Archive | December, 2016

Moving Hassle III – The Aftermath

25 Dec Autumn in my German backyard

So. I left the house on 24th Street NW. After five years of timely rental payments and an unmatched dedication to keeping the house clean and cozy my landlady Cavan and her agent Jim basically harassed me out of the building. As it looks, there still remains legal fallout.

Jim's move-out notice

Two of the notes that my landlady’s agent Jim taped to my front door. In his best hand writing as well!

As you recall, I did not pay rent for my last month, August 2016. I used the damage deposit in lieu of last month’s rent. In doing so I followed the advice of the previous tenant, and what a clever decision that was! My lease ended more than three months ago, and to this day I have not received a move-out report, or any other news regarding my deposit.

However, on move-out day I did receive a copy of a court file. The “court application” basically opened a court case that circles around my rental payment for August. Apparently Cavan did not agree with me using the damage deposit in lieu of actual rent. Yet, instead of telling me so, she decided to ask for her money in court.

The last pages of that document actually contain my latest e-mail to her, which states that a) the rent exceeds the deposit by $220, and b) I paid some $800 worth of materials that really Cavan should have been accountable for. Whatever happens with that case (and I am not sticking around to find out), my arguments are already in the file. The case could not be any more convenient for me!

 

Monetary Considerations

Now, court work is not cheap, and certainly not free. Jim paid an application fee of $250 for opening that case. Considering that the maximum amount of money he can possibly make with this case is $220, the whole process seems to bite its own tail. Like a snake that somehow got addicted to pain. Then again, that describes Jim pretty well.

I will never read the whole file, because it becomes repetitive and boring within the first two paragraphs. But in an idle minute I flipped through it, and the second page offers something of a redemption. I was invited to state my “side of this matter before the Court”, on the morning of September 1st. Obviously, I do enjoy court talk as much as the next masochist, and I certainly welcomed the opportunity to “communicate” with Jim under adult supervision. Alas, I did have one or two more things to do before leaving Calgary, and my departure was already scheduled for September 2nd.

So … No. I did not go to court one day before leaving the country. I just couldn’t be bothered. Instead, I biked some fifteen kilometres through Calgary, returned a book to the library, returned my internet router to Shaw, took some pretty photos of the city, and deposited my bike at a friend’s place.

I may never fully understand Jim’s motivation behind filing that case. Especially since he already knew that I was leaving the country, potentially forever. But, yes, next time I’m in town there may or may not be a court case regarding my rent. We may never find out. Or even care, because I do not intend to go back and ask. And I seriously doubt that the border personal will deny me re-entry for denied rental payment.

Calgary Downtown

Even during a thunderstorm the skyline of Downtown Calgary has some grace to it.

All the stuff

As I mentioned, Jim proved to be a considerable ass, and Cavan, in her infinite wisdom, sent him around multiple times to harass us. He did not even take the house keys that I offered him, even though he did not have any of his own. To this day he does not have keys for the front door, at least not from anyone I know.

Since we were booted out in such a rude manner we obviously contemplated legal options of making the returned house a sour win for our master and mistress. As you recall, I had acquired a lot of furniture for that house, and didn’t want to give any of it to Cavan. I’m not a revengeful person, but she just didn’t deserve any more good from me than I was legally obliged to offer.

One might imagine that a money-driven landlord would sponsor his own collection of moth-infested mattresses and chewed-on desks, but in this case one would be imagining wrongly. Out of the dozen mattresses, same number of chairs, and half that number of desks none were owned by Jim or Cavan. Just about ALL the furniture in that house had been organised by the previous tenant or me. I tried selling stuff on Kijiji, and even hosted a multi-day super-bargain garage sale. But after two months of effort the house was still stuffed with items and furniture that rightfully belonged to me.

During their hasty move-out many of my house mates actually packed up as much stuff as they could carry, just to leave less behind. “No, I don’t eat toast! Maybe I can fry a steak in that?!”

Yet, furniture and kitchen utensils still bloomed on every carpet when I revisited the house in a last attempt to wreak havoc. Must. Leave. NOTHING!

The new living room of Cavan's house.

This is the living room I left behind. It came a long way from that shabby house I took over.

