Moving Hassle I – Five years of Cavan

11 Dec

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.

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