How taking a picture can get you sued

What every landlord, tenant and agent should know ….or they’ll get sued

You get a call from a landlord. They ask you to lease up their space quickly – the Tenant is moving out in two months. No problem. Off you go to the property, keys in hand and you start taking pictures. After all, pictures are critical to market the property and it’s industry standard to take them. Nothing unusual here, right? Wrong.

According to a recent decision, Juhasz v. Hymas, 2016 ONSC 1650, you now just started a lawsuit and cost your landlord thousands in legal fees and lost rent. Not to mention the fact that you’ve jeopardized your reputation and your commission cheque.

If you want to remain the good books with both your client and the courtroom, read on.

Why taking pictures can cause a lawsuit

The Ontario Divisional Court recently made a ruling that prohibits landlords – and their real estate agents – from entering into a tenant’s unit to take pictures for marketing purposes. The only exceptions are:

(a) if you have consent (for your and your landlord’s health, please get in writing) from the tenant who’s occupying the unit; or

(b) there is a provision in the lease that clearly states that the landlord or the landlord’s agent is permitted to take photographs of the unit for publication purposes.

There are some exceptions, of course. For example, in the residential context, the landlord can enter into a tenant’s premises without consent in order to show the unit. Other examples of permitted entry without consent are:

(a) there is an agreement that the tenancy will be terminated;

(b) notice of termination has been given; and

(c) the landlord has made a reasonable effort to notify the tenant of the landlord’s intent to enter.

Section 27(2) of the Residential Tenancies Act also allows a landlord, or a qualified real estate salesperson authorized by the landlord, to enter a rental unit to view the premises upon giving 24 hours prior notice to the tenant before the time of entry.

The decision, in essence, only means that you cannot take picture of a unit and then publicize it for marketing purposes without this right being clearly stipulated in the lease or agreed to by the Tenant. And for all of those commercial agents wondering – yes, this can also apply to the commercial context.

What should you do to protect your client?

Agents can protect their clients both before and after a lease is signed. Here’s how:

During the Offer to Lease Stage

Agents negotiating both residential and commercial offers to lease can use this opportunity to truly impress their clients by ensuring that the offer specifically allows the landlord or its representative to take photographs, videos or digital recordings of the premises and that the tenant consents to the use of the images for marketing of the premises on any communication networks.

If you’re representing the tenant, ask them if they have any privacy concerns. For example, business owners may have confidential documents, drawings or information on whiteboards that contain sensitive material. Whether or not the tenant has privacy concerns, it may be prudent to include a clause in the offer that limits the landlord’s ability take photographs, videos or digital recordings and that the publication of these materials are subject to tenant approval.

After the Lease is Executed

In order to avoid a lawsuit, do not enter the premises to take pictures before doing the following:

  1. Ask the landlord if he or she has a provision in its lease to take pictures of the premises for marketing purposes.
  2. If the landlord says the right exists and that’s in the lease, ask to see the clause. There may be certain conditions such as getting the tenant’s consent, having the tenant present when you take the pictures and restrictions around when you can enter.
  3. If no such clause exists, ask the landlord to obtain written consent from the tenant. If your client-landlord refuses to get the consent, remind them of the Juhasz v. Hymas, 2016 ONSC 1650 case and the $3,000.00 the landlord had to pay to the tenant, the thousands he lost in rent and the legal fees. It’s better to act prudently than to risk litigation.

The moral of the story: get it in writing – either during the negotiations or before you walk into a tenanted premises. Privacy issues are a real issue and can cause a lawsuit.

What Trump Does Well….. and Why You Need to Do it Too

I’ve always been told to find the good in everyone. And, while I haven’t found much, there are two good things that Donald Trump does – he knows what he wants and he know when to cut his losses. Adopting his clarity in vision and decisiveness is a good lesson to learn, especially if you’re negotiating. You’ll save time and money, no matter how much you’ve already lost pursuing the by putting energy in the wrong deal or goal.

How Does Acting Like Trump Save You Money and Time?

Walking away allows you to avoid a crushing negotiation tactic known as the “time crunch phenomena”. Studies show that we tend to “give up” close to 80% of our “non-negotiable” demands at the 11th hour in order to get the deal done. We do this because we’re tired and because we have trouble admitting that the hours, dollars and brain cells spent were a waste of our time and that we failed despite our best efforts (if you want to know more on why we do this, wait for next week’s article on the Sunk Cost Fallacy).

In fact, today, I witnessed a Landlord’s representative doing exactly that. He pushed his client into an inferior deal because the irrevocable date was drawing to a close. “We spent too much time on the deal to throw it away”, he told me…and me being the Tenant’s lawyer negotiating against him. The lawyer who also knew that the agent was feeling the pressure to close the deal because he failed to find alternatives should the deal fall through – a big negotiating mistake that I leveraged by letting the negotiations drag close to the deadline.