Hello Friend!

Alas, my AirBnB guest Gilles was still booked in, and needed final attention. Gilles had just singed a lease agreement for a three-bedroom flat that was to house himself and his wife. For his misfortune and my amusement the flat came unfurnished.

For our mutual benefit Gilles found visual comfort in the furniture, utensils, and house hold items that my ex-house was pickled with. A few phone calls and several Canadian bills later a moving van stopped in front of the house, and removed every scrap of usable house hold item in my possession. Gilles got his furnished apartment. I got my grand finale. A beautiful magic trick that left Cavan and Jim a clean, yet utterly unfurnished house. One that they don’t even have keys for.

I’m sure they solved both of those problems, and billed someone for it. But, man, did I ever sleep well.

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Moving Hassle II – Move-Out Day

18 Dec The new living room of Cavan's house.

As described in the last blog post, I once rented a house on 24th Street in Calgary NW. For five years I laboured to keep that house clean and comfortable. At the end of August 2016 I returned it to the hands of the landlady Cavan and her property manager Jim. I did not expect any thanks from them regarding the time and money that I spent on the house, but I was not prepared for the harassment that came with move-out day.

 

The new living room of Cavan's house.

This is the living room I left behind. It came a long way from that shabby house I took over.

As mentioned, Cavan was not quite happy with my proposal to use the damage deposit in lieu of rental payment for August. The way she communicated that with me was by sending Jim around, ten days before September. Jim stood at the doorstep, together with his brother, and handed me a move-out notice, signed by himself and witnessed by his brother. At the same time he told me that I could not use the deposit as rental payment. Upon me telling him that I already had done so, and he was free to argue his case with me, Jim just said: “I don’t discuss with you. I am just messenger.”

He spun around three times in his black leather shoe, and vanished in a puff of smoke.

 

Law and Disorder

Call me naïve, if you must, but until that day I believed that a land lady needs to provide thirty days worth of notice to usher a tenant out of the property. I told my house mates as much, and they agreed. Thus, we all just continued living in the house. Let Jim come around, and stalk around the house, he didn’t have any legal right to touch us! Or did he?

Well, at the very least Jim reserved the right to be obnoxious. One week before move-out he came around again, telling me that I had to leave, and I should call the legal service. He actually gave me a phone number, scribbled into the corner of a sheet of paper that already contained a hand-written move-out notice, two addresses, and multiple signatures. I posted a picture of said paper, so you can try for yourself to decipher any of the symbols imprinted on it.

The phone number did not actually lead anywhere, and when I pointed that out in an e-mail later that day, Jim sent me another number. That the second number did not work either should not come as a surprise.

Thus I went back to my travel preparations. Afterall, my plane was to leave Calgary on the 2nd of September, so there was little time to waste on pointless arguments with the “messenger”.

 

Jim's move-out notice

Two of the notes that my landlady’s agent Jim taped to my front door. In his best hand writing as well!

All the young boys

Meanwhile, all but one of my house mates confirmed moving plans of their own. The only one who didn’t was our resident hospital doctor. Believe it or not, he was the only one who could not afford to pay the deposit on a new room. Yes, the payment for new doctors at the Foothills Hospital is THAT shitty. Not to mention the student loan agencies that subtract their monthly contributions from his pay cheque, the very second that he deposits it. But on to other problems.

At that time I had four house mates. The doctor, unable to relocate. One who moved out that weekend, because he did not want to deal with Jim any more. One made arrangements to move across the street into his old home. And one confirmed a new place, but only could move two days after move-out day. Yes, week days are genuinely bad for hauling stuff around.

On top of that I had two AirBnB guests scheduled. One was in town for a conference, and was scheduled to leave on the 30th of August. The other was a visitor from France, scheduled to move in on the 30th. And stay until the 1st of September. Considering that I was supposed to hand over the house on the 31st, one might expect trouble from that time table.

 

Goemon5's moving boxes

Until two weeks before I left Calgary I was still packing. So, no, I did not pay too much attention to my landlady’s squabbles.

