MAASTRICHT. Maastricht students have been complaining on Facebook about unreturned or partially unreturned deposits by student services agency Jules Maastricht. With more and more houses under their management and an administration that for a long time was carried out manually, it couldn't but go wrong. The tenants are the victims. Karin van der Ven, owner of the student services agency, acknowledges blame and promises to do better.
Jules Maastricht, set up more than ten years ago, supports primarily foreign students. It provides language courses, a removal service, and help with questions about insurances and taxes. Managing student buildings was taken on along the way, both for private landlords as well as – until recently – the large Belgian real estate company Xior. In the summer of 2016, Jules took over the running of student complex Carré on the Tongerseweg, with more than 143 studios. “We grew very fast,” says owner Karin van der Ven.
The question is whether it was too fast. Everything points in the direction that when it comes to means and manpower, Jules couldn't handle it. How else can you explain the deposits that were not returned or returned too late? The tenancy agreement states a period of three months. “If students had left their rooms in good condition, repayment was usually not a problem,” says Van der Ven. According to her, complaints come mainly from people with whom “there was some kind of issue”: arrears in rent, a broken contract, or damage to the accommodation. “Then you have to reduce the deposit with the cost of the damages.”
There was something else too: until last September, Jules did all the administration manually. “That is time-consuming and because of that, not everything went according to plan. It is very unpleasant, we are responsible, we say that we help students but unfortunately we didn't do that for everyone.” The ‘victims’ have all been notified, she says, and she has promised to deal with the “arrears” this week. (Read here the portraits of students who complain about Jules)
Since September, Jules has been working with a computer system for real estate management, financed by a loan from investment bank LIOF. “It is unpleasant for the students who checked out in the summer.” They fell between two stools.
The fact that since 1 January the company no longer carries out management for Xior, a large customer, is not the result of negative reactions, says Van der Ven. “We have known for a long time that they want to do the management themselves, which is their policy.” Robin Cremers, manager of Xior, confirms that: “The lines are shorter, it is easier. And well, those posts about Jules, that sticks to us as well. Although I don't want to put all the blame on them. We should also have played a more active role, request check-out papers on time from Jules and sort out the repayment of deposits.”
For a number of months now, Xior has been making tremendous advances in Dutch and Belgian student cities. At the end of last year, they bought the entire Annadal premises. The Bonnefanten College on the Tongerseweg, which is currently being renovated and converted into a student complex (with more than 250 rooms), is theirs too.
The tumult on social media is not limited to deposits. Poor maintenance is another thorn in the flesh for students. Van der Ven: “Major repairs must be paid for by the landlord, but technical management is our responsibility.” So you end up in a grey area: who is going to repair the broken toilet bowl or fix the dilapidated garden? Take Carré. In the summer of 2016, the first tenants, mainly foreign students, moved into their furnished studios. The ventilation system didn't work properly. Students heard whistling noises from the pipes or felt it was too windy and subsequently plugged them with towels. The result was that in another room, the whistling became louder. Two and a half years later, the ventilation system is still not working as it should. A persistent problem, underlined Robin Cremers from Xior, who will go there to take a look with his “own engineer”. The filters have been replaced, says Van der Ven.
In the meantime, “several tenants” from Carré have approached the Housing Helpdesk at Maastricht University with questions about their rights as tenants, says project leader Rick Blezer. “Most cases concern the lack of maintenance.” Ventilation comes under that. “On behalf of these tenants, we will undertake the necessary steps.” They will most likely apply to the rent tribunal.