Hey there, Dachia here.
Welcome back to Focus on your small business.
I’ve recorded this little addition because when I went to edit the audio, I could hear a lot of squeaky in the background. I had mentioned it during the recording, but I do apologize for it. At the time of this recording, I’m batching the recording… but we are in the middle of another winter storm… even though it is April… and so the dogs are trapped inside with me… and so, as long as they are not chewing on each other, I’m not going to ask too much of them. I didn’t realize how loud the squeaking was until I heard the recording later. So… sorry for that. On with this episode.
In a previous episode, no idea which one… I mentioned that people need to be heard. It’s why listening is such an important skill. When you meet someone new and you take an honest interest in them, and listen to their story, you can really connect with them.
Even you don’t agree with them, you can achieve connection if you’ve really listened to them.
Since so much of my business and my experience has been based on helping a client connect with their audience, this is something I feel is pretty important.
So, I want to tell you a story.
A few years ago, I had moved out of a home I had rented for 3 years. My brother and I had bought a home and a few acres in the Black Hills.
We had a pleasant relationship with the landlord and gave him plenty of notice. Just a little history here, the landlord was VERY nice… but he had many other projects and we and our little house were often forgotten. And that was fine with us. We just took care of things ourselves.
We did have a water heater issue within the first month and let him know, and he sent a guy out…
This was a guy who lived in his trailer park down the hill. This was a guy who was trying to work off part of his lot rent. Not professional. We’ll leave it at that.
When I first moved in, the landlord had said he wanted to paint the exterior. I didn’t want that, but it wasn’t my house, so I tried to just play nice.
And the person he sent out to pain the house?… also a person who lived in his trailer park who was trying to make lot rent.
So, yeah… I really didn’t want any more of the trailer folk at my home, so we just took care of issues ourselves.
After we moved out, I made arrangements to do a walk-thru with the landlord and I arrived early and took some video of the place, just to cover my butt.
He arrived late, which was kind of usual for him, and we did a walkthrough. He pointed out just a couple small things that we knew about, and he thanked us for taking such god care of the place. He said we would get most of our security deposit back and I left.
After a couple weeks with no check in the mail, I sent him a text to remind him and he responded quickly that he hadn’t forgotten, just got busy and they were still working on getting the smell out of the place.
I mentioned I was living with my dad. He is an elderly veteran who was pretty much bed-ridden and the house smelled a bit like an old folks home. Antiseptic and closed.
The landlord mentioned the smell of that one room in particular.
My initial thought was that one thing had nothing to do with the other. The hold up of the return of our security deposit was not, or shouldn’t have been, dependent on the smell in that room. This was a normal livd-in smell.
We are not talking about a meth-lab here… just normal wear and tear.
So, I did a google search to see what a security deposit could be held for. And I learned I was correct, but I also learned that in South Dakota, in my county, a landlord has2 weeks to return a security deposit or a written notice as to why it is taking longer. If they do not return the deposit they are going to, within the 2 weeks… they forfeit any right to all of it.
So, I wrote a letter and went on and on, so nicely, and ultimately saying we wanted our whole deposit back. I discussed why I thought we should have had it all mac anyway and that by law he had to return it all now and I gave him the text oof the law and a link to it online… and really this letter was like 2 1/2 pages. And I had my brother read it and he basically said all of that was more than was needed. Just say what I needed to say. So, I sent the text of the law and the link and that I was requesting/demanding nicely, the whole deposit be returned.
Now, part of the text of the law was a possible fine of $200 if the laws not followed.
I had given him few days to respond. And if he didn’t I’d file in small claims court.
Now, this may sound like I was a cold, whiny, princess type, but a bit more history… every single time we did contact the landlord over the 3 years, it was a wait of sometimes days or weeks to get a response.
He was always nice, but we were never a priority. And since we never complained or threatened to move out, we wee never going to be a priority. And that’s ok. That’s business. But I had had my fill of waiting o him, as nice as he had always been.
So, at the end of the X period of days I had given him, I had received a check for a portion of the deposit.
Less than what he had originally alluded to, and certainly far less than the whole amount which legally he was responsible in paying.
So, I sent him another letter thanking him for the first payment of the deposit and I was waiting for the rest of it… or gan, I would file. In each letter, I included the text of the law and the link. I highlighted that a judge could fine him $200 more. It was really clear in the letter and the law that I was legally in my rights.
I don’t remember if he responded again, but it was not with the rest of the money and so I filed. Simple process.
I downloaded all our texts and all our emails and had a copy of our contract and I was prepared, even though I thought all of that was superfluous.
On the day of our court meeting, I arrived quite early, and I sat in the back of the room listening to the two cases before ours.
Silently decided each of the cases and was happy that the judge agreed.
Now, on one of the cases, the folks involved were very cordial and I thought the decision was pretty obvious long before the complainant had finished telling her story. I thought she was wrong. But the defendant and the judge let her finish. And the judge explained why she was not correct.
And then the complainant nodded and said to both the defendant and the judge that she was thankful they let her tell her story and basically that she just needed to say everything she had to say before she could let this go.
And that was an aha moment for me.
My landlord came in and we took our places. He was there with his wife, another super sweet person.
I had all my papers and an iPad to show the judge all the digital information.
I told part of my story, but I didn’t feel it really necessary to tell every piece of it,, because honestly… I had the law. And while the judge could set it aside, I just didn’t think I needed to argue until she actually did.
And then the landlord told his side. And she asked him a few questions. And he answered and he was quite honest.
And then she asked him if he was aware of the law… the one I sent him the text of 3 times. And he said he wasn’t. And she said he should learn more about as he is a landlord with a few homes he rents out. He spent more tie on his trailer parks where he really didn’t own any structures, just the land.
And… I won.
I think I had won this case before walking into the courtroom. Had the landlord had a really good reason for not taking care of the deposit within the time allowed, she might have done something different. But even after he didn’t have any incredible reason, like a death in the family, or whatever, she let him tell her his story.
And after she decided, she asked if we had questions. And he asked if the law trumped our verbal agreement. Now, first… we didn’t have any verbal agreement. But second…, she informed him that, yes.. it does.
That was two times in the same day that I felt the point of her position was just to listen. That people just needed to be heard.
That’s a lesson I took with me. I was still working at the winery hen this happened and I kept it forward of mind when folks wanted to complain about something. I would listen. I would hear them out.
And since then, with my clients and then the membership site, I made and continue to make an effort to listen.
I hope this story is helpful to you. Helps you make listening a priority. Helps you understand that even though somebody may be obviously wrong… sometimes, we just need to hear them out. Let them tell their story in their own way and in their own time.
That’s all for today. Thanks for joining me. I’ll talk to you next week.
Keep in mind that if you are spending hours and hours in research mode online, learning what you need to do to build your business and then hours more figuring out how… you might want to check out the membership site. It can save you many hours every month in research and determining which resources are accurate and worth your attention.
You can find more information and a webinar that will walk you through whether or not this is the right path for you, on dachia.com/membership
Until next week. Make it a good one. It’s all up you… with a little bit of me.