Defending myself against legal shakedown

14 posts in this topic

Before I say anything, I will say that I did already spend money seeing an attorney about this, and he didn't seem too interested in helping me. I'm turning here--I'll try not to drag it out.

 

My roommate and I were not getting along, and he terminated our rental agreement. Fine. However, he later stated that I ran up his utilities and not only did he want to keep my security deposit, he wanted to charge an extra €300 on top of it. I objected to this, to which he began saying, "I can make your life a personal living hell--can you afford a lawyer working at a fast food restaurant? Because I'll take you to court and not only get the €300, but extra money for schmerzgeld for all the frustration! In the end, you'll be paying 3 or 4 thousand euros!" When I said that utilities were included in the contract and that he could not sue for that, he said "You want to take the gamble on that in court? My lawyer will run all over you!"

 

I tried ignoring his legal threats, but he then escalated it by sending me a screenshot from my Facebook profile of a frustrated and insubordinated remark I had made about my boss at work, and said "I wonder what your boss would have to say about this!"

 

My back was against the wall, my job now in danger, so I told him I'd pay the money if he would just leave me alone and let me move out. I moved out that weekend, but after giving it serious thought, I decided I had enough of being pushed around, and when he contacted me about the money, I told him flat out, "No. You have my security deposit, which you aren't even entitled to keep. You want anything else, I'll see you in court. I'll take the risk of whatever it might cost me, and you can tell my boss whatever--the Bundesagentur für Arbeit is exceptional in finding work for the unemployed--but you're not going to kick me around anymore."

 

Astonishingly, he is now suing me for €300, saying I "agreed" and therefore it's an official contract. I contacted a lawyer even though I had to borrow the money to pay the consultation fee. He didn't seem too interested in helping me, saying that by saying that I would pay him, I already acknowledged the debt and entered the contract. As for the SMS, he says that he didn't directly say that he was going to inform my boss, and would not be strong enough in court. But COME ON, use common sense! What else would he have meant?

 

My argument is that you can't force someone into a contract either by pressuring him and claiming that failure to comply with the demand could cost thousands of euros in "schmerzgeld" (which I found out was a lie). This goes DOUBLE for making indirects threats to jeopordize someone's job. This is not a contract, it's blackmail. My other argument is that the "contract" is based on illegal grounds anyway, as nowhere in our rental agreement did it state I would be responsible for any excessive utility usage. I mean, if a lawyer wants to go outside the law and charge a client 3 times the amount as permitted by German law and threaten to tell the client's wife that he admitted to sleeping with a several prostitutes, would such a contract be valid if the client signs a paper saying he agrees to pay 3 times the amount? I don't think people can just rewrite the laws like that, and force people into signing!

 

I'm sorry I took up so much time...I'm just tired of being kicked around like this, and no one seems to want to help me! Do I have any sort of defense, and would the arguments I presented work?

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Who knows what will happen if it goes to court. A friend got sued by his landlord. The case dragged on forever, got bounced between judges. Eventually they settled and both ended up losing money on court fees, lawyers etc. 

 

I suggest you join the mieterverein. Ask their advice. Get them to help you write letters etc.

 

Did you agree to pay him the 300 in writing or if not was it witnessed by someone? If it's in writing or there is a witness you might have to pay but you should request that he prove his alleged costs.

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6 minutes ago, LeonG said:

 you should request that he prove his alleged costs.

This! Before anything else.

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I am by no means a lawyer. But it is strictly my opinion, that your roommate has no case against you.

What were the terms of your tenancy with regards to sharing of utilities. How does he base that you drove up his utilities? Can he prove it? Were you both equal tenants or were you his subtenant (Untermieter)?

Did he screenshot your Facebook post by email? If you have it on record, I believe it can be considered blackmail or duress (Nötigung) Again, not a lawyer.

Whether or not your SMS is considered a contract, is for lawyers to decide. But I believe there has to be a transaction of some sort. You saying you will pay him 300 euros and then backing out does not, a contract, make. 

Unfortunately, whether or not he has a case against you, lawsuits are expensive and both parties will rake up way more costs on courts and lawyers. So the decision whether you want to call his bluff or not, is entirely yours. But save all his threats if he made them via email or text.

Good luck. I hope you kick his ass. 

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On 3/13/2020, 10:36:30, Vega1981 said:

"I can make your life a personal living hell--can you afford a lawyer working at a fast food restaurant? Because I'll take you to court and not only get the €300, but extra money for schmerzgeld for all the frustration! In the end, you'll be paying 3 or 4 thousand euros!" When I said that utilities were included in the contract and that he could not sue for that, he said "You want to take the gamble on that in court? My lawyer will run all over you!"

This is why a legal insurance is highly valuable! Assholes just back off when you say you have legal insurance.

Together with free case consultation, this completely justifies having one.

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10 hours ago, MikeMelga said:

This is why a legal insurance is highly valuable! Assholes just back off when you say you have legal insurance.

Together with free case consultation, this completely justifies having one.

 

 

Totally agree, I'm on my third court case and I'm only a small landlord. Without it I would have been forced to settle, the amounts weren't that great, few hundred Euros but the legal costs can easliy run into the tens of thousands.

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just a general comment on legal insurance:  if you want legal insurance to cover landlord/tenant/real estate issues it's usually an add-on.  Best to double check you actually have it!

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For a tenant, I'd recommend joining the mieterverein before getting legal insurance. I've had legal insurance but the only time I had a problem, they refused coverage because of "small print" even though it should have been covered according to my contract.  So what am I going to do, get legal insurance against the legal insurance?

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