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How to handle a conflict
And deal with a greedy landlord
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I moved my office of 7 years across town. Unfortunately, things got out of hand, dealing with a greedy landlord in addition to the physical relocation.
In the process, folks who knew what was happening shared similar stories with me – the tenant improves the property and/or leaves it in a condition much better than they found it, but the landlord still threatens to keep the deposit. Usually, people just give up and give in. They accept the withholding without holding the landlord accountable and move on. Knowing tenants won't challenge them, many landlords keep the money they claim for cleaning or repairs but don't actually do any of it.
If tenants knew their rights, paid attention to their lease agreements, and challenged landlords on their claims, perhaps there will be fewer greedy landlords and more tenants with extra money in their pockets.
I get it. No one likes conflict except for bullies and greedy landlords who benefit from people's conflict-avoidance tendencies.
I am no different. I'd rather play with my dog, go dancing, or read a book instead of composing a well-structured defense, organizing proof, crossing every T, dot every I, and fighting for my deposit. In fact, when I was served with a "notice of non-renewal," I pretty much figured that I won't get any of my $1200 back just because getting them back would be too much of a headache.
Then I remembered how my landlord stole every tenant's money under the pretext of damages and cleaning, and I got to feel righteous. Someone, sometimes, must make a stand and say enough is enough.
And so, it began. In the process, I realized my landlord demanded of me things that are her responsibility according to the lease agreement we signed. She tried to have me pay for blinds she ordered six weeks before my departure, claiming damages when none existed and claiming some of the blinds were missing while keeping them in her storage, to which I have no access. It got pretty surreal. The stress level was intense.
But I rolled with the punches and held my ground. And so should you if you know you are being pushed around, threatened, and taken advantage of.
Bullies rely on your instinct to recoil. They know they don't have to make sense. They demand and threaten. The demands confuse you, and the threats trigger your fear. You naturally want to run away and end the situation as soon as possible, and forget all about it.
Except, everyone who surrenders their personal power in this manner teaches the entitled bully that this strategy works perfectly well. They face no consequences. And more people suffer later because of it.
Prior to the pandemic, I volunteered as a mediator in Small Claims Court. Time and again, people showed up angry at each other, accusing each other of wrongdoing but rarely producing hard proof. People feel unjustly treated, hurt, and taken advantage of. But frequently, they have no documentation. Feelings are subjective. Specific actions, lease agreements, inspection forms, communication in writing, and videos of interactions are more potent than feelings. Documentation stores the facts. In Small Claims Court, facts help the judge sort things out.
When in conflict, think about "the judge!"
No matter who the conflict is with. No matter if it actually has to go to a judge. If you think in terms of the judge, you are more likely to employ your objective thinking. In objective thinking mode, you're less likely to feel sorry for yourself, less likely to take things personally, and less likely to be afraid.
Instead, you can consider which evidence supports your position, organize your thoughts, and strategize.
In my case, I went through the lease agreement with a fine-tooth comb and structured my responses to my landlord's demands by quoting the exact item number and language in the lease. I videotaped interactions with her property manager and contractors coming over for various inspections. I dug up the move-in inspection form and videos from 7 years ago. I conducted all communication with my landlord via email, so there's written proof and because I can read things more carefully than I can hear them. I can also take the time to research and respond. I wrote every email thinking that the judge may have to see it and what would make it easier for the judge to decide.
If this sounds non-applicable to your relationships with your significant other, mother-in-law, kids, or boss, think again.
When they tell you, "You never did anything for me," you can come back with, "I am sorry you think this. I helped you with….,” “I listen to you when….,” “I took you to…..”
Too often, people in conflict end up in "everything but the kitchen sink" heated exchanges. They drag up old stuff that has nothing to do with the present situation other than making them feel the way they felt some other time in the past. Attempting to strengthen their positions, people end up diluting them with "what about," name-calling, and finger-pointing. Unless you really like the energy of fights, I don't suggest you go down that road.
When in an argument, drop the epithets and beef up the specifics instead.
It won't help you to accuse the person of being mean. It will help you to tell them that when they did a specific thing, it resulted in a specific thing. Yes, you can tell them how it made you feel, but at the end of the day, your feelings are your responsibility. You can self-regulate (hopefully.) Actions speak louder than words and often even louder than feelings.
Listen carefully. Most people are not greedy landlords. Instead, they seek some sort of reassurance, a connection. Depending on the person and the situation, all they may need is indeed love.
Other times, you may have to be the dispassionate, logical, organized litigator of your own case. Think of the conflict as a journey of discovery and adjusting of positions. My favorate way to handle contentious situations is to ask for examples.
For example, I exercised my right to an initial inspection so that I could get a list of specific things "needing corrections." My landlord produced a statement instead: "in general, some blinds are missing or damaged." This helped me confirm that she intends to charge me for blinds regardless of their condition. But instead of saying this to her or arguing about it, I fired back with, "Please, provide me with a specific list of blinds you consider missing or damaged, blind by bland." When the list materialized in a couple of days with specific blinds she claimed were damaged or missing, I documented the condition of each blind in question with a video showing none of them to be damaged and all of them to be functional. Also, I could point to the move-in inspection, which clearly states that the landlord will remove certain blinds, the ones now claimed as missing. Blind by blind, I showed proof that the landlord's claims were factually untrue. I even had a third party inspect the blinds in question and issue a statement – something "the judge" will love seeing.
So, when in conflict and accused of wrongdoing, ask for specific examples. Sometimes, your opponent won't have an example. That's where the conflict will hopefully end. Other times, their examples can help you understand better what they care about or even make you think of things you didn't consider before. It will definitely bring clarity to what you need to do to either defend yourself productively or stand corrected and apologize.
Finally, remain respectful in your communication. Yes, I called my landlord a greedy bitch a few times, but in my head only. I didn't actually write it down because I knew it won't help my case with "the judge." If you let your anger, fear, and indignation take over, you will fail to state your case. You will let your opponent not only take your stuff, money, job, authority, partner, etc., but you will allow them to rob you of your sanity, and you will walk through life bitter, angrier, and jaded.
Remember, this too shall pass. One way or another, whatever conflict you find yourself in will blow away eventually. Hopefully, you will minimize the damage by handling it correctly. Then go on to your PSG – Post-traumatic Stress Growth. That's the part where you look back and figure out what you could have done better, metabolize the stress with some good self-care, good people, and good times, and emerge more resilient, smarter, and more experienced.
It’s been a Fox News obsession for almost two years: Hunter Biden’s laptop. But now that Republicans have retaken the House, Rep. James Comer and the House Oversight Committee are prepared to launch a full investigation into the laptop…except no one seems to know where the laptop is. In this episode of Jordan Klepper Fingers the Conspiracy, Jordan sits down with Deputy Director of Rapid Response from Media Matters For America, Andrew Lawrence, who breaks down the beginnings of this theory.
Thanks for reading.
Be a thinking, considerate, and kind human being!
My services: www.valentinapetrovaconsulting.com