Tenants angry over 33 percent rise in service costs at former Biological Centre

Tenants of the former Biological Centre in Haren are objecting against a steep increase of their rent. Landlord CareX says it’s due to rising energy prices, but refuses to specify the costs.

Service costs at the Biotoop – owned by the UG and rented out by anti-squatting agency CareXdat, went up by 33,4 percent on January 1. Peter Buis, who has live in the Biotoop since 2014 and has a hobby space there as well, saw his service costs go up by 200 euros: he pays 767 euro in service costs now on a total rent of 1160 euro.

Illegitimate

He received a notification on November 30, while the increase was being implemented from January 1. Too late, he argues, based on the renting laws. But more importantly, says Buis, the whole increase could be illegitimate. ‘Costs for maintenance and infrastructure of the building can never be taken from renters, according to regulations in the Beleidsboek Nutsvoorzieningen en Servicekosten.’ This document on service costs was written by the Huurcommissie, the Dutch committee for rental disputes.

Since 2017, tenants pay an all-in monthly rental price, which does not specify the two amounts included: rent and service costs. The actual service costs haven’t been specified since 2014, although tenants have a legal right to that. Buis suspects CareX is making profit. ‘Which is illegal’, he says. He formally objected against the increase and asked for reasons and documentation, but CareX denied his request. 

Breach of contract

According to Buis, at least sixteen tenants have filed an objection thus far and more will follow. One of them is Lucia, who has been living in the Biotoop since 2013. She issued a formal objection in mid-January, but hasn’t received a reply. ‘I did not understand the calculation and the amount of the increase, which was very big, and no explanations were given.’

The service costs of her studio were increased by approximately 100 euro. ‘I was scared when I saw it. I thought I would have to work more hours to still be able to live here.’ She has made rent so far, but she knows two other tenants in the same block are thinking of leaving. ‘I feel very bad for them. I would never want to leave, I love the place.’

Rental Committee

This isn’t the first time tenants have seen a rent increase due to higher service costs: that also happened in 2016, 2017 and 2020. Following the latest increase, Buis went to the Huurcommissie, which stated that CareX needs to provide a specification of service costs for 2020 and 2019 within six weeks, starting January 27, or the case will be brought to court. For the year 2021, Carex has until July. 

CareX spokesperson Lenze Hofstee isn’t worried, though. He says Buis is wrong to see this as a regular rental situation, since the spaces are being rented out under anti-squatting regulations. ‘For the same reason, the Huurcommissie cannot do or say much about the situation’, he explains.

Temporary

‘Everyone knows that there has been a sharp increase in energy expenses in the past months, so the rising costs are a simple consequence of that’, Hofstee says. ‘This is just a temporary situation, since the service costs for tenants follow the energy costs of the market. When there is a decrease, renters at the Biotoop will consequently pay less.’

The Huurcommissie thinks otherwise, though: they recently confirmed to Buis that his situation is one of ‘rent’. 

UG spokesperson Gernant Deekens says the university regrets the problems between CareX and the tenants, but prefers not to comment on this matter.

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