Escape from, er, Ray

We wanted to make sure we waited until we got our deposit back, but besides the benefits of having a nice office downtown, there was another angle to why we moved from our offices in Santa Clara. It was really an escape from a dark being whom I can’t name because it seems most of my blog hits come from obsessed egosurfers, like talent-challenged wanna-be rockers, and smug bicyclists. This particular entity has a lot of clout and power, and I’m sure he has a small army of minions just to egosurf the web for him, so I shall not mention his name. But let me just say that he’s portrayed quite amusingly by Ray Wise on the TV series Reaper.

In fact, Ray (as I shall call him, not to be confused with the actual actor), our former Santa Clara landlord, reminded Peter of Ray Wise’s character in Reaper. Since Ray had offices downtown, he came over to chat with Peter. Peter said he was very chatty and cheery, but just like Ray Wise’s character, he wasn’t about to give us a break.

The story all started when the office building our Santa Clara office was in was sold to Ray. Shortly thereafter, Peter noticed a huge $450 CAM surcharge on his rental invoice. CAM stands for Common Area Maintenance and it’s often written in so landlords can assess a charge for special maintenance needs, like fixing a broken roof. Peter called about it, and was told he was going to be assessed the $450 CAM charge until he renewed the lease a few months later. So, ok, we effectively got a 25% surcharge on our rent, without having been warned beforehand, as would normally be the case….

Peter actually didn’t see the CAM charge again until few months later, when he was due a month of rent, since he had paid for it up front as part of the lease negotiation. Surprise! All the money was gone, because instead of billing continuing CAM charges up front, Ray had applied them towards the credit Peter had. And what where these huge CAM charges paying for? The excuses were something like this:

First of all, the transfer of the property had increased the property tax, so tenants had to cover it. One of the tenants needed less space, so their space had to be redesigned. Another tenant wanted a build out. And because of all the construction, the building suddenly had to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, so all the doors had to be replaced with shorter doors, including the doors in the bathrooms. Did I mention there are no rules or restrictions on how a landlord can decide to apply CAM charges?

Not a single one of these changes was to our benefit, by the way, and in fact, it made our space worse. The upstairs bathrooms were closed for construction, so if we needed to use a bathroom, we had to go downstairs, either via the slow, hinky elevator, or down some stairs, outside the building, and then back in. Try that with a distracted four-year-old!

I used to prefer parking in the back and going up the back stairs which were closest to the office, but that became out of the question:

And after some inexplicable flooding, some torn-up pavement was never replaced. The flooding doesn’t seem to have helped the landscape either. It used to be green and flush. When we left, it all looked like this:

Most of the time, the hallway was being banged upon by construction workers, sometimes loud enough that we couldn’t talk to customers on the phone, and it looked like this:

Now, if we re-upped our lease, Ray was willing to drop the huge CAM charges (until he found another reason to attach them to the monthly rent invoice). But even Peter who’d been steeled for an increase, was shocked when Ray told him how much he wanted. It was twice as much per square foot as any of the nearby office buildings. In fact, one of the suites we’d considered renting two years before had remained empty during all the ensuing years, and the building right across the street was completely empty: they were going begging for half the rate, and Ray wanted more than even offices downtown were charging?

What was Ray thinking? Peter thinks he had bigger plans for a spiffy building that maybe someone somewhere wants: and who knows, maybe he (like the other hopeful office building owners in the area) will find that flush tenant eager to pay top dollar for their very building. But we aren’t that.

In the end, it worked out for us. Our new offices are a lot closer to home, and as you can certainly tell by my blog entries, we’re lovin’ downtown. Peter made sure to ask for a cap on the CAM charges, and he got 0% rate written into the lease. And the offices face a Catholic cathedral, so maybe, just maybe, Ray won’t be tempted to buy our building and put us in his clutches again.

Oh, and even though we had to argue about it somewhat, we got our deposit back. There’s still a key card reader we left behind in a door, but we’d rather Ray hang on to it than have to face another mysterious charge from him.

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