Groningse Panden and owner StudentHousing (STHO CV, not to be confused with SHH Student Housing) are unlawfully withholding security deposits from up to 250 former tenants of Sugar Homes (Suikerlaan 1), a housing complex for international students located on the Suikerunieterrein in Groningen. The tenants are organising themselves with Bond Precaire Woonvormen to have their security deposits of €750 returned. All of the tenants who lived at Sugar Homes between August 2021 and July 2022 are potentially affected, resulting in a total amount of up to €187.500.
Presentation of the demands:
Ubbo Emmiusstraat 30
December 12 at 4:00 PM
Earlier this year, the lessor Groningse Panden suggested a rent hike of €200 due to energy costs. This was dropped without further notice from Groningse Panden after tenants announced their concerns through local media channels, following multiple attempts to contact StudentHousing (STHO CV). Now, Groningse Panden is using the same argument to justify withholding the security deposits until the final costs for their tenancy are known. (link) The law states that a landlord must prove any costs before the 1st of August 2022.According to their contracts, the remaining deposit should be returned within 8 weeks from that date, on September 25th at the latest. Former tenants received no communication from Groningse Panden until 29th September 2022, when they received an email telling them to wait. The former tenants then asked for the energy bill from 2021, which they are legally entitled to have, but the bill was not presented by Groningse Panden. Last week tenants were suddenly informed through the local news that they would 'probably not receive their deposits back' after the city council and Groningse Panden decided this money was needed to cover energy bills. The city council 'sees no reason to cut ties with Student Housing' because they feel complaints have been 'correctly handled', despite this course of action being against the law. €750 from former residents of the Sugar Homes container complex. The total deposit of these 250 living containers can amount to €187.500
Last March, Groningse Panden already leased with such a €200 per month, with retroactive effect from January 2022. Rising energy prices would be the reason for this. After reports in the media that tenants did not accept this, this was canceled without further notice.
Now it seems that Groningen Panden wants to cheat the residents again, this time through the deposit. According to the contracts, residents get their deposit refunded 8 weeks after moving. This period expired on September 25. Students who emailed after this received a response from Groningse Panden that the energy bill had to be drawn up first. Ex-residents asking for a breakdown of last year's energy costs were similarly fobbed off.
Unclean and substandard conditions
Upon moving into their container housing units at Sugar Homes between August and September 2021, many of the tenants found their accommodation to be of substandard condition. Despite a €50 cleaning fee to be deducted from tenants' deposits, many containers weren't clean on arrival, commonly containing mold and pests such as mice and bedbugs. Therefore, the former tenants of SugarHomes are also challenging this deduction from their deposits, as they have left their containers in a much better condition than when they were given them.
Tenants have also reported the units weren't properly maintained, problems were not promptly adressed and damages were badly patched up. (pictures here) With their student tenants only staying 6-12 months at a time, Groningse Panden would dismiss and delay fixing reported damages for months.
According to the former tenants, Groningse Panden makes a habit of holding onto money they are required to return. This results in financial risk being dumped on the weakest party, the tenants. These are international students who are often not fully aware of their rights and return to their home countries after a semester, making it harder to fight for their rights from a distance (This is a common tactic to keep money that is owed to tenants). One of the tenants, Kirsten Lenaghan, was relying on receiving the deposit back to afford both university tuition fees and rent which were due the same week. As this did not happen, she was left with insufficient funds for necessities such as food until the following week when she was paid from her part-time job.
That is why former residents of Groningen Panden and BPW Groningen demand: and BPW Groningen immediately:
1 All funds and deposits owed to the former tenants by Groningse Panden and StudentHousing are immediately returned.
2 The municipality break ties with Groningse Panden and STHO CV
3 The municipality protects the legal rights of all tenants in their city, ending practices that discriminate against internationals.