Law student has rent lowered after confronting landlord in court
Groningen’s student housing shortage has been well documented. Yoeri himself describes the rental market as ‘very rotten.’ The crisis can force students into desperation and such was the case for Yoeri, who accepted a studio on Sledemennerstraat for 762 euros per month.
Questionable energy ratings
Yoeri’s dispute began in February 2018, when he challenged the apartment’s A energy label that his landlord insisted was true. Government records showed that it was actually one of the lowest energy ratings, an F, which meant Yoeri’s rent could have been capped at 570 euros a month.
After Yoeri enquired with energy company EPA Inspections, the truth started to spill out. The measurements of his room and number of solar panels on the apartment were exaggerated and a reported inspection was never confirmed by any of the apartment’s tenants.
Yoeri had already won a rental dispute in Leeuwarden in 2014. So, he felt confident enough to open his own lawsuit against his current landlord Erwin Vos last year.
Yoeri took hands-on learning to a new level as he represented himself during the proceedings. He had never studied this specific branch of law before, so he had to teach himself.
Article 8a of the ‘Besluit huurprijzen woonruimte’ (BHW) is a protection for old buildings under the 1979 Housing Prices Rental Act. If a property – such as Yoeri’s apartment – falls under the specifications listed by the law, then the maximum rental price can be increased by 15 percent.
Yoeri demanded that his rent be lowered to 570 euros per month, that a 15 perecnt rental fee increase would not apply to his apartment, that Vos would repay Yoeri’s overpaid rent and that all legal expenses would be covered by Vos.
The rental tribunal dismissed Yoeri’s claims because there was not enough reason to question the energy index. The government records he found were several years old, and as such did not qualify as hard evidence for an F energy label.
But Yoeri took the case to the subdistrict court after the tribunal was concluded – accompanied by a lawyer, this time. A second inspection by a different energy company brought new evidence to light regarding the energy index, and last Thursday, the judge ruled that the rent had been excessive and he was due compensation from Vos.
Yoeri’s rent was lowered to 670 euros rather than the 570 he initially demanded. Because the judge ruled that the BHW’s 15 percent price increase does apply to Yoeri’s apartment, legal expenses will be shared by both parties.
More claims to follow
Even though he didn’t win on all points, Yoeri is still satisfied and celebrated the ruling. ‘The judge destroyed Vos’, he texted his friends triumphantly. He says that his neighbours will soon follow his lead by opening claims against Vos in the future.
Yoeri has even started his own legal advice service, offering free checks of rental agreements for students who are in the same position he was in.
Of course, not everyone is training to be a lawyer. For students who want to check if their rent is fair, there are local services who can help. Student union GSB has a Rental Team, for example, and rental law consultancy Frently offers help with any rent related issue you have.