Many room damage claims were unjustified or unprovable

Seventy-five percent of UCU students’ fines waived

Twee studenten op het UCU-complex
Photo: DUB

UCU students have resisted the fines they were required to pay after they left their rooms in July last year. These costs would be deducted from the deposit that the students had previously paid.

The 720 UCU students leave their rooms at the end of each academic year. After the summer, they are assigned a different room. They pay a deposit upfront, and pay rent for the furnished rooms.

If there are defects in the rooms, shared areas or the furniture after their departure, costs will be charged to UCU by the owner of the residential complex, Lekstede Wonen. UCU then deducts the claims from the deposit of the students involved.

Last year, for no apparent reason, the amount of claims doubled in comparison to previous years. The claims totaled to 42,000 euros and some students received a bill of several hundred euros.

Students then complained that they had been charged for services that are part of the landlord’s regular maintenance. Also, they claimed costs had been miscalculated and the amounts charged for repairs and replacements were much higher than they actually were.

Not attributable to students
In a letter to UCU’s management, 195 students anonymously described their complaints. They also expressed their dissatisfaction with the lack of transparency in the procedure, which seemed to place the burden of proof mainly on the students.

The UCU disagreed that the procedure they used is unacceptable, but acknowledged that some of the claims for damage were probably not attributable to the students.

The board offered to investigate each individual complaint “benevolently”, under the condition that  students would specify their grievances.

Don’t be difficult
In the end, 160 students filled out a complaint form. They objected to damage claims that added up to an amount of 33,500 euros. The UCU eventually decided to waive three-quarters of the claims.

UCU Director Sjoerd Bosgra: “In many cases, it was not entirely clear whether or not the student could be held responsible for the damage. We didn’t want to be difficult, because it’s all going to take a long time.”

According to the director, there are also situations in which it should have been obvious that fining the students was unjustifiable. Moreover, the calculations of the costs was also subject to errors.

Bosgra reports that the UCU and owner Lekstede Wonen are still discussing the findings and the financial settlement.

Bear the costs
According to student Penelope van der Meer, one of the initiators of the students’ letter of complaint, many students are happy with how their grievances were handled. “However, there are still students who feel that they have been wrongly asked to pay.”

According to Penelope, the new development shows that collective action by students can be successful. “When students previously raised the situation individually, nothing happened.”

Together with a group of supporters, she now wants to ensure that a situation like this won’t occur again. She is confident she will succeed. “We’ve already had some productive discussions with the board.”

In order to provide more clarity about the procedure surrounding the damage claims, the UCU wants to amend the Campus Agreement. Students sign this document before moving into a room on the international campus. According to UCU director Bosgra, it will include how students can object to increased costs. There is no information about the procedure in the Agreement at the moment.