It was the nervousness of the landlord, that got him suspicious. The obvious unease, when he was standing on his doorstep.
Last February, Yoeri was in a dispute with the man that he rented his apartment from in the Sledemennerstraat for 764 Euros a month. A lot of money, which made it impossible for Yoeri to get any state allowance. But he needed a place, so accepted it anyway.
Also, as a law student, Yoeri knows his rights. He knows that landlords can’t just ask for whatever they want. ‘I went to the rental committee to find out the maximum rent price. At that time, the database of the government showed that the energy label of the house was F, towards the lower end of the energy efficiency spectrum.’
What’s going on?
If that were true, Yoeri shouldn’t be paying more than 570 Euros for his place. Also: he probably would not be paying an extra 200 Euros a month on energy. So what was going on?
Yoeri asked his landlord about it, but he insisted that the apartment had an A-label, which made it maximum energy efficient. ‘I asked him to show me the paperwork, but I never received a response. When I finally got to look at it, I noticed that that the rental space was presented 25m2 away from reality.’
And the landlord was so obviously nervous when he presented the papers to Yoeri.
‘His behaviour suggested that something shady was going on’, Youri says. ‘You don’t just get better energy labels. In 2015 an F suddenly became an A. He tried to explain that this happened because of a renovation, but the renovation was in 2012.’
Again, Yoeri decided to see what he could do. He asked for a detailed report from the company that provided the energy label, EPA Keuringen. ‘Then I saw it wasn’t only the m2, the number of solar panels of the apartment was exaggerated and it said that there was an inspection in April but none of the 17 tenants saw an inspector’, explains Yoeri. ‘They definitely knew that the information on the label wasn’t true.’
His landlord should have known it might be dangerous to overcharge someone like Yoeri. It’s not the first time this law student has taken his landlord to court. In 2014, when Yoeri was living in Leeuwarden, he was also involved in a rental dispute. He got overcharged, challenged his rent in court and won.
However, it was not until June, before he finally had something solid to accuse his landlord and make it stick in court. He approached a reliable inspection company which found that – in the best-case scenario – the energy label of the apartment was C.
‘I included all the information I could find but I couldn’t measure some of the details, for example the isolation thickness. Every detail was to my disadvantage, but it looked like it was still the same label as 2015.’
That meant that Yoeri was definitely being overcharged – almost 200 Euros per month. But because all seventeen tenants in the block are dealing with the same – possible – fraud, the landlord has been overcharging 40,000 Euros to the tenants of the apartment block, Yoeri says. ‘Each year for at least three years. He has many more appartments, 80 more in Akkerstraat alone, which is also labeled as very energy efficient.’
The case will not come to an end before next January. So Yoeri doesn’t know for sure if he will succeed in bringing justice against his landlord and get compensation for himself and his fellow tenants.
However, he does feel it’s important that people stand up for their rights. He suspects a lot of students are being overcharged. ‘If you’re a student that has finally found a place to live despite the housing crisis, how do you know that you aren’t also paying too much?’, he asks.
He is confident. ‘I’m passionate about justice; I want to help others realize that they have rights and that they can and should fight for them.’