Duped tenants file class action lawsuit against De Huissleutel
Tenant Tijs Hofmans is filing a lawsuit against the Tilburg housing agency De Huissleutel. On behalf of himself and a large number of other tenants. With this case, Hofmans wants to get the mediation fees back that he and hundreds of fellow tenants have wrongfully paid when signing their leases.
Last year, the case regarding the unjustly claimed charges already made national news, when #BOOS presenter Tim Hofman (not family) got involved. De Huissleutel wrongfully charged amounts as of 300 euros to people looking for a room, which is no longer allowed by law.
Yet, prospective tenants often do pay these extra costs, the BNNVARA program (in Dutch) showed. Because they do not know the legislation or because they are afraid that otherwise they will not be allocated the accommodation. Thus De Huissleutel takes advantage of the shortage on the housing market and enriches itself illegally.
Money not just returned
Victims will not get their money back just like that. To do so, they must first file a lawsuit. Tijs Hofmans initially refrained from going to court because of the cost of a lawyer and legal fees for the case itself. But now he has called for a class action against De Huissleutel. He already has 155 applications for that through his website (in Dutch). Hofmans has since hired a lawyer who will take the case to court. Victims can still register with Tijs.
Hofmans: “Legally, it is not complicated. De Huissleutel is in violation, has even admitted it and has already been fined by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers & Markets. Now we have to start taking stock of the amounts involved. To do that, simply put, we need to collect the receipts. Once that inventory is ready, the lawyer can go to court.”
A class action is actually not difficult at all, Hofmans has explained, “You draft a subpoena with a violation and under it you put all the names of those who feel duped. We now have 155 submissions, of which 90 people can prove that they paid those unjustified charges.” That amounts to about 27,000 euros. Most tenants have paid 302.50 euros, but there are also those who have paid as much as around 800 to 900 euros.
Lots of support
Hofmans can count on a lot of support from people close to him, but also from strangers. For example, there are law students who are eager to cooperate, and Hofmans even knows a bailiff who wants to offer advice. It’s not much work at this point, Hofmans says: “An evening every now and then to update the database, that’s all.” He has also had help from the Rechtswinkel, only they don’t initiate class actions.
When the trial will be, Hofmans cannot yet say exactly, but he is hopeful of a positive outcome. However, he remains cynical about the practices of De Huissleutel and other mediators: “As long as there is a housing shortage, these kinds of companies will take advantage of tenants who need housing quickly. It’s just a revenue model. Tenants usually take their losses and when you subtract the fine, those kinds of intermediaries still make a decent profit.”
Translated by Language Center, Riet Bettonviel