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UCPH housing foundation illegally charged students thousands of kroner

Housing shortage — The University of Copenhagen Housing Foundation’s lease contracts have not been authorized: International students have been wrongfully charged for administration, furniture and maintenance on top of their rent. The students have the right to get their money back, reckons tenants’ interest group Lejernes LO.

The University of Copenhagen Housing Foundation, which finds homes for international students and visiting researchers at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH), has overcharged them by thousands of kroner.

This is the assessment of Jacob Møldrup-Lakjer, legal counsel at the tenants’ interest group Lejernes LO (LLO) after he read one of the illegal leases.

Australian student Adam Shrimpton, who lives in the dorm at Rebslagervej in Copenhagen NV, paid DKK 280 for furniture, DKK 90 for maintenance and DKK 600 for administration on top of his rent to the housing foundation per month. DKK 970 in total.

The total fee for his 30 square metres totalled in this way DKK 8,408 a month.

Contract is nuts

According to Jacob Møldrup-Lakjer there is only one authorized lease contract, the so-called A9 from the ministry, but the UCPH Housing Foundation has used its own.

“The Housing Foundation contract is completely nuts. When a landlord uses a non-authorized contract, which appears as a standardized contract, then all conditions that place the tenant worse than the statutory basis of the law are void” he says and continues:

The Housing Foundation contract is completely nuts. When a landlord uses a non-authorized contract, which appears as a standardized contract, then all conditions that place the tenant worse than the statutory basis of the law are void

Jacob Møldrup-Lakjer, legal counsel at the tenants’ interest group Lejernes LO (LLO)

“A rent up and above DKK 4,000 kroner a month for Adam Shrimpton’s lease is too high and should be brought before the rent assessment committee if there is no legally agreed free settlement of rent terms,” he says.

Neither is the Housing Foundation allowed to charge an amount beyond the rent stated in the contract, according to Jacob Møldrup-Lakjer.

Case to be heard in rent tribunal

LLO has decided to bring Adam Shrimpton’s case before the rent tribunal to  recover the amounts collected in excess of the rent. But other current and former tenants are entitled to get cash back, according to Jacob Møldrup-Lakjer’s assessment.

“The foundation should repay rent and other amounts collected illegally for up to three years back. It would be to the credit of the Foundation if it contacted former tenants and gave them their claims,” he said.

The Housing Foundation leases about 1,250 rooms for either one half or one full year at a time, so if other tenants have been charged approximately DKK 1,000 kroner in addition to their rent, as Adam Shrimpton and his wife, then repayments could hypothetically run up into millions of kroner.

Jacob Møldrup-Lakjer adds that the contract also includes other illegal conditions. These include a statement that tenants can be penalised with fines in case of noise or other violations of house rules.

Housing foundation in process of ‘legalisation’

The Director of the University of Copenhagen Housing Foundation Charlotte Simonsen has resigned, and the temporary replacement Torben Snowman does not want to be interviewed.

But Torben Snowman writes in an e-mail that the foundation “in the transition from autumn 2016 to spring 2017 has carried out a thorough check and legalization of our rentals and contracts.”

He added that in this connection there had been many changes.

“Price indications from basic rent in the old system/contracts and the new A9 contract forms are not directly comparable. There will be amounts which previously were in our service contract, which are now in the lease contract. Or amounts which were listed separately, and which are now included in the base rent. In addition, utilities are now in a number of places a payment on account, and not as previously a fixed amount, which is often the cause of an increase in the payment, but tenants will get any excess back,” it states in the response.

New contract is likely legal

The response suggests that the housing foundation has realized that the lease contracts are illegal and that it has changed them, reckons Jacob Møldrup-Lakjer from LLO.

According to Adam Shrimpton all residents of the Rebslagervej dorm had the same illegal contracts until the end of the year, while new residents who have moved in for 2017, have new legal contracts.

Existing residents who have extended their leases from 2016 into 2017 are, however, continuing on old illegal contracts, says Adam Shrimpton.

If the new contracts turn out to be legitimate, the new tenants at Rebslagervej who move in during the spring of 2017 will probably have no hope of having their payments reduced.

Danish politicians have determined that rent can be settled freely for newly built properties and the building on Rebslagervej, which began operation in August 2016, counts as new.

The only restriction is that the rent may not be obviously unreasonable. But LLO is not aware of cases where the tenant has been successful in the Rent Tribunal or in the courts.

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