The result: the Landlord getting a bad deal because the agent, under time pressure with no alternatives, worked himself into a confused state, focused only on the “time lost” negotiating and not on what he was giving up.

Trump would call the Landlord’s agent all sorts of names if he were watching – he might even deport him!

Yes, we spent hours negotiating, travelling up to the Premises and conducted several feasibility studies. And, yes, we’d have to go through the whole process, again, should either of us decide to chase a better deal that was more in line with our goals. However, I entered into the negotiations knowing what we needed to make the deal work and our alternatives. I was completely comfortable with cutting our losses and getting a deal that would give us much greater returns over the long run. While time was running out for this deal, it wasn’t for all deals!

This week, do as Trump does and learn the art of walking away if what’s proposed doesn’t align with what you want. And you have to do this despite time, effort and money “sunk” into pursuing that end. As far as doing anything else he does, that’s up to your discretion.


Read This if You Want to Give Up

Last week I was email interviewed about some awards I received from the Real Estate Institute of Canada. I thought this exercise would be fairly easy and non-controversial – until I was asked a question I believed was fundamentally flawed. A question that hits on a nerve because it’s premised on certain beliefs that are known to promote depression and hacks away at grit, self-esteem and motivation.

Before I’m misunderstood, REIC is a fantastic organization that promotes education and ethical behaviour among all real estate professionals. And an organization of which I’m proud to be a member and a Director (Toronto Chapter). I cannot sing my praises loud enough – being member has not only catapulted my professional life into a sphere I never expected (especially as a female in the commercial real estate space), but has also connected me with my incredible mentors and friends.

So, what was this difficult question? “Why Should Members Pursue Excellence?”. And what was my problem? I don’t think they should.

Don’t Pursue Excellence

I don’t believe in the pursuit of excellence. Pursuing excellence is like pursuing perfection and similar impossible goals that you’re likely never to achieve, leaving you feeling like a failure and depressed every day, hour and minute.

To be clear, I believe in REIC’s message. We should do better and demand higher professional standards and ethical behaviour in the real estate community. However, how I’d get there is not through pursuing excellence. Instead, I believe that you can get there by pursuing kindness, ethics and being comfortable with the messiness of life (and your own flaws). This alternative route will keep you motivated to achieve these noble standards. And here’s one example of just that.

At age 5 his father died.

At age 16 he dropped out of school.

At age 17 he had already lost four jobs…a pattern that would repeat the next 45 years of his life.

At age 18 he got married. He joined the army and washed out there.

At age 20 his wife left him and took their baby. He became a cook in a small cafe and attempted to kidnap his child. That failed and he eventually convinced his wife to return home.

He applied for law school and was rejected.

At age 65 he sold his first restaurant – for very little. A restaurant that he ran with his mistress. He felt like a failure & decided to commit suicide.

What would you do at this juncture? Claim your life is over? Continue to act in a way that hurt others? Fail to seek forgiveness from others and yourself?

He sat under a tree and began writing his will and reflecting on his life. As he wrote, he reflected upon the fact that he hurt others. He wished he accomplished more with his life and held himself to a higher standard both personally and professionally. So he borrowed $87 fried up some chicken using his recipe, went door to door to sell. Many doors were slammed in his face, but he persisted and never compromised on the quality of his recipes or his integrity, despite the fact that many business people claimed he’d make more money cutting corners.

Finally, at age 73, he sold KFC for $2 million ($15.3 million today) and he’s remembered as the Colonel Sanders, founder of the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) Empire.

The Lesson

Sanders’ story is something we should turn to as a reminder that all of our lives are imperfect, messy and riddled with bad decisions. And that there is always time to do better. You never know what’s around the corner, so be kind, forgiving, comfortable with the imperfection and forge ahead.

For more strategies on how to get through the tough times, I suggest a Michael Hyatt Podcast, How to be a Storm-Proof Leader.


Proof that Nice Guys Finish First

Could you sell your mother for a penny? If not, you’ll fail in business.

This was the advice I received from an incredibly successful businessman at a tender age of 13. I believed that starting my own business would be the only way I could merge creativity with effective problem solving. But, when I heard this advice, I thought:

  1. Business people are not nice.
  2. I am nice.
  3. Therefore, I will absolutely fail as a business person….

So, I went to law school instead. As it turns out, lawyers aren’t so nice either. And that’s true in any profession.

For years I decided to ignore what I really wanted to do because I’m a nice person and I thought that I wouldn’t be able to “cut it” as an entrepreneur. Even after I decided to launch my company, grew my clientele and got some great feedback, this nagging thought persisted: will I ultimately fail, along with my nice entrepreneurial friends, because I cannot take advantage of people, sell people garbage or “screw” partners, employees, suppliers etc. etc.?

