Xior, the Belgian-based student housing provider, has been ordered by the Dutch Rent Tribunal (known locally as Huurcommissie) to refund a significant sum of service charges to the 283 tenants of the Zwarte Doos student residence. The tribunal found that the charges were “totally opaque and yet so disgustingly expensive, that these are just criminal practices.”
The Zwarte Doos building, located on the Eendrachtskade in Groningen, was built in 1976 and was used as a social services office until 2013. In 2019, Xior purchased the building for €46 million and converted it into a student rental with nearly 300 units. However, tenants have been complaining about various issues since then.
One such tenant is Huub (25), who studies information science. He was required by Xior to rent a bed, wardrobe, and desk for his studio in the Zwarte Doos at a fixed monthly rate of €50. However, the furniture, according to tyhe tenant, is of questionable quality and the bed is too narrow. When Huub asked for a wider bed, Xior refused to provide it. As a result, he sleeps on the couch every night.
Huub also received an unexpectedly high bill for his first six months of occupancy. “I noticed how incredibly high it was,” he told the Groningen-based news site Sikkom. “I had to pay €270 extra, even though I hardly ever turn on the heating and in the summer I just open a window instead of using the air conditioning.”
The service charges are already quite high. In addition to his basic rent of €577 per month, Huub pays a total of €322 in service charges: €50 for the furniture, €15 for internet access, €12 for washing machine and dryer use, €55 for general service charges, and €190 as an energy and water advance payment. Huub finds it unreasonable to pay so much extra money every month for such a small studio.
The Rent Tribunal has ruled that the service costs paid by Ruud and others are indeed disproportionately high. The landlord has not been able to demonstrate that the costs are reasonable.
Rent Tribunal (Huurcommissie ) and Point System
The Rent Tribunal is an impartial entity empowered to issue legally binding judgments in matters concerning both tenants and landlords. Although it handles a wide array of tenant-landlord disputes, one of its primary functions is to ensure that rents do not exceed a legally defined cap. This cap is determined using a scoring mechanism, considering factors such as apartment size, outdoor spaces, building age, energy efficiency, among others (distinct regulations apply to short-term accommodations). Additionally, “serious faults” like mold, broken door locks, roof leaks, or inadequate ventilation are factored into this calculation. The tribunal’s website offers a rental checker, enabling individuals to assess this for themselves. For maximum accuracy, the Huurcommissie recommends scheduling a free visit with their team.
The tribunal ruled that the tenants of the Zwarte Doos can get some of the costs back. The amount that the tenants can get back depends on the amount they have paid.
Xior says it accepts the tribunal’s ruling. The landlord maintains it has set up a task force to improve the current billing process.
Xior pointed to the tenants’ consumption data to explain the high service costs. The landlord says that the tenants’ heating behaviour and the higher energy prices can lead to high costs.