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Background

First, about me. I've got Asperger's and (social) anxiety. I started my first job after college a bit over a year ago and moved into a nice apartment with a fully furnished kitchen and wallpapering and floors included. I honestly made a mistake with the apartment. The place was great, but too expensive. I had blown most of the little savings I had (college is expensive) on some furniture and the deposit before I realized how expensive things are. I could just about afford it and save up a little. Over the year I lived there, I managed to save up enough to cover the costs of moving.

A few weeks ago, I got offered a much cheaper council house*. I would save around 25% of my wages per year accepting it, so I did. The exact day I would receive the keys was "somewhere in summer". The people living there had offered to sell me their floors, blinds and their kitchen furniture. Their price seemed a tad on the high side, but they were really friendly and I was too anxious to counter, so I accepted. We agreed I would pay in two terms, one the day before they would give keys back and one on my next payday.

I hadn't even heard when they would receive the keys (I would receive them a few hours after they gave them to the council) when I received an angry phone call: why hadn't I paid yet? I nicely explained to them I hadn't heard when they were moving out yet, so I would call the council. I called the council and this day was 3 weeks in the future, but I paid anyway, just to be nice.

When I received the keys, I found out some of the floors were damaged below where furniture had been. They didn't tell me. I was now starting to find their tad high price a bit too high. After I moved in, I found out the dishwasher didn't work and one of the blinds didn't go up. Now their tad high price was just unreasonable.

Question

We moved around my payday, the day I was supposed to pay the second term, and then my grandmother passed, and, stupid, I know, I forgot to pay. Even worse, I seemed to have misbudgeted, and was out of the money for the second term. Can the situation get any shittier? They called me and my flight instinct kicked in, but I still answered the call. I was trembling, my voice cracked and I profoundly apologized and promised I would pay them as soon as the deposit for my previous place would come back to me, hopefully before the end of the week. They told me that if the money isn't in their account by Friday, they would come get all their stuff back and destroy the floor.

I want to pay them. Even if I think it is too much. I promised and I will do everything I can to keep my promise. I am incredibly scared of them coming over and trespassing. I'm scared of keeping the garden door open in this heatwave. I'm scared of talking to them too. But I think talking is needed to sort this out, so I want to be as prepared as possible for this talk.

How can I talk with these people about this? I want them to understand I want to pay and I will as soon as I have money (my next payday or whenever the deposit comes back) and that they are not entering my house.

There is a written agreement with a description of the items, like "fridge", but no quality or price mentioned. Legally, these items are mine, although they are entitled to their money.

*Technically in Netherlands these are owned by non-profit woningcorporaties, but in practice these are very similar

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    This actually sounds like you should file a police complaint. Though its not clear if you have anything in writing or if it was just verbal. Nonetheless, they threatened to trespassing and vandalism. Though I am not from the netherlands, I think you should really go to the police with what they said – XtremeBaumer Jul 3 at 13:07
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    I don't understand what it means to have bought their floor-- is that not part of the flat? And would you be willing to call off the purchase of these "extra" things, giving them their blinds, kitchen furniture, and floor, and not paying for them at all? – Upper_Case-Stop Harming Monica Jul 3 at 18:58
  • @Upper_Case the carpet and lino. And I’d rather not. I think I won’t see the half of what I already paid back in that case. – Belle Jul 3 at 20:02
  • Seems like something that would be worth some legal advice. Isn't there something like a mediator for such small cases who you could get advice from? Maybe the institution managing these houses can be of help also? Anyway let that be a lesson for the future: never buy something without clearly mentioning the brand, condition, etc... – Laurent S. Jul 4 at 7:51
  • Since you've got social anxieties and are dealing with angry, threatening people, is there anybody in your life you could ask for help dealing with them ? – MlleMei Jul 4 at 11:02
6

How can I talk with these people about this?

Be concise and to the point. I know it is probably very hard for you to do but try to be stern and short. Remind yourself that they, in my opinion at least, do not necessarily have any claim on the remainder of that money outside of your morals. You do not owe them the remainder of the money persay but to avoid legal costs and a stressful hassle I would probably pay them as well (Unless we are talking about some incredibly high amount here).

Remain friendly but make no empty promises or promises you can not keep.

Do not say something along the lines of "But I do want to note that your floor is in shit condition and I think this is an unfair amount that I need to pay." either.

These people seem to be hotheaded enough as it is, this will not make them see reason, it will anger them further. There is also no point in saying that unless you are actually serious about seeking mediation and/ or legal steps against this.

Call them yourself. Do not wait for them to call you back. Call them on a moment you are feeling calm and collected. Try to not let your voice crack up because people have a nasty habit of exploiting any weakness they come across.

