Hi missfong02 and others - Apologies for the delay in posting. Got completely caught up with following up on my case and then some travel, so couldn't reply earlier.
So I have a conclusion to my issue now - part good and part bad. Last I had mentioned that I was going through the LL's agency to try and get the LL's address or other contact details. However, they refused citing that they needed the LL's permission to be able to share. So I forwarded the notice of further consultation from the SCT to them (via email) and asked them to forward to the LL and tell him to show up. Honestly, given my experience, I didn't expect any reciprocation. To my surprise though, the LL started responding directly over email and stated his case, with his main argument being that since I was the only resident of the unit (the condo
had TOP'd just before I moved), the crack would surely have happened during my tenancy (!). He then refunded part of my security deposit, albeit with a big deduction for the 'crack' (close to $900). After some back and forth (which included me asking to meet so I could personally serve the notice, which didn't happen), we decided to just go ahead for the hearing. I had my fingers crossed that he shows up because a) this was the 2nd hearing and b) the registrar had threatened to dismiss the claim if I couldn't prove service of notice (which I couldn't even then - email acceptance probably wouldn't have been accepted). Thankfully, he did show up.
Just when I had thought the hard part was done, I had forgotten about the other variable in this - the registrar (especially since my first hearing with him wasn't very good at all). I had the impression that since this round is supposed to be a 'mediation', that there would be extensive conversation from both sides. I was wrong. The registrar asked the LL what he proposed as a resolution. The LL suggested that I bring my own contractors to look at the crack and get it repaired. The registrar asked me if I agreed - I said no. That was it. He then said we would go for a 'trial', handed us additional documents that we needed to fill out for the trial and started looking for dates. He suggested a date 3 weeks later, which the LL immediately declined due to travel <registrar looks annoyed>. He then suggested another date less than one week later, and as luck would have it, I wasn't in town for that. After that, he basically threw a hissy fit and asked us if we had printouts of our travel itineraries (ofcourse we didn't, only on email). Once we refused, he screamed that we needed to go out and find a solution or he would dismiss the case.
At this point, I had more to lose so the onus was on me to find a solution. I spoke with the LL, and in the process also found out that his agent had not forwarded many of the requests I had made during my tenancy to him (confirming my earlier judgement of his agent). Eventually, we could only agree to splitting the cost of fixing the crack equally.
I basically had to cut my losses, even though I feel I was in the right, just because I had much more to lose and it would've required a lot more effort (and legal fees) to follow-up on this via the Magistrates Court. In this experience, the SCT helped in spreading a bit of fear and nuisance for the LL (coming in the middle of a work day and spending 1-1.5 hours to just be told that you need to come back 3 weeks later, etc.), but it wasn't the mediator or referee I had hoped it would be. Of course, luck played its part as well - between the LL and me, we were unavailable 7 out of the remaining 19 working days of the month, but those were the two dates the registrar provided. Although, a part of me feels a bit 'cheated' and that I could've done more, I guess this was the most prudent solution for me.
@x9200: Agree with you on the escrow - much needed.