Koen Dorsman, Erasmus School of Law alumnus, knows how difficult it is to deal with a fraudulent landlord. When he relocated to Rotterdam last year, his then landlord in Utrecht didn’t want to pay back the deposit.
Countless telephone calls achieved precisely nothing. Three months later and after taking legal steps he finally received his deposit. “Not long after that, I read an article about how often international students and expats were scammed by landlords. That’s when I thought: I can use my legal background to do something about this.”
That’s why Dorsman (24) and Victor Stijntjes (25) established DepoClaim last January. The start-up aims, among other things, to support scammed tenants to recover the deposit they paid. “Because of my work and my personal experience, I understand how difficult it is for laymen to obtain the legal support to which they’re entitled,” explained Koen Dorsman who, as well as the start-up, works in the legal sector.
When Dorsman explained his idea to Stijntjes, Stijntjes was immediately enthusiastic. He used to work in the property world and has seen first-hand how estate agents treat foreign tenants. “The internationals are seen as prey; they’re not always given the right information, they pay twice as much as Dutch tenants and are often not treated properly.”
The pair got to work immediately. “It’s our ambition to make the housing market fairer,” stated Stijntjes, who has now completed his Entrepreneurship master degree at the University of Amsterdam.
No level playing field
Dorsman and Stijntjes understand only too well that there’s no level playing field in the housing market. “Accommodation is hard to find and landlords often use this scarcity as an opportunity to make their own rules,” stated Stijntjes. Dorsman added: “In the Netherlands, for instance, we don’t have a ‘hard’ regulation in which the maximum rental price and deposit are determined. The rent and the deposit can therefore be very high.”
The pair are currently specialising in recovering deposits and they’re mainly supporting international tenants as, according to Dorsman, Dutch tenants are generally well informed. “That’s not the case for internationals. They generally know very little about Dutch tenancy law. And if they search for information, it’s usually in Dutch,” stated Dorsman, who specialises in private law.
According to Dorsman, Dutch legislation is tenant-friendly. “If the landlord refuses to pay back the deposit, he or she must be able to prove that you’re no longer entitled to the deposit,” explained Dorsman. “Unfortunately, nine times out of ten, scammed tenants are unable to recover their money.”
Dorsman and Stijntjes take legal steps against fraudulent landlords. Often sending just one letter is enough to resolve the case. “Landlords know exactly what they’re doing. So as soon as they realise there’s a specialist party involved, they tend to return the deposit quickly,” stated Stijntjes.
‘No cure no pay’
The pair understand that most people don’t seek legal advice because it usually costs a lot of money. “That’s why we work according to the ‘no cure no pay’ principle. So, if we don’t succeed in recovering your money, you don’t need to pay anything,” they explained.
Dorsman and Stijntjes have boundless energy and dreams about the future, but as far as DepoClaim is concerned, they remain idealistic. “Of course we have many great plans for this start-up, but we started the initiative to make a positive contribution to society, and we want to continue to do so.”