Investigation Reveals Excessive Service Charges by Large Landlords

service charges by landlords

This article was last updated on April 5, 2024

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Overcharged Service Costs by Large Landlords – A Moneymaking Strategy?

In recent research conducted by NOS op 3, it was revealed that large private landlords, including Xior Student Housing, Plaza Resident Services, and Change= have been profiting from unjustifiably high service charges.

A Closer Look at the Investigation

Service charges can be defined as extra payment over the basic rent, connected to the property. It comprises of cleaning costs and caretakers’ activities. Out of every four complaints received by the Rent Assessment Committee in the last five years, one concerned service costs. Analyzing 5595 such cases, the investigation discovered that in about 3812 cases, the tenants had been unfairly charged, with the average excess charges amounting to 743 euros per annum.

Responding to Accusations

When confronted with the figures, three of the largest landlords, Xior Student Housing, Plaza Resident Services, and Change= were found to have appeared in multiple cases, with Xior Student Housing losing more than 400 cases. The landlords, however, defended themselves by claiming such high service charges were not a profit-making strategy. Despite their defense, drastic actions have been needed in numerous cases against Change=, according to Tjerk Dalhuisen at the !WOON Foundation, which advocates for tenant rights.

Understand Service Charges Better

Renters normally pay an advance every month. To clarify actual costs, landlords must provide an annual summary of service costs by July 1. If any discrepancies are found, the tenant either has to pay more or gets a refund.

Legal Ramifications and Potential Penalties

The Rent Committee has the authority to mandate a landlord to refund the tenant, but lacks the power to impose a penalty. However, with the implementation of the Good Landlordship Act on July 1, 2023, the tenancy landscape underwent a significant change. According to this Act, landlords can only charge service costs for actual incurrence and are not permitted to profit from it. Additionally, tenants now have a local point of contact to register their complaints. crucially, municipal authorities are now empowered to fine landlords, with the maximum fine reaching up to 90,000 euros in places like Maastricht.

Ample Room for Improvement

Despite these stringent measures, there has been a lack of steady progress. Most municipalities have received minimal complaints regarding service charges since the Act was implemented. A great number of the few complaints received were for service costs charged prior to the implementation of the Act, which hinders the municipal authorities from enforcing any action. With clearer regulations now, they are planning to investigate repeat offenders and take necessary actions.

Addressing the Unfair Charges

Such disputes can only be successfully addressed when the tenants challenge the charges themselves, as demonstrated by residents like Jelle Brouwer. After recognizing similarities in his case with the common complaint, Brouwer took the matter to the Rent Assessment Committee and won. Although Xior didn’t return the money as per judgement, Brouwer decided to threaten them with a counter offset action, further highlighting the need for tenants to take active measures against unjustified charges.

Concluding Remarks and Suggestions

The analysis by NOS op 3 provides a crucial insight into the prevalent practices related to service charges in the rental market. Despite the announced changes and interventions, it’s still a necessity for tenants to be vigilant about their rights and continuously report discrepancies.

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