Return of the Jim

Sure enough, on the 31st Jim knocked violently at the door, no later than when he was summoned. He really wanted to visit at noon, but I told him 4 p.m. was a more suitable time. My five years of training him paid off, and he arrived as told. That visit consisted mostly of myself and one house mate sitting on the sofa, asking him to settle down, and discuss matters with us. Meanwhile Jim was hectically flailing his little arms about, telling us “You have to move out. You cannot stay here.”

He even managed to call the tenancy hot line of the City of Calgary, and demanded that the man on the phone explain to me that I could not stay. Which he did. Apparently once a lease agreement runs out, the landlord can set you on the street overnight. So, yeah. Be aware, Calgary tenants!

How we were to leave the house in the blink of an eye, considering that we did not have the ability to move our possessions before the weekend, might have been an interesting question to answer. As was the matter of cleaning and packing while Jim was doing his best to stand in our way. But never try to use logic on a Chinese demon; you might as well try to argue with a Trump. It only pains your brain.

At that point we had quite enough of Jim shouting at us, so I made one last attempt to fill in the move-out report, and other paperwork that he wanted. I even picked up the keys for front door and tenant rooms, dangled them in his face, and asked him to take the house.

As loud and insolently as he demanded everyone out before that, when I showed him the keys he just as quickly turned on his heels and swirled out of the house. Leaving the keys in my hands and yelling the magic formula “You have to move out; You cannot stay here,” he evaporated before us, leaving behind another assemblage of Chinese runes on paper, and the faint smell of burned sulphur.

 

Cavan Yee and friends

One of the few surviving visual documents of landaly Cavan Yu (left), seen here conspiring to move some yet uninvolved people.

Enough already!

Jim returned twice more that evening, shouting and harassing as before. I was tempted to shout back, just to get the attention of neighbours and coppers, but unfortunately I had better things to do. Departure from Canada was two days away, and I still had to finish some business, and pack some stuff.

I decided that it would be best if I moved out on the spot. Fortunately, I have friends in Calgary, and Jon and Donna were both happy about me staying as a guest in their homes for one night each. With myself gone I hoped that everyone else in the house would be able to sleep quietly. As the only tenant on the lease I was the only one who could be made accountable for poking imaginative holes into cardboard walls. So, with me gone there really was no point in harassing anyone else.

I packed all of my belongings into an armful of bags, and hauled it off to Jon’s place, where I spent the next few hours I) packing my luggage for the flight, and II) playing some games with Jon and Dave, in a farewell to seven years Calgary experience. It wasn’t what I thought my move-out day would look like, but it certainly beat harassment from Jim.

 

Moving out apparently had some positive effect on the situation. Everyone was motivated to leave the house quickly after me, and Jim only shouted at the neighbourhood once more that night. Even though I returned to the house multiple times over the next two days, I never saw him again. That would be the end of it, but we still need to resolve the matter of keys, furniture, and my AirBnB guest from France. I shall do so in the next blog.

Moving Hassle I – Five years of Cavan

11 Dec Cavan's living room

For five years I was Cavan Yu’s tenant. Five years of timely rental payments, house repairs, and unasked favours. You’d think that landlady would be thankful, and let it show, but no, not Cavan. The only reason she was able to maintain that house on 24th Street in Calgary NW was my dedication to cheap and simple living conditions, and yet, after five years of service Cavan basically booted me out. For anyone who asked about the weird occurrences during my last days in cowtown, here is a brief account of the happenings that carried us to Move-Out Day.

The back of Cavan's "house"

House is actually a misleading term. It’s more like a bungalow, containing little more than the six bedrooms and two showers.

 

The Players

Cavan Yee is a middle-aged Chinese woman with a Canadian passport. She lives in Vancouver, and owns a house on 24th Street in Calgary NW. Since she only visits Alberta once a year she needs 1) someone to rent that house, and 2) someone to manage it. From 2011 to 2016 person 1 was me. Person 2 was also me, although landlady Cavan continued the contract with her property manager James “Jim” Wong. In those five years that I rented Cavan’s house I barely saw him four times total, and that was for the better. What Jim lacks in respect and attitude he makes up for with a sense for money, and a willingness to extort it.

