Update on Small Claims Court Hearing, a Career Break and Change
Update on Small Claims Court Case
I recently posted about my ex-tenant bringing me to the small claims court. The hearing happened just before x-mas 2021 and was heard in the four courts in Dublin. My other housemate came with me as a witness if needed. Nice to have support to be honest.
What is it like attending the small claims court?
We arrived before the appointed time and passed through the security gates (standard scans). We found the court room after a bit of searching through the buildings. The door was locked shut. A couple of minutes before the start time a young lady arrived and pinned a schedule to the notice board outside the court room. The schedule listed all of the cases that would be heard in that session. She opened the door and invited us in. There were only a few other people there and we awkwardly shuffled into the room and looked around. The clerk was used to “newbies” so she directed us to take seats anywhere while keeping 2 metres distance. She explained who she was and what would happen shortly when the judge arrived. Someone in the room asked her “How do we address the judge?”.
“Judge” was the answer with a smile.
There were plenty of other cases listed on the schedule. In some cases, some people had requested an adjournment by email due to COVID, which were immediately granted. The first case that was heard was a man who was making a claim about water damage to his roof. He was claiming that the roofing contractors hadn’t done their jobs but the damage from the water turned out to be a non-related issue. The respondent (the roofing company) didn’t show up so the judge awarded him his full claim despite him being pretty vague on the details.
The second case was someone making a claim against a metal fabrication company. In this case, the claimant didn’t show up but the respondent did. Two young guys who owned the company. The judge immediately dismissed the claim against them and they were looking left looking uncertainly at each other before thanking the judge and leaving looking somewhat relieved.
Then it was my turn. The judge called the claimant first (my ex-tenant, Donald) and asked him to clarify his claim as she didn’t fully understand it. He didn’t do too well and the judge got a little frustrated. During his statement he said that I had returned his deposit in full and that I had repaid any overpaid rent (from the difference between his HAP payment and the totally monthly rent). He then made a claim that he was due a “per diem” rate for the days he moved out of the house earlier than the end of the month. The judge asked him to clarify how he arrived at the conclusion that he was due this rate and he believed what the rate was.
She quickly dismissed him and called me forward and asked me to state my case. I did so and she sharply cut the claimant off when he tried to interrupt my statement. She didn’t have too many questions – just to confirm all of the amounts. She clarified that the court operates on an evidence-based approach and said that he had evidence that I had said I owed him €40 more than what I had already transferred. She asked if I would accept that, I said I would. She then dismissed me and gave her summary.
In that, she stated she was satisfied that that I had repaid the deposit and over payment in rent. She said she didn’t accept the claimants claim for a “per diem” rate and stated that if I paid the outstanding €40, she would consider the matter closed. The claimant interrupted again and she cut him off. She detailed how he could appeal her decision and bid us farewell.
As expected, the following day I received a registered letter from the claimant stating he was appealing the decision to the circuit court. I assumed he would follow up on this but at the time of posting, I have heard nothing further on the matter. I checked the courts website and saw that they charge a fee per page of documents submitted. I am assuming he did the math and realised it would cost him more to appeal than he could claim. It cost him €25 euro to bring me to court and a further €8 to send the registered letter. All that time and effort to get €40 out of me.
The Sad Outcome
It is hard not be coloured by an experience like this. Sadly, I am less inclined to consider a tenant like this again. I saw an older man looking for a place to stay and considered him vulnerable. I helped him move his stuff, built his furniture for him, drove him to get his shopping, brought him to get his laptop repaired, helped him apply for HAP. In return, I got my rent paid yes. No questions there. But I also got a lot of grief, time wasting and had to take steps to defend my other housemate from racism and a dysfunctional co-habiting arrangement.
I am glad to put this behind me but I also remind myself that renting out room in my house has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. My current tenant is amazing, such a sound chap. Rent-a-room is the single biggest reason why I am where I am with my FIRE journey today. Even though a court claim was a shitty experience to go through, I still recommend having tenants in your home as part of your FIRE strategy.
On to Better News - A Career Break and a Career Change!
There was a rather timely post from this blog which aligned to my “grow the gap” goal. Increasing your income is step towards fire that comes later in the journey as most people start with reducing expenses.
This academic year, I finally got what I wanted from my teaching job; they condensed all of my teaching hours into the first semester. This meant that I was teaching from mid-September 2021 to mid-January 2022. Since February 2022, I have been working in a full-time job as a frontend web developer. This has meant a salary increase for myself of about 42%.
The downside? I am working 9am – 5.30pm Monday to Friday for the first time in years. But – I am working completely remotely which offers good flexibility. I will be trialing “working from Spain” later this month for a week with ambitions of being in a warmer climate for a few months come winter.
I wanted to trial working in the web development job for at least one month before pulling the trigger on a career break from teaching. I did just that and decided that I liked the job (and the higher salary) enough so, I applied for the career break. I won’t be returning to my teaching job until September 2023. I have the option of extending the career break if I want up to a maximum of 5 years. Those five years can be taken consecutively or not. Nice.
Freelancing While Working - Over Employed
While I am working as a frontend web developer I am also keeping pace with freelance work within my own company. I dont feel much guilt about taking time out of my work day to do my freelance projects becuase I have proven to be pretty efficient in getting my work done. In fact, within the first week of my new job I found myself asking my manager for more to do. This was putting him under pressure so I learned to get my work done and be quiet. They seem happy with the output I am giving them so far.
I have found myself reading through some articles on www.overemployed.com and found a nugget of good advice for the role I am in now:
“Aim to be average”.
There are loads of things that I want to do in my new web developer role to prove that I am good enough for the job. However, I have also found that the business-decision side of things within the company is very slow. They have meetings about meetings and it takes weeks to get anything done. Instead of approaching them with proposals that are ready to go, I decided I would simply wait until they tell me what they want me to do. In the meantime I am ticking all the boxes – I do what htey ask me to do and no more. I am being average. This allows me time to be more than average in the freelance projects I have more autonomy over.
I am wondering how much work I can get done in an 8 hour period while still meeting my employer’s objectives. I am not sure I have the balls to apply for another fulltime job but I will certainly continue to work on freelance contracts to help me to “grow the gap”.
Diversifying away from Peer-to-Peer Lending
On a separate note, I am continuing to diversify away from peer-to-peer lending with the exception of Mintos. They are the only platform I actually have any faith in.
Give it a try...
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