If you haven’t already, you should read Bridget’s post before reading mine.
At this point, Bridget and I did not know the future of the store, but we knew we were not in such a bad shape that we had to give up the business. After that late night phone call with the owner, we felt warm enough to be happier, yet cold to anything that may still happen. The next day, we met up with the estate agent to view a potential place elsewhere, if for some reason we still had to leave by July, and we would just have to move to this new place earlier. This place had potential, as it was not far from Club Street and still quite a central location. The place was also close by the main landlord’s/owner’s office, so the agent suggested we go up to have a chat with her anyway. We all met, for the proper first time. It was a good meeting; everyone felt it was right that we should sign a new lease with the owner to continue to stay till the end of the year, that is, to stay even after the middle landlord’s own lease expired with the owner in July. We were ecstatic, but tired of the ups-and-downs of plans and sheer luck.
That very afternoon, the middle landlord showed up at the store after we spoke to the owner. He told us that he was really sorry that he couldn’t get his lease extended, and appeared genuinely upset. So we told him the good news, that things had turned out well with the owner after all, that we could stay on even after his lease expired. When he left the store, he seemed less upset than he was, and I thought it was because he no longer had to worry about us.
What he did the next day was shocking to us, although Bridget already had a bad gut feel that morning.
He brought a lady to the store to view the premises, telling her that he could kick us out any time because we didn’t pay the security deposit, and that our tenancy agreement wasn’t stamped. His reason was that we plotted against him behind his back with the owner and estate agent; for if it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be able to conduct business at Club Street in the first place.
The lady was a church volunteer. The church needed a temporary space to store their bookstore merchandise. The church was also willing to pay 4 months rental upfront in cash. The middle landlord had offered them a good rental, one that was higher than what we are currently paying. He tried to stop us from talking to the lady, but amidst the commotion and confusion, Bridget managed to shove her our phone number. We could hardly make sense of who, why, and how a place could be rented to us and the church concurrently, but we agreed to vacate by the end of March. March!
After the lady left, the middle landlord walked back to the store twice to ask us if we had anything to say to him. We said no; we were miserable. It appeared this time we really had to leave Club Street.
However, the lady called us later that very evening and we arranged to have a chat with her. We told her everything, why we didn’t give our security deposit, why our contract wasn’t stamped, everything. She told us that we didn’t seem like bad people, and she had told the middle landlord that if he was really upset about the security deposit, he should just collect it from us and leave us alone. The church already had a Plan B and didn’t really need the Club Street place. Bridget told her that we wanted to move out by the end of March no matter what, since we no longer felt secure at Club Street, and the church was free to take our space. Even if the middle landlord’s deal with the church fell through, we would still move out. If he could do this to us once, he could do it again. She declined and was certain that the church would not take the space whether or not we moved out.
She spoke to the middle landlord after our chat, and she made him promise her that he would let us conduct our business and continue our lease in peace. She offered to have us call her if he came to us again regarding the legality of our lease, and she would help us where she can. In a bizarre way, we were happy the ‘potential tenant’ he brought was someone like herself, one whom we didn’t have to explain much to and could form her own conclusions, AND has even offered to help us talk to the middle landlord.
We’ve since spoken to someone we trust, and he told us to stay put. So we’re going to stay put. For now. Everyone involved in this saga has been exceptionally kind to us, and for that I am grateful. Sometimes, it’s really not about whether you have the legal right to do something, but whether something is the right thing to do.
And it’s always better to tell the truth than to hide a secret. We learned.