out). I told him that it could be donated to the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts but he said he would be leaving with it and I dropped it after that. So I drove by on the second…still water bottles, the 3rd…still water bottles and on the forth day I finally called him. No answer. Later that day he called to say that the guy buying his furniture had not come to get it so he needed to stay until the 5th. It was at this point that I said I would have to call the landlord because he needed to adjust my rent.
Now you must keep in mind…this tenant guy called me on the phone once to warn me that after I had already verbally told the landlord I would take the office, he showed someone else the space…the tenant said “you seem like a nice lady, I just want you to know that this happened. My husband told me to calm down and that the landlord was just covering his rear, in case I backed out because I hadn’t actually signed the contract, just verbally said yes. It wasn’t my deal that the contract hadn’t been signed. It was the landlord’s not coming down with a contract for me to actually sign. He said, no worry.
Anyway, back to why I was willing to trust the tenant. It was because of this call of warning. I felt he was looking after me knowing all the plans I was making and times I had visited with his buddy to measure something. So when I said I needed to call the landlord to tell him…the tenant said no, no need to bother him…I’ll just pay you. I did not want to do this. Everything in me told me no. But that call… I really had no choice when he said the 5th because none of his stuff was gone yet and I couldn’t very well carry it out myself.
Well you guessed it. The 5th came and went and no phone calls to say, I’ll come give you the keys to the space and the bathrooms. I drove by and yes, same lovely water bottles. On the 6th I drove over before work..and low and behold…a moving van!. I went to work happy, knowing this would all be over. No phone call came that evening so I called him. No answer. Tried the next day..same water bottles and same no answer…and no returned calls.
Friday after work and after calling him 2 more times, I went over and let myself in. I saw the tenant’s desks and files and immediately left making sure another 2 tenants saw me leave quickly and with nothing that did not belong to me. I called the landlord. I told him the situation. That his tenant just would not leave and that I didn’t know him, didn’t want to be involved and just wanted him to know that I still had not been able to move in.
Now this is where it gets really good. The landlord told me that once I gave the not-leaving tenant an ok to stay (which I didn’t really, I just never had a choice) and that he had an agreement to pay me, it was my problem to get him out. He said I had a key to let myself in and that I could have asked him to get out and that he (being the landlord had nothing to do with it). His contract was now only with me!
I will give him that one credit. He was right when he said I did not call him on the first and tell him. I didn’t and I didn’t because he told me himself it could be until the 3rd! I was so dumbfounded at this point I know I was yelling into the phone. I simply could not believe what I was being told. That it was my space, the contract was for the 1st and I should have moved in. If I didn’t want the space, I didn’t have to take it and that he would rent it to someone else. I explained that I would never move into a building that had someone else’s belongings inside and he said, well, you should have because it was yours to move into! My contract with him ended and mine began with yours. At this point I decided I was dealing with at least 2 lunatics and started to really wonder if it was all going to be worth it. I got in my car and drove to another building that had just come up for lease, called and was told how much…too much…and too much work.
A friend of mine accidentally called my number and while on the phone, I needed an ear and vented my story. It was at this point he “hostage negotiated” me into calmness. He said to go to the building, change the locks and pack the guys sh– up. He actually told me to toss it onto the parking lot but I’m just not that person (in this life anyway). I called the tenant again. No answer. Then, while talking on the phone to my husband, or rather yelling into the phone with frustration…the idiot chose to call and leave a message. My guess was the landlord called him (and threatened him) and magically he called me back to leave a freaking voice-mail. I immediately called back and you can guess…no answer. I drove over to the building, opened the door for the second time with the key his friend had given me and stood in the space. The tenant’s desks were still there, office junk, computer stuff and many (what looked to me) important personal files… But in those few minutes I allowed myself to walk and really look at the room, a calm came over me. I looked at the space…really looked at it. I knew it was meant for me…even if I almost allowed 2 complete assholes to destroy a dream for me.
I went home and called a locksmith. 😉 At this point I had my husband step in. He was actually working this weekend but he made the call to the tenant warning him that the locks would be changed at 5pm and that he had better get his stuff out and also bring me 8 days of rent…in cash. I waited all day at home for him to call or show up. At 5pm I went to the building and yes, the water bottles, desks and all the other were still there…no call. I hoped at this point the guy was in jail…and couldn’t call. I had the locks changed and never once was I worried about the tenant showing up. I had told the locksmith my dilemma and that I was a bit leery about the guy, knowing changing the locks would piss him off. The locksmith smiled, told me he was one of 5 brothers, all from Israel…Military trained in Special Forces…and I had not a reason in the world to worry. How lovely it was that he came (or was sent to me). And that, my dear readers, was the first laugh I had in 3 days…
Later, my husband and brother-in-law came and we packed all the tenants crap up. I had to talk them out of throwing it into the dumpster…because I really want to dump it on his front lawn…and I will!
After everything was packed, the floors were swept and I looked at the room and I was finally happy. I will, from now on, mail my rent to the landlord without further communication, unless he begins it. He has a job so I doubt I will hear much more from him as long as he can smell his dear old money. As far as the tenant, I will have no further dealing with him..and sadly, nor his friend. One will forever be part of the other’s sins in my memory. This guy was going to be my new CPA but who in their right mind would trust a friend of a jerk with their personal information? Not this gal.
So, if any of you out there ever decide to begin a business of your own, where you are involved in a lease and another previous tenant, be wiser that me. Don’t trust anyone. Get it in writing…because if you behave kindly, you will be run over flatter than a cd! I’m keeping the space because I know this was my test. I know most landlords are probably like Cinderella’s wicked stepmother anyway and that the worst is over. I know that once they have their money, their interest in your problems is harder to find than comfortable heels… so be ready to fend for yourself. I believe very strongly in Karma. So Adam and Alex, watch your heads…because something is coming for you…and I hope you feel it…hard.
But now it’s time for the Artists to have their day. Now is the time to build! 😉