I rented Cavan’s house starting September 2011, and Jim visited twice that month. Mostly to waddle through the house in his shoes, check the house for things that I could repair, and scribble numbers on doors. I told Cavan that Jim was a nuisance, and he immediately popped out of existence.

Cavan has a rather distant relationship with reality. Most of the year she appears to live in some parallel universe, and her annual descent into the human world is always trifled with oddities. From an artist’s perspective it is fun to see reality bending around her, but as a tenant I often felt uncomfortable in her presence.

Once a year I singed a new lease agreement with the landlady, and about that often I called the contracted maintenance man to perform some random handyman stunt. Most of the important repairs I made myself, but anything that involved replacement of parts was a job for Jim’s handyman. Dad taught me the job of the plumber, but he also showed me how to delegate costs.

And, of course, twice a year Cavan contacted me to fuzz about a weed complaint that she received from the Calgary Police department, because I let the grass on the front lawn grow longer than 15 centimetres. Yes, there is a law for that.

That was the limit of my interactions with my “authorities”. A few signatures, a phone call, and a couple of e-mails. Beyond that I never had a bother with my Chinese landlady or property manager. Communication with either of them was so draggingly difficult that I rather made repairs myself than tried to communicate with them. I replaced the kitchen counter, installed a new washing machine, stove, carpets, and ceiling lights; and cleaned that shabby excuse of a property more thoroughly than anyone before. Cavan’s house was well lived-in, but apparently within twenty years of rental agreements I was the first tenant to actually care for it.

Cavan's living room

When I moved into Cavan’s house it was full of surprises. Like a Chinese cyclist who trained and yelled in the living room.

 

Take-Over Time

None of that mattered when my final days as tenant were approaching. I invested a lot of time, effort, and money into cleaning, repairing, and redecorating that house. I started with a house that people literally avoided at Halloween, and transformed it into a sought-out property for students and seasonal workers. [I know exactly what you are thinking, but you would not doubt me, if you knew Cavan.] Thus, I did not even intend to return the house to the hands of Cavan. Instead, I tried to convince any of my Calgary friends to take over the lease. For once I did not want the house to return to its former state of disaster. On the other hand, I rented out sublets to students, which allowed me to live there for free. That is a pretty good deal for a struggling musician or graduate student, and I wanted to pass that on to someone else.

However, nobody was interested. For over a year I was searching for a prospective new tenant for the house, but no-one claimed the prize. The most prominent reasons for rejecting my proposition were responsibility and effort. Well, yes, if you want to make money, and you are not a CEO, it usually involves taking responsibility, and putting in effort. Yet, in this particular position you did not really have to do much, because at the low price that I offered the rooms for, I always had plenty of prospective tenants to choose from. Life without house mates is nearly unaffordable for most graduate students, but at least I had my pick of the litter, and most of my house mates put in considerable effort to keep the house clean. Still, not a deal that anyone else wanted to pick up.

Kitchen Repairs

Among other things I scrubbed off the old kitchen counter and installed a new working plate.

 

Cavan’s Peril

Cavan knew that I was leaving Canada in autumn 2016. She tried to convince me to stay, mostly because every time she gets in touch with reality, the pattern births another abyssimal monstrosity; like Jim. Thus, six weeks before my scheduled departure I sent her an e-mail phrasing the latest state of affairs. I) I really was leaving this time, despite all the non-existent job opportunities in Calgary. II) Nobody wants to take the lease from me, so you better keep looking for a tenant yourself. III) I resolved my Canadian bank account, so you can’t deposit the cheque for August rent. [Whoops!] IV) Considering that I invested some $800 worth of materials, and twice that amount in work hours into this house, I will use the damage deposit in lieu of the rent for my last month.

Yes, there is a $220 difference between damage deposit and rent, a deficit to be picked up by Cavan. But seeing that a) I took over a house that was not rentable at all, and b) I am giving you a house that the new students will flock to (September marks the beginning of fall term), you are still getting a mighty sweet deal.

Cavan’s reaction was lost in the blight. I never received a single answer from her again. Nothing to say whether or not she found my proposition acceptable, or had any further worries about my move.

The new living room of Cavan's house.

This is the living room I left behind. It came a long way from that shabby house I took over.

