Friday, January 16, 2009

Landlord's Property caused $1300 in damages to my car

The Story
Friday morning, 1 week ago, I went to get in my car and found that all the snow from the garage's roof had landed on and around my car, denting my hood in beyond repair.

Knowing I'd want him to witness the actual damage caused, I called my landlord, Ryan, and said he should come look at it before I tried moving things. I also took videos and pictures of the car: as it was found and of the damages.

Two different body shops gave me estimates for about $1300 to buy a new hood and install it.

Ryan returned a few hours later to say I was given 1 parking spot and that I was not parked in it so he was not liable. He then used what Getting Past No would classify as a trick and said he'd paid for some plumbing bills involving the kitchen that he felt was our fault and that it was our turn to give.

I thought the plumber arugment was very unlogical, but my wife was the one who let me see it for what it was when she said, "I don't get what plumbing even has to do with this."

I argued back that I was guaranteed 1 spot (wife's car was there), but never told I could not park elsewhere. Also said plumbing was not a good excuse for me to pay $1300 in an unrelated incident. The snow on the roadside necessitated parking in the driveway and no spots were marked as "do not park."

At first I really didn't know how to handle this. But I was able to research a pretty good BATNA in dealing with my car insurance. I wasn't excited to pay the deductible, but they have a team that will work to get my money back--and they have a lot more legal expertise than I could acess for a small amount of money. They said they would fight to get the money back if they felt they should.

The Takeways
Don't start talks until you know what you want.
When I told Ryan I didn't accept his no-liability argument, we argued for a moment and then he asked what it was I wanted. The fact was, I didn't know yet. I wanted to be fair, but I had no clue what fair was yet-- I just knew his suggestion was not. During this time, I noticed frustrations because I didn't have a solution yet, but he was trying to absovle himself of all responsibility immediately.

Next time, I would follow the same tactic of letting him know I didn't consider his suggestion as legitimate but then I would say I was looking into the best way to pursue this still and that I had no suggestions yet.

Sometimes people refuse to negotiate or accept responsibility
Ryan kept asking for free 10-minute advice from lawyer people in his religious congregation. And they kept telling him what he wanted to hear. I quickly saw that this was going to go nowhere. I think in the end, he'll find that he got what he paid for.

Don't feel like you need to negotiate
In the end, I think I am the most happy that I submitted to my insurance. Unless he agreed to pay of go through his insurance I would have come out of this worse than I had to. When I saw that he wouldn't take full responsibility it quickly became clear that there were other forces that would make him.

Really this isn't over yet, I will hopefully get my deductible reimbursed. But really, if he wouldn't accept fully responsibility then I was not getting what I wanted. I think the insurance company will recover it.

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