This thought can now be put to rest because, as it turns out, being nice has actually worked to my advantage. I base my answer not on my own anecdotal experience, but on some interesting studies. Read on to find out how you can use your niceness to succeed.

Reduce Your Stress, Close More Deals

Taking the nicer “I’m putting your interests first” sales approach, rather than the “I’m going to beat you with my product until you buy”  approach, does two things for you:

  • First, it reduces your stress; and
  • Second, it increases your deal-closing rate


Supporting the needs of others (i.e. others = your prospect) has interesting positive effects on parts of your brain, particularly the stress and reward part. Those who put other people’s interests first and seek to solve other people’s problems before their own have less activation in regions of the brain related to stress.

What this means is that by focusing on your prospect’s problems, understanding their perspective and getting to know how they feel, you’ll reduce your own stress levels when your prospect starts peppering you with difficult objections.

Reducing your stress levels when facing stressful situations is really beneficial not only for your health, but also for the success of the sale. This is because we’re very poor at hiding our true feelings of stress and anxiousness. It takes only a slightly sweaty palm or a 0.5 second twitch to turn off your prospect because your stress makes you seem desperate for a sale. Your desperation then raises the deal-killing question: do you need this sale because your product sucks and no one is buying?

Another added bonus: those who seek to put others first also experience higher activation in parts of the brain related to rewards. So, when you close the sale, you won’t just feel good – you’ll feel REALLY good. It gets better; focusing on how you can support someone also makes good business sense. And here’s why…

The Strategic Sale

The art of closing a deal is fundamentally preceded by the art of qualifying your prospect. If you have something that doesn’t support or help the prospect – i.e. something they don’t need or doesn’t satisfy one of their problems – you shouldn’t be trying to sell them. The first reason is because it’s unethical. The second is that it’s a waste of your time.

Empathy is Essential to Closing a Deal

Psychologist Adam Galinsky from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University asked the question: “What approach should one take to achieve such an understanding of one’s opponent in everyday negotiations?”

As any researcher should, he followed up on question with studies some academic probing and studies that uncovered something interesting: those who understood the prospect’s perspective scored the highest success rates in closing a deal. In fact, they scored much higher than those who only cared about their own feelings and perspective and still higher than those who made the effort to understand how the prospect feels.

The difference is not significant:

It’s clear: figuring out what someone else wants first = closing more deals = making more money = good business sense. Irrespective of this “business outcome”, I much rather be a nice because this means I get to talk to the right people, create the right products and services and sleep better at night. And I like to sleep.

In a nutshell…

If you want to be a little less stressed, have the capacity to truly enjoy the fruits of your labour and make more money, then don’t be a jerk. Be nice, be caring and look to help others before you help yourself.

Plus…karma does suck…

Remember that successful businessman who gave me that sage advice? He got caught doing some very bad things, was arrested and had to close his business. Putting his own interests first made him many enemies, all of which helped bring him down. If the above doesn’t compel you to be nice, then his outcome should.

Our lawyers believe in the Groundworks philosophy of working with you, understanding your perspective and supporting you through the legal process. We’ve helped numerous tenants, landlords and real estate agents protect their interests because of our genuine desire to support you first. For more information about the author or leases visit

3 Productivity Hacks Your Mom Knows and You Don’t

Navy Seals Have Nothing on These Women

Need new productivity and procrastination-prevention tips? You won’t find them in Forbes magazine or on some life-hack’s website. And forget the app store. Instead, you’ll find them by watching one of the most disciplined, resilient and driven groups of people who put navy seals to shame: new moms.

Imagine this seemingly impossible workplace scenario:

  • You’ve recently required major surgery to solve a medical issue;

  • As soon as you’re pushed out of the surgery room, you have no choice but to start your new job… even though you’re in pain, you can’t sleep and you likely won’t for about 6 more months;

  • Within 1 hour of starting your new job, you realize you can’t understand a word your boss says. He STRICTLY communicates through tears and screams;

  • Your boss, although inspiring at times, shows very little outward appreciation for what you do;

  • You’re required to be on call 24/7 and respond to all of your boss’s demands immediately. Not 10 minutes from now. NOW;

  • You don’t get sick days; and

  • And there’s no HR to complain to.

Isn’t it incredible this very difficult work environment is also known as motherhood? And isn’t it even more incredible that, despite lack of sleep and lack of time, new moms simply: GET. THINGS. DONE.

These women clearly have productivity secrets that are more practical and more real than any app or fancy business school study. So, if you want to get ‘er done, then start learning and using the secrets your mom never told you:

Lesson 1: If you have no time, you can’t procrastinate.  

Almost all “productivity gurus” agree that everything needs a deadline and everything should be scheduled. This is simply logical and I endorse this message. The more difficult issue, however, is figuring out exactly how much time we should allot between the assignment and completion of a task.

