I have dealt with too many lawyers in the last few months – one to close the deal on my new home, another to incorporate, and finally one to recover the rent deposit from my last landlord.
The only interactions that I have enjoyed have been with the lawyer that set up my business in Barbados. [Keisha is amazing if anyone wants a referral.] She is the only one that I have truly felt has represented me.
The lawyer who is tasked with recovering my rent deposit contacted me yesterday. He received a phone call from my previous landlord’s attorney. Apparently, in this phone call, her lawyer conveyed that they had “numerous photos and evidence of the state of the property upon the end of the lease but never the less wishes to settle the matter.” Instead of keeping $1,500 BDS of my rent deposit, they are now offering to steal only $840 BDS.
My lawyer reminded me that I expressed a desire for mediation, rather than for court. Three months and $600 in legal fees have passed since I communicated this desire. This is the first contact that we have had with them. My landlord had refused to accept the letter that my attorney had couriered to her. She would have received the summons to court – our date is set for December 12th.
Why has their bid changed? Since I received notice from my landlord in August, I have been asking for receipts for a long list of items she said she was retaining from my deposit. She has never submitted one receipt or evidence of any sort to substantiate her claim.
What am I being held liable for? I moved out of that apartment May 1st with no problems expressed to me by my landlord, nor in the three months that followed. I left the property in good condition and good faith. Most of the items on her list, like broken lamps, were brought to her attention by me.
What am I negotiating?
Am I negotiating my way out of court for a situation that I did not initiate?
Am I negotiating to settle for $600 BDS more money? Money that was not the motivator to begin proceedings in the first place.
Am I negotiating how much money of mine she gets to keep? This is not a situation of an accident where we are trying to determine the value of its impact. This is a defined sum of money that she held in trust.
Am I negotiating for my mental state? I want all this to go away, but If I accept this offer, I will feel deflated. Why? Because at every step of this process, I feel that I am getting screwed! It feels like malicious intent due to the lack of communication and lack of evidence.
I turned to my lawyer for advice, and he provided none. So, I phoned Uncle Ken in Canada because he is a badass when it comes to staying the legal course. After an hour and a half of working through the emotion and then the details, here is where we landed:
In order to enter a negotiation, the other side must give something to negotiate.
In absence of evidence to substantiate her claim, there is nothing to work with. She may firmly believe that she is entitled those funds, but in absence of evidence, there is only bullying.
And bullying is something that I do not believe any of us should tolerate.
Over to you: What is the side of the story that I am not seeing?
Ack. My head hurts thinking about this, so I have no advice or wisdom to contribute. I’m so sorry to hear that it is happening. I will stay tuned to find out the resolution, which I hope will come soon.
Uncle Ken rocks! I think it’s awesome that you reached out to an expert who loves you xo
Uncle Ken was right…there needs to be evidence to have a successful claim. I have asked my lawyer that the opposition lawyer provide their latest offer in writing (rather than a dodgy phone call) and a list of receipts for the amounts that they propose to deduct from my rent deposit. The court system works here as it does in Canada in that the opposition must file a Defense. If no receipts/invoices are attached to their Defense then they have a weak case. This will be her last chance to provide something before we are in front of the courts, so we will see what happens. Watch this space…
Unfortunately right and wrong, morality and ethics do not play a part in legal settlements. Most lawyers will advise you to settle because once you ad up the legal costs and the potential of going to trial and still losing….something is better than nothing. I have been where you are now…the only real winners in the end are the lawyers. You stick to your morals and ethics but in the end you are fighting an unethical battle….that being said I hope you kick their ass and win what you are entitled to!!!
This is one of those examples of a sad reflection of our society, in that legal battles outweigh morality and ethics. In this instance, I know the worst-case scenario and it will cost me less than the amount that I am trying to recover. I am in a privileged position that the amount was enough to begin this fight but also something I can afford to lose. I have taken it this far on principle and it has not come to completion quite yet. I appreciate your cautions and your encouragement to kick their ass ; )
This is a tough one, but perhaps there’s a different way of looking at it.
If I were to quote Byron Katie, I would say you might be arguing with life, in other words, you are stuck in what the landlord “should do”, “should think”, how they “should abide by the law”. Those are your parameters.
Who knows what your ex-landlord’s motivators are behind her behaviour!
Maybe she’s desperate for money? Scared of her future perhaps? Simply ignorant?
I wonder if there’s an opportunity to approach this from a level of…compassion, rather than outrage?
I realize I’m not in your situation, Sheri, but something similar happened to me many years ago. After chasing the guy for months to repay his debt, I finally let it go, because it simply wasn’t worth the poison it was creating in my heart.
Ask yourself how it would feel to be without these thoughts, and what you’d be willing to let go of in order to achieve that.
Although one of the most difficult things to practice, letting go can often lead to surprisingly liberating outcomes.
This is an interesting conversation Sylvia – letting go. In theory, I completely understand what you are saying, that holding onto these feelings are not serving me and I would be freer to let it go.
What if the parameters that you are referring to are not my parameters but those set out by the contract between myself and my landlord? What if in good faith I entered into this contract handing over my money with the express purpose that it be used in the case of damages beyond wear and tear? I will go one step further and ask, what if my landlord’s actions were seen as unethical? And to further complicate the matter, what if you were told that this happens at an alarming rate on the island to both ex-pats and locals, many of which suffer financially because of it (much more than I will suffer and much more than the landlords)? Then the question presents itself – is there not then an added incentive to stop this behaviour and become a part of the solution, rather than the problem?
The person that I am, even in my Zen state in Barbados, will suffer more by letting this go than pursuing it. It is only the moments of indecision about whether to pursue the matter than cause me distress. I am now clear that I need to see this through to the end.
Thank you for your thoughts. My hope is that this post will help others with similar decisions…and they may choose differently for themselves.
You definitely have a point there, especially considering this trend is growing at an alarming rate. It does seems as though expats were being taken advantage of, with the assumption that losing a bit of money will not “hurt” them.
It also sounds like a bigger and deeper conversation needs to be had between locals and expats, in order to explore destructive beliefs and attitudes so that trust can be restored.
Good luck with tackling that!
This morning in the local Magistrate’s Court, it was awarded that my rent deposit be returned plus the legal fees related to the court appearance. The Magistrate was not impressed with my landlord’s claims. When her attorney tried to present pictures of lamps that had been broken, the Magistrate asked where the before pictures were. She said that if there was no proof that I had caused the damage beyond normal wear and tear, there was no claim. Thank you! This is exactly what I have been saying. This unfortunately happens to both expats and locals, with a higher rate against expats they hope are leaving the country. I would encourage anyone with the time, conviction and money to fight landlords that do not respect contract law relating to rental agreements.
Woohoo! I wish I had half your perseverance and cojones, Sheri. :)
Oh but you do Sylvia – you do!!