 

Eventual Feces hit the Fan

Four weeks before move-out day one of my house mates had the brilliant idea to call the property manager Jim, and ask about his plans for September. He and Cavan both immediately started negotiations with my house mates regarding their potential stay. Obviously they never came to terms, because neither of those two figures is able to communicate in understandable phrases, and Cavan asked more rent per room than the house was worth, without somebody like me actually maintaining it. So, the negotiations just died away. People wanted to remain in the house, out of convenience. But no-one wanted to put up with Jim, because clearly he was just grabbing for money, and had no intentions of ever attending to anyone’s needs.

Thus, ten days before my move-out day, Cavan sent me an e-mail, informing me that she expected to get her house back at the 31st of August. Just like that. But if you think this would mark a clean cut in our long-term rental relationship, you better prepare yourself for a blast, when next week we talk about the great harassment of move-out day.

Buzz Buzz – What’s new in Germany?!

4 Dec
Calgary Downtown

Even during a thunderstorm the skyline of Downtown Calgary has some grace to it.

My Calgary friends kept asking me if I was excited to go back home, after not having been to Germany for two years. Well, packing was exciting. Packing indicates change, which is interesting in itself. Yet, there is no excitement in returning to my dull life on the upper floor of my parents’ house. Now that I have travelled, made music, and discovered a love for arts and sports, there is no future in staying home. I miss Calgary and all of my Canadian friends.

My parents’ townhouse comes with an unmatched familiarity and freedom, but despite its grandeur my childhood appears meaningless in comparison to my seven years in Canada and the way it has shaped my personality, views, and interests.

In the previous blog I discussed the many things that I miss about my Calgary Chapter, the home that I leave behind. Today I will add some thoughts concerning the home that I am returning to.

Berlin Alexanderplatz

Berlin at night is still a buzz. But buzz itself never inspired me.

 

Face Value

Even within twenty years of celebrated Western freedom (I was born behind the Iron Curtain) I rarely ever travelled beyond the outskirts of my own garden. It is true that my home town is far older than Calgary, and architecturally more diverse, but still it lacks to invoke the same magic and inspiration that the high rise office towers, green parks, and copy-cutter neighbourhoods of Calgary managed to invoke in me.

I know most streets of my home town, yet I have never made it target of a photographic journey, or explored parts of it during a half hour walk with a cookie and a water bottle, as I have done many times in Calgary. And it is not just the much smaller surface area of my home town, or the smaller cultural diversity that makes it less interesting.

Berlin, for example, has a business and population density that is similar to that of Calgary, and still it lacks the general vibrancy of cowtown. People are buzzing around with the same frequency, but they usually have a purpose to their buzz. Germans don’t generally stop and stare; and as a result do not inspire others to do so. Maybe that is the reason why I have never aspired to level-up my photography skills in Germany. I’ve been back for three months now, and I am still searching for that spark.

Autumn in my German backyard

Autumn is a good time for photography. The play of light and shade, together with the colourful leaves and the frost in the air create an artsy atmosphere.

 

Poetry in Motion

Another issue is the obvious return to my first language, German. Speaking and thinking in English has created a protective barrier between the real world and my perception of it. It is much easier for me to express my personal thoughts and create engaging poetry in English. Not only does its syntax make it easier to create engaging and tale-telling prose.

The fact of English being a foreign language for me creates an illusion of poetic distance; a mask of words that I love to hide behind. Asking for a favour, a date, or forgiveness becomes much easier, if I can hide behind words that I have not previously used to describe my fourth grade Physics project. English has become my language of community and success, whereas German is the language that my parents use to complain about the weather, and tell that one joke that they know. I keep reading and writing in English, but it’s a trifle more difficult, now that I truly have to maintain a bilingual life.

Home

Yes, the house hiding behind those pines belongs to my parents. Now that I know life I will try to escape more often.

 

I have been “home” now for three months. But so far I have been unable to find a stable job, or reinvigorate the artistic spark that kept me alive through the long Canadian winters. And as the season of solstice jams and potlucks approaches I start to feel alone. Without friends to share in the experience all the buzz in this country is merely noise, and my songs are just background music. As much as I always complain about Calgary and its lack of opportunity, I do miss it. I need a vacation!