Bureaucracy

WARNING: THIS BLOG IS WRITTEN TO VENT

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As written in earlier blogs my flatmates and I had to leave our apartment after our landlord kicked us out. At the moment my two former flatmates are sharing a really nice flat, and I moved in with my boyfriend. Even though we all found a good place, this blog is written to vent and to tell a bit about bureaucracy in Iceland. (The events described below are not 100% accurate because I didn’t write everything down my flatmates did in the past months.)

After our landlord kicked us out, I felt very resolute about that we would not let him have his way that easy, so on the 30th of March I sent an email to the Ministry of Welfare to explain the situation. 8 days later the Ministry replied that they had entered into a contract with the Consumers’ Organization in Iceland regarding questions relating to the Rent Act, and that therefore they had forwarded my email to this organization. My flatmate also tried to get information and help. That’s why she contacted the Renter’s Organization on the 30th of March, and they took at least two weeks to answer her.

In the meantime we had done some research and prepared everything so we could file a formal complaint. We printed the emails to and from the landlord, we collected all the pictures and videos of the water damage and added all other relevant documents we had. We also put everything on a USB stick. We downloaded the complaint document from the website of the Ministry of Welfare and handed everything in on the 7th of April.

On the 8th of April we got a reply from the Consumers’ Organization. They told us the City of Reykjavik should appoint us a Building Officer. So we had to contact the City of Reykjavik for further help. They also mentioned that it was impossible for the landlord to kick us out and that we shouldn’t worry about that. I immediately sent an email to the City of Reykjavik to request the Building Officer.

On the same day the Ministry of Welfare let us know that they had received our complaint form, but that complaints cannot be filed to the Ministry of Welfare. They told us about a Housing Complaint Committee, which is housed in the same building.

On the 13th of April we got a reply back from the Housing Complaint Committee in which they told us that we can’t file complaints in English, and that we would have to translate the document and file it again in Icelandic. The translation took some time and we filed the complaint for the second time at the end of April.

I hadn’t gotten any response from the City of Reykjavik to my request for a Building Officer (sent on the 8th of April). On the 22nd of April I made another request. I also asked for help in case this wasn’t the right place to look for one (even though the Ministry of Welfare had told me I should contact the City of Reykjavik).

On the 24th of April the City of Reykjavik replied that they had forwarded my mail from the 8th of April to the Office of Property Management and Economic Development. They just hadn’t told me that …

On the 28th of April I received an email from the Property Management and Economic Development Department. They informed me that the services of a Building Officer would cost 24.300 kronur (more than 170 euros). My flatmates and I had to think about if we wanted to make use of a Building Officer for that amount of money, so I let them know that we would consider it and needed some time to think.

All we could do now was wait until the Housing Complaint Committee made a decision about our case.

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On the 26th of June we got the decision, and guess what? They said we were right on every point, meaning: 1) The landlord wasn’t allowed to kick us out before our contract ended (20th of October ̶ he wanted us out at the first of September), 2) He had to pay us rent back because of the leakage and water damage ̶ the amount he had to pay back was to be determined by a Building Officer.

At that time I felt like this:

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And listened to this song a lot:

Of course the next step was letting the landlord know about our victory.

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Weirdly enough he never replied to my email. On the 9th of July I contacted the Ministry of Welfare again to ask what to do if the landlord wouldn’t cooperate with the decision of the Housing Complaint Committee. They again forwarded my e-mail to the Consumers’ Organization. To this email I never got a reply.

So it was time to get that Building Officer for real. On the 14th of July my flatmates and I talked about it, and in the evening I made a request for one. I had to make the request to three different people, because two were out of office. The third one replied that I should send an email to a company called Frumherji. So on the 15th of July I sent that company an email explaining the situation and why we needed a Building Officer. They quickly replied that they don’t have the authority to judge in our case. They recommended we contacted the Housing Complaint Committee and talked to a lawyer to enforce the decision of the Committee.

I was getting confused. Therefore my flatmate called the Renter’s Association. They said that the decision of the Housing Complaint Committee is never binding. This would mean that we had to leave on the first of September anyway, and wouldn’t get rent reduction. The only way to enforce the decision was by taking it to court.

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My flatmate and I talked to a lawyer on the 28th of July. We wanted to know her opinion about the matter. She recommended us not to sue the landlord, because it would be too expensive. She gave us some very helpful advice though. She recommended us to stay till the end of our contract, because his eviction note was illegal. She also recommended us to not pay the last two months of rent, because the landlord would probably not give us our deposit back. Lastly she said we really had to get a Building Officer to look at the apartment, and that we had to send a bill to the landlord based on what the Building Officer would say.

On the 4th of August we finally had a Building Officer look at the apartment. When he saw the state of the walls in my room he said he would follow the decision of the Housing Complaint Committee. He would get back to us with the amount of rent the landlord had to pay back to us. On that day we also informed the landlord that we would not leave on the first of September.

(On the 5th of August the scaffolding was finally taken down. The apartment had been in scaffolding for 2,5 months.)

From the first of September we stopped paying rent, following the advice of the lawyer. The landlord noticed this around the 8th or 9th of that month and started sending us messages in which he stated that we had to pay rent to prevent a lawyer fee. We were all like:

bring-it-on-recasting

On the 10th of September we got the result from the Building Officer. The landlord had to pay more than a thousand euros back to us. We let the landlord know but of course we didn’t get any reply.

After this we only got one threatening message from the lawyer of the landlord, in which he said that we had to pay rent, because otherwise the amount would be taken from our deposit (which was exactly our point). He also said that we had to make a formal claim if we wanted the landlord to pay us.

That’s the story. At this point we haven’t made the formal claim yet. We just moved out of the apartment and my flatmate is planning to still do it in a couple of weeks. We know, however, that the only way to force him to pay us would be taking the case to court, which is just too expensive for us.

So, what did all this get us? It’s good to know that institutions acknowledge that we have been mistreated, but in the end it’s just a shitload of work with little result. Now I’m just happy that we all found a nice new place to live, and that we don’t have to deal with it anymore.

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