|The tech help desk area|
(I have to interject here however, just to say, that since I have been doing Uni writing instead of blog writing, there is this nagging little voice on my shoulder that says this writing should be accurate, researched, peer reviewed, edited, proof read and presented with a cover sheet and crossed fingers. I am trying hard to ignore this little voice, otherwise I simply wont get anything written.)
OK, back to the story. Our business is currently run from a basement in an old lane-way in the heart of Perth. On the surface, the lane-way looks a bit trendy; there is an Irish Pub, a Brewery, Japanese and Thai restaurants, a hipster coffee shop, model agencies, boutiques. You get the picture. But lurking beneath this facade is an old building, in desperate need of some love, not just some cursory patch ups when the tenants scream loudly (and we do, often).
|The flood after the water main burst|
|Drying up after the flood|
In a word, our landlord is a dick, without the capital D! He just doesn't care about his tenants at all, certainly has no respect for heritage and old architecture. I actually suspect that his long term plans are to push it all down and put up a office block and car parking. We have been in this basement office for six years now, and boy, did we put a LOT of work into this place. The day we got the key there was a poor old homeless man sleeping in our doorway. Going down some dark grotty stairs we were greeted with a damp, musty smell - the place had been vacant for years.
There were half-assed partition walls, 12 different types of carpet, no air-conditioning, or even any fresh air! We took it on as at the time Perth was in the full flight of a mining boom and there was NOTHING to lease in the city at all. With the help of my wonderful Dad, staff, kids, friends and bank overdraft, we turned the basement into a rather industrial and groovy office space and showroom. We paid well over $120,000 for the privilege, with no concessions on rent - and when we leave we have to leave behind all that we did - a huge aircon unit plus 2 split systems, a fresh air system, cabling, glass and timber partitions, fully painted, carpeted, storage shelves and cupboards, a sink and water (there was none at all when we moved there)
But all that work was ok, we were happy to make the basement a bright light place to work and for our customers to come to. We knew we would never get any assistance from the landlord, but we did not expect him to be so difficult to deal with when we had issues that were out of our control. Like when the tenants next door, a food preparation business, had an industrial size dishwasher that leaked into our boardroom everytime it was run. Dirty, greasy, smelly water that seeped under the walls, into our carpet and furniture, day after day. We complained for months to get it fixed. It took them 6 months, after I threatened to call in the health inspectors (that the food place next door did NOT want) to get any action to fix the problem. We still have a boardroom table that is damaged from this, and no compensation.
|The leaking dishwasher into our boardroom|
On another occasion our power kept tripping out. Annoying for most business's but when you are an IT business, any power outage is disastrous It went on for weeks and weeks. We reported it to our landlord .... we heard crickets. We got our electrician out, he said it was a fault with the main power board - which belongs to the landlord and we don't have access to. We reported it again. The landlord, in his usual fashion, took his own sweet time to even reply to us, meanwhile our power is cutting out almost daily - all our servers dropping off, phones gone, not to mention we are in a basement so when there is no power it is pitch black! OH&S anyone? In desperation we got our electrician back, and found the maintenance guy who had a key to the powerbox. It was a faulty fuse, took 5 minutes to replace but being 3 phase power cost $850. We sent the bill to the landlord - he refused to pay it as he had not authorised it. Told us we should have reported it and he would have got his electrician to fix it. Arrrrggg.
So, now that our lease is about to be renewed, we go to the landlord, to ask what the new lease will be (expecting that it will be pretty much the same thing, with the yearly 5% increase). In his usual punctual fashion, he got back to us a month later saying he was putting the rent up 25%, wanting a bank guarantee of $55,000 (despite the fact we have paid our rent on the 1st of every month for the last 6 years without exception) plus increase our insurance.
We counter offered - no rent increase, no bank guarantee, we will increase insurance but we want the landlord to fix the wobbly tiles in the foyer. He refused.
|Front reception - Dad built all the timber paneled walls and we put in all glass partitions|
So we walk. While we were waiting for the landlord to get back to us, we did our homework and had a good look at what was for lease in Perth. A LOT! The mining boom is waning, and there are so many vacant commercial tenancies that we could bargain hard and get a far better place for a much better deal and with a landlord that will actually talk to you.
As a side note, we are not the only tenants to leave this place. And as we do a lot of the IT support for these business's that are leaving, we get the inside story of why they are leaving. For all the same reasons we are. Its the ones who stay I feel sorry for - as when a tenant leaves, all the outgoings get divided amongst the remaining tenants. At the moment, we are paying one of the highest outgoings in Perth, with no amenities to show for it.
Next episodes will be the planning of the new office, fitting it out, moving, and finally the big opening party!