Camelot director Bob de Vilder says that he has received nineteen emails with complaints from (former)residents who mentioned their names, and zero anonymous mails. Sixteen of these came from Eindhoven, the remaining ones from Delft. “We learned a great deal over the last few years, but we also made many mistakes. It’s not our intention or business strategy to make our clients angry.” Mirjam Frosi, municipality council member for the CDA, says that the number of complaints received by De Vilder is in sharp contrast to the actual number, because “people are afraid to send you their complaints. You first need to acknowledge that problem.” Rick Blezer, who represents rental team Eindhoven, says that his team received a significantly higher number of complaints from angry residents than the nineteen mentioned by De Vilder. “Most complaints have to do with the way in which Camelot calculates the service costs. Luna has 450 living units, and we represent 1 in 4 students living there.”
Apart from Camelot’s management team, the meeting was attended by media outlets Eindhovens Dagblad, NRC Handelsblad and Cursor, as well as municipality council members for the CDA Miriam Frosi and Paul Casamento, and municipal rental team representative Rick Blezer. The many angry residents who took part in the meeting came from Eindhoven and Delft, where Camelot also has an on-campus residential tower. No one from TU/e attended the meeting.
Vezhan Rustomji from India speaks on behalf of the residents of Luna. “I’ve been living here for two years now, and it’s impossible to come into direct contact with Camelot’s building manager. I’ve sent six mails about several different issues, and Camelot replied and took action only once. Everything takes time and effort. Many of us have asked numerous questions about the service costs in particular, but our complaints aren’t taken seriously.”
Resident Frederico Belohuby complaints about overdue maintenance on the building, such as doors that have been broken for a long time, elevators that work on and off, and emergency doors that aren’t properly connected. But it’s not just residents who do the talking. Hans Norg, chair of Scala, the umbrella association of the cultural student associations in Eindhoven, talks about the problems associations encounter when they rent a space on Luna’s -1 floor. “There’s such a high turnover of building managers at Camelot, that the problem needs to be explained over and over and doesn’t get solved. For example, we rent a kitchen with a ventilation system that doesn’t work, hasn’t worked since day one, and will never work, according to Camelot.” Something that was noticed by Cursor as well. “But a kitchen without a ventilation system doesn’t seem entirely safe to me,” Norg says. Rustomji also emphasizes the lack of a properly functioning ventilation system. He says that smoke caused by his neighbor and by people in the hallway regularly drifts into his studio. It’s impossible to get rid of the weed and cigarette smell, he says.
Invisible window cleaner
Roderick Hoek represents the students from Delft. He broaches a subject that’s important to many residents in Eindhoven as well: the calculated maintenance and energy costs versus the actual costs made by tenants. “If you ask for the bill with the calculated costs, they refuse. Take the window cleaning bill for example. No one ever saw a window cleaner in 2019, and I’ve asked 150 tenants. But we were still charged for those window cleaning costs. I asked a question about this, but I didn’t get a reply.”
Meanwhile, people give all kinds of examples of unreasonably high repair costs. Broken grill rack? 75 euros. New egg holder? 80 euros. Scratched chair? 900 euros. It’s obvious: people are not happy with the repair costs, and they particularly want to see the bills, something Cursor also asked for earlier. Camelot makes a promise: Cursor will be allowed to examine the company’s administrative papers more closely, together with the person who is responsible for this at Camelot. The company is currently in the process of improving those papers and making them more transparent for residents, with a new, convenient portal that gives tenants access to their bills. “That’s scheduled for Q1,” De Vilder says.
De Vilder says that some of the problems were caused in 2019 and 2020 by a dysfunctional automation system. “Our company’s rapid growth has led to small islands that didn’t always communicate properly. We forgot about the clients during that process, but we are trying to mend our ways.” But Camelot doesn’t intend to stop growing any time soon, it even wants to get listed on the stock market. That means people can acquire shares in the company. “For that reason, it’s important that we provide disclosure,” De Vilder says.
We rent a kitchen with a ventilation system that doesn’t work, hasn’t worked since day one, and will never work, according to Camelot.
By now, the court ruled that the current cleaning and MyCastle portal costs are unlawful. Blezer: “The judge ruled that those costs have to be reimbursed, but Camelot disagrees and decided to appeal.” Blezer is surprised: “This, incidentally, mostly concerns the service costs. Tenants pay for a maintenance contract of approximately nine euros a month, but they pay for a building manger as well, and the court ruled that maintenance is the manger’s task. They also pay for small maintenance and cleaning. These cleaning costs are extremely high. When I make a simple calculation based on the cleaning hours, the total amount gets you a 40-hour, fulltime cleaning service for 52 weeks a year. And Camelot is guilty of something else that’s not permitted by law: when a tenant moves, they reserve part of the deposit for future service costs. A deposit is meant for damage only: for unpaid rent and damage to the room or furniture.”
After all these complaints, Frosi starts to wonder more and more whether Camelot earns its money with fines:“You fine people for having garbage bags in their apartment, and for smoking.” Belohuby had a garbage incident and was fined immediately. “That was a ‘regular’ bill without an invoice number, with a different amount than my neighbor got for a similar issue. That sounds like the wild west. Do you even have a criterion for this or do you just come up with a figure?” Frosi: “You aren’t the police, is that even legal? And all those extra costs, such as MyCastle, are reimbursed only after people make a case out of it.” “We are allowed to prohibit smoking, that’s what it says in our house regulations,” De Vilder replies. “We first issue a warning, but if people don’t stop, we fine them. It’s a thin line between being a landlord and a policeman.”
Many tenants still had questions to ask at the end of the meeting, but there was no more time. However, De Vilder wants to organize another meeting so that all complaints can be solved.