I would say something like this

"Hey x, This is Belle. I wanted to talk to you about the money I still need to pay you. I am terribly sorry about the delay but I wanted to let you know that I will pay the remaining amount on date x. That is when I will get my paycheck. I can not pay it any earlier unless the deposit of my previous place comes in but I have no idea when that will be. If I do end up being able to pay it sooner I will give you another call."

This is friendly and direct and you only say what you need to say. The only date you will give is a date on which you are certain you can pay them (payday) and you let them know that IF you can pay them earlier, that you will.

If they overreact and get angry, start to shout, make threats, or other similar things. Simply tell them you will not talk to them like this and hang up. Log the call as well for later.

The threats

I am Belgian, our law system should not be too different I think. What they did is threatening you and threatening to break in and break stuff you legally own right now. These are multiple infractions of the law and you should go to the police with this. It does not matter if you want to press charges or not, or if the Police will act upon it or not.

You need to go and report this so that the Police register the complaint and there is a trail of this. This means that if they do end up visiting you and breaking things, there will be a record of that. This will help you afterwards in the legal stuff. Also keep a log of every communication with these people. Take copies of the written agreement, and keep a log of any conversations and phone calls that happened. Back up all emails and texts/ direct messages as well. This again will help you afterwards if they do end up doing illegal stuff to your home.

Your home and safety

How easy can these people access your home? You make it sound as if they can freely enter your home. Do they still have a key? (This would be illegal) or are you concerned they can enter your garden and force a way inside? If you are scared that they can enter your home without a second set of keys, you need to take steps to better protect your home. More locks, chain locks,... If you worry these people can enter your home, others can too, take steps so you feel safe in your own home.

Personal experience and insight

I have some personal experience in the same 'kind' of people/ situations. The situation was not entirely the same and without any kind of written agreement. We bought an item second hand and paid X money for it. Upon receiving the item, it was clear that x should really have been y. So we told them that and that we either would pay Y or that they could come and get their item back.

This angered them and they ended up coming to our home willing to fight us over this. Luckily for us, and the reason that we escalated and did not simply pay up is I was with my father and brother, and the other person was alone. If he had actually done anything violent it would have been relatively easy for us to pin him down and call the cops.

I tell this because I Want to point out that people who act like this are often very volatile and unpredictable and prone to lashing out as long as they think they can 'win' that way.

It is a bit of a long stretch for me to 'profile' the people in question like this but I really want to point out that a situation like this can quickly escalate in person, often without you wanting it to escalate. All we said in my story was "We are willing to pay Y for the item but not X, so either you agree to Y or come and get your item back." We remained calm and friendly and they reacted as I said.

I do not want to scare you but do keep in mind that people often are stressed themselves and can be volatile and explode. Often for things that are no reason for such a reaction but this situation can be the drop that overflows the bucket.

Written agreement

Lastly, what kind of written agreement do you have? Is it something you and them made up and then signed? Documents like this have little value often because they are not made up by professionals. And if you want to go down that avenue it might be worth it to seek the advice of a lawyer. This all would depend on the money owned as it might not be worth it.

So in short

  • Be direct and concise in your communication to them. Tell them they will receive money on x date, but make sure you can really pay them on x date. If the day after x is a more sure bet than say that date. Be friendly and calm and speak only facts, not promises. Because if you say I will pay on x, and on x you can not pay, then that will lead to further escalation of the situation.

  • Go to the police and report the threats that they have made, give the full story and tell them what you plan to do now. Listen to them as well, if they give you other advice, follow up on their advice. Keep track of and log every conversation with these people. Also any texts, DM's or written agreements. Back those up as well.

  • Do a checkup of your security at home. You need to be able to feel safe in your own home.

  • In the future, if you make written agreements, make sure they hold everything in it or hire a professional for mediation in this sort of thing.

3

First of all, you need to calm down again when facing these people.

1. Risk Assessment

This technique is part of Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) and helps soldiers and other people with PTSD, who are hyper-aware and expect danger at ever corner, to dial their anxiety down to an appropriate level.

CPT focuses on learning skills to evaluate whether you thoughts are supported by facts and if there are more helpful ways to think about your trauma. Source

A risk is composed of the severity of an adverse effect and the probability of this adverse effect happening.

In your case, the adverse effect would be those people destroying your floor. The severity is medium (your property is endagered, but your health and life are not).

Now what is the probability?

  • These people would need to find big tools (like a sledgehammer, pick or chainsaw) to even be able to destroy your floor.
  • They would need to pack these tools into a car and drive to your house.
  • They need to enter your property and your house against your will (read: through locked doors).
  • They then need to exert a lot of physical work to actually damage the floor with their tools.
  • The only thing they gain from their actions is the knowledge that you won't be able to use the items you paid only in part.
  • In turn, they risk being arrested for committing several crimes at once.

