Suikerlaan stalls; students stress
Last week, students – many of whom handed over 1000 euros weeks ago to secure a Suikerlaan container – were finally invited to sign contracts and receive an official receipt. At the time, students say, Rizoem partners assured them everything was progressing fine. But two days later, Rizoem said the units would not be ready on time.
The email said the units would not be ready by 1 October because of ‘sewage problems’. Students were furious that Rizoem waited to inform them until only a week before move-in. ‘So tired of all of this’, says David Cendoya, from Spain. ‘They think they can do whatever they want.’
UK student Louis Sanford says ‘nobody believes Rizoem didn’t know the delay was coming two days ago, when we were signing contracts.’ Student Zie Zhang goes even further in a Suikerlaan Facebook group, calling the last minute delay ‘an incredible tactic to defraud students’.
But Rizoem partner Gosé Posthumus insists he shared the information as soon as he had it. Unexpectedly, the delivery of a sewage tank from Germany was delayed at the last minute. ‘It was a great disappointment Friday morning when I received the news. But we can’t rent the units without a sewage system.’
Rumours and problems
In addition to complaints about the delay, Posthumus says he has heard about several concerns that are just based in rumours swirling around the project. There are no fire safety issues, for example. ‘Fire security is not a problem – we have good contacts with the people who do the permits and the municipality.’
But he does agree with students that the site is poorly lit: ‘I was there myself on Saturday evening and could see there was not enough light. We are making a plan to fix that this week.’
The main problem, says Posthumus, is just that ‘we had to deliver so fast – it’s been a bit too fast’. At this point, he thinks the units could be ready as early as 8 October. But he says they told renters 15 October, ‘to build in a little more time if we need it’.
But journalism student Edwards Szekeres says he still has questions – specifically, about the rental contract. In a recent email, Rizoem alerted renters that the first version of the contract had been amended.
Article 3.4 of the contract originally allowed students to cancel their contracts at any time, with a month’s notice. But Rizoem wrote: ‘it is not possible to cancel your contract earlier than your chosen contract duration. What we meant is that when you want to extend your contract, this is possible.’
‘That smelled fishy’, says Szekeres. So he took the new contract to the Studentenbond’s legal advice center. He learned that short-stay contracts are not yet subject to any codified law: ‘It’s a grey area, legally, whether short-stay tenants should be awarded the possibility to terminate their contracts at any time, and what legal protection should apply’, he says.
And because the issue is ultimately subject to judicial interpretation, it could be challenged in court. ‘A successful case against Rizoem could force them to offer fairer contracts with better terms.’
‘What a joke’
But Posthumus doesn’t think any of that will be necessary. If students really need out of their contracts early, Rizoem will consider it. ‘When there is a good reason, we can arrange something.’
For now, students are struggling once more to make sure they have somewhere to live until the units are ready. Rizoem offered a ‘refund’ of 250 euros to make up for the inconvenience caused by the delay. But German psychology student Lena Schweikert is not impressed by the offer. ‘That phrasing really upset me – they are only doing what they are legally obligated to do. This does not in any way reduce our inconvenience. What a joke!’
Posthumus says he has received dozens of emails from similarly frustrated students, some of whom want out of their contracts altogether. ‘Everyone is disappointed. We expected that. They can pull out if they want to.’