Enter lesson number one from motherhood: mom’s don’t have time for this allotment nonsense. They identify the task, they gather the necessary resources and they just do. And they just keep on doing. Why? Because the deadline is NOW.

Why does urgency work?

Mom’s assert that time pressures put everything into a very clear perspective: what is important gets done and what isn’t important gets ignored (like sleep, washing one’s hair etc etc).

These women are, essentially, applying a famous psychological-productivity principle coined, Parkinson’s Law. The law simply states that you will make a project seem more complex, more difficult and more time consuming if you have a lot of time to think about it. Consider the following scenario as an example of this principle at work:

A mom has allotted several hours to complete the task of feeding her screaming newborn. With all this time she starts contemplating: should I feed my baby standing (one or two legs?), sitting (which room?), what about my clothes, and hair? Should I adjust the room temperature? To what? Or should we put up a fresh coat of paint? Music or no music? etc etc.

An otherwise straightforward task just got messy. She now has more work to do (e.g. paint the room) and is detracted from the only truly relevant goal: feed the baby. An immediate shorter deadlines, on the other hand, would’ve make what is critical – feed the baby – the focus. By keeping focus on the goal – feed the baby – the trivial solves itself and unnecessary steps are ignored completely.

How do I use this in my life?

Apply this “new mom productivity hack secret” to your daily practise by shortening deadlines. Let’s say that one of your least favourite tasks typically takes 5 hours, this includes the time spent procrastinating on Netflix. You’d first cut down your time to 2 hours. You’d then buy a stopwatch and set it to the countdown mode.  The stopwatch will get you into a  “competitive” mindset and crank up the time pressure. Finally, start the task and focus on it as if your life depends on it.


Caution, however, is advised when applying lesson number one! Some studies show that unrealistic deadlines are crippling and may cause further procrastination. This is because if you don’t believe you can achieve your goal under the short deadline, then you’re unlikely to even start.

The key is to start by simply “hacking away” at your time allotment. After a few trial runs, you can start making adjustments to your allotments; this includes adding or taking away time. Remember, the goal is to leverage the time pressures, and not to give you a panic attack or make you feel inadequate because you went overtime.

Another tip is to test your timing assumptions before you make any turn-around promises. I’ve seen lawyers, students and agents all promise to get a report completed under unrealistic timelines only to embarrass themselves by missing the very deadlines they set.

Lesson 2: Do you know who’s on your team?

It takes a village to raise a child. Moms know this more than anyone else. They also know exactly who to call upon for help, depending on the task. Moms learn their strengths and weaknesses, they figure out who is the best at doing what and they discover what can or can’t be delegated. For example, one friend of mine is the only one who can feed her child and change her daughter’s diaper, but her mom’s the best at laundry stains and her dad can whip up a meal in no time.

This village principle mirrors the “business” rule that great teams build great companies. If you want to focus on what’s important and get more done, then give up control, learn what you’re good at and delegate the rest. If you’re having trouble determining what can be delegated and what you’re good at, do this:

  1. Ask your colleagues to list your top three strengths and weaknesses;

  2. Ask yourself if there’s something repetitive and trivial that is exhausting and unnecessarily takes up your mental capacity;

  3. Determine your “risk threshold” by figuring out the most you’re willing to lose because of a mistake (e.g. losing $500.00 to a shipping mistake); and

  4. Delegate your weakness and the trivial that fall under your risk threshold.

Lesson 3: Is the work tough? Feeling Under-appreciated? Get over it Barbie. Rinse, recycle, repeat.

There are many great moments raising children. I know this because my parents tell me all the time. Except for the teenage years, which is nothing but one long terrifying moment. They also tell me this. All. The. Time.

While we all recognize that children can bring joy and happiness to a parent’s life, we cannot forget that moms are under tremendous caregiving pressures and they’re typically deprived of sleep. We also can’t forget that, despite this, they don’t quit. They simply continue to produce results, adjust how they do things and repeat until the process gets a bit easier. And, eventually, faster.

And herein lies the final secret: it is only by repeating a task, despite its difficulty and monotony, that you’ll be able to develop shortcuts and systems. These shortcuts and systems, in turn, will make tackling the task faster and easier.

Need some inspiration to get motivated?

Forget obsessing over what the tech billionaires are doing. Just watch a mom who has to change a diaper or feed her baby. She simply starts, grabs (intuitively) everything she needs, calls upon her village for help and leverages a few tried and true shortcuts along the way…so, get to it!

Disclaimer: I’m not a mom. I do not pretend to be. But, I do love and admire my mom, as well as my mommy friends.

Our Groundworks lawyers are here to be a part of your village. We take the time to understand your perspective and needs and we’ll walk you through the legal process. We’ve helped numerous tenants, landlords and real estate agents protect their interests because of our genuine desire to support you first. For more information about the author or leases visit