You see, the probability of them actually following through is close to zero. You can lower the chance even further with the next steps.

2. Renegotiate

You agreed to pay a price for items you hadn't seen at that time. The price made you assume a certain quality of those items. Seeing that they are damaged and don't meet your expectation, the situation changed and warrants a renegotiation of the price.

Make a list of what you were promised

The former owners promised you a list of things like:

  • floors
  • blinds
  • kitchen furniture
  • kitchen appliances

You have to assume that these items are not new, but functional and not broken, otherwise they wouldn't be sold, right?

Note the price for all these items on the bottom of your list. Since the price was quite high to begin with, you assumed the items were in top condition, not run down and broken. You can compare the price to what new appliances would cost to strengthen your argument. This is a very important argument in your re-negotiation and you should note it down with the original price.

Make a list of defects

Next to the first list, note down anything that's broken or in bad condition. Then determine how much repairing or replacing the defect items would cost. Don't assume the price a friend would pay, but how much it would cost to buy new items in a regular store or how much a craftsman would ask for a professional repair.

Substract these costs from the overall price you agreed to pay before seeing the defects. Take notes of all your arguments to be prepared for the actual negotiation

Be proactive, contact them first

I'm well aware that this will be very difficult for you, but you need to be the one who initiates the renegotiation. The person calling / speaking first is usually the one who sets the tone for a discussion, so you cannot let them put you in a powerless position by the first accusation they utter when you pick up the phone.

Keeping your anxiety in mind, it might be better to write them an email or even a letter. Take an example in warning letters by lawyers and use a very strict language that leaves no room for arguments. You can take your time formulating this email without your anxiety limiting your options. Keep it civilized, but don't waste your time with pleasentries.

I found this article "Who gets heard and why" by Harvard Business Review very enlightening in that aspect. You must be (and always stay) aware that these people are constantly trying to put you in a position below them. By trying to find a compromize and make everyone happy, you contribute to your own lack of power and let them manipulate you into things you don't want.

That said, do not mention the recent passing of your grandma. It's a very sad situation and will surely agitate your emotions. Avoid that at any cost. If you have to explain yourself, say no more than "I won't pay you right now" or "I don't have the money right now."

I personally found that play-acting to be a strong man is very helpful in such a situation. Square your shoulders, raise your head and stare your immaginary enemy right into the eyes. Keep in mind that they cannot see you through the phone or computer screen. It doesn't matter how much you sweat or tremble, as long as vour voice is play-acting a strong man. Standing up during the discussion is helpful, too, because it adds to the role you're playing.

Have your list of facts and arguments at hand if you call them or add a spreadsheet to your mail. It adds to the illusion of being strong and clever, knowing all the facts and finding the right arguments at the right time. Tell them that their price is not reasonable for the conditions of the items and tell them (don't ask them) what you are willing to pay instead and why.

3. Offer solutions

Telling them their price in unreasonable but not offering any alternatives puts the ball back into their field and gives them the initiative to coerce you into paying the full price anyways. Don't do that. Offer them a list of alternatives and don't accept any solution but one you offered.

You have entered into a poorly written contract that settles the exchange of items against a certain amount of money. Both parties are required to fulfill it, so you cannot withheld money from them, but they cannot withheld fully functional wares fron you either. If the contract doesn't contain the words "as is" or specifies that the items are sold in whatever condition they're currently in, it's reasonable for you to expect fully functional items. Since that's not the case, the other people are not fulfilling their part of the contract.

Make it clear that you are willing to fulfill the contract, but not under the current conditions.

You should offer the following solutions:

  • You pay the rest of the money minus the cost for replacements and repairs.
  • You pay the full price only if they hire qualified and professional craftsmen to do the repairs and you only pay after all repairs are done. Don't accept offers from them to come around and do the repairs themselves.
  • You offer to remove the items from your house and hand them over outside of your property only after they returned the initial payment. At no point in time are they welcome to enter your property.

That way you are the active negotiator and dictate your terms, instead of hoping for a reasonable offer from them.

It also offers you a strategy to postprone payment. It's not unusual to pay only after all defects were repaired, so you reserve the right to postprone payment until both parties have come to terms about the contract.

As said above, your grandma is not part of the discussion, avoid mentioning her at any cost. Lie if you must, but I'm sure it's not much of a lie if you tell them you're not willing to pay until the defects are repaired or your current move left you short on money.

  • 'These people would need to find big tools (like a sledgehammer, pick or chainsaw) to even be able to destroy your floor.' I suspect the OP means 'flooring' or 'floor covering' rather than floor, in which case a bottle of bleach or drain-cleaner would do an effective number on it. – Spagirl Jul 10 at 10:28

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