In a letter to CBS Academic Housing, 57 exchange students have expressed their frustrations at being unable to get a refund or partial refund for deposits and rent paid for dorm rooms rented through CBS Academic Housing. Due to the strict travel restrictions, many of the students are unable to travel to Denmark and thereby cannot move into their dorm rooms.
CBS WIRE has talked to five exchange students about the matter. One, from France, explains that the situation is a financial burden to her, as she suddenly has an extra expense to cover.
“I have to decide whether I want to pay for my studies at my home university in France or the dorm room. I cannot pay for both, and my family is not in a position to give me financial support. So it’s mentally tough for me. I have to make a choice,” says the exchange student, who has been advised by her home university to remain anonymous.
CBS WIRE has reached out to Helle Schlegel Rasmussen, CEO of CBS Academic Housing, who is responding to the students’ criticism.
“We are aware that legal constraints are causing difficult situations for many students”
Why will CBS Academic Housing not allow the students to terminate time-limited contracts?
CBS Academic Housing is strictly bound by its statutes, which state in brief that the purpose of CBS Academic Housing is to acquire and operate tenancies for non-domestic visiting teachers/professors/researchers and students at CBS.
This implies that distribution of funds needs to be fully compliant with the content of the statutes. Cancellation of signed contracts and/or refunds implies that extra distribution of funds is taking place and as we are a non-profit organization this would mean the core capital of the foundation becomes exposed.
Such an exposure may lead to decreased ability to fulfill the purpose of the foundation and in the long run limit the opportunities for CBS’s international relations.
It has come as a surprise to the students CBS WIRE has talked to that their contracts cannot be terminated. Do the contracts clearly stated that this is the case?
It is stated in the Room Reservation document (section 3.4), which is signed by the student and forwarded to the CBS Housing Department, that the agreement is binding after a 14-day cooling-off period. This agreement leads to the final tenancy contract – and when signed it is binding for the whole period.
We are aware that legal constraints are causing difficult situations for many students, as the Danish legal requirement for consumer tenancy contracts is very strict. But rest assured that going forward, we will be looking into any possibility that may lead to a solution suitable for the students as well as the foundation. This also includes the information to be provided.
The students with tenancy contracts through CBS Academic Housing were able to cancel them up until December 23. The tenancy contract would then run from January 15, however, the borders closed on January 9, making it almost impossible for the exchange students to get to their dorm rooms in time for the beginning of the contract.
Another CBS exchange student CBS WIRE has talked to explained that he successfully received a refund from his dorm, Svanekollegiet. He requested a refund on January 12 and two days later it was accepted by the dorm administration.
Helle Schlegel Rasmussen explains that she cannot comment on situations for students renting from other dorm owners, as she is not familiar with the legal set-up and commercial policy.
No solutions in sight
The exchange students pay CBS Academic Housing for their stay in two installments. The second installment was due on April 1, and students CBS WIRE has talked to have decided not to pay the second installment.
What will the consequences be for students who have not paid the second installment?
Our service provider Newsec Housing has sent reminders to tenants who have not paid the 2nd installment. We urge all students to pay the rent as CBS Academic Housing has a legal claim to collect the rent.
What are the consequences for CBS Academic Housing if the students don’t pay?
As a non-profit Foundation, CBS Academic Housing is dependent upon collecting rent in order to maintain and service guesthouses and dorms. All revenues are aimed at offering international guests and students housing during their stay in Copenhagen and, as such, non-payment will have consequences for the services offered.
At the end of the day, the cancellation of contracts will have financial implications for the foundation and its services as the financial ability to fulfill the purpose of the foundation decreases.
The pandemic has caused many challenging situationsHelle Schlegel Rasmussen
What has CBS Academic Housing done to find solutions for the students who want to terminate their contracts?
As we have stated, we are not in a position to cancel the contracts.
We are in the middle of a pandemic, where laws, restrictions and situations change day by day. Everyone has come to terms with this, but we are also willing to help each other out when in a tight spot. Doesn’t CBS Academic Housing have a moral obligation to help these students who have found themselves in a very tricky situation?
The pandemic has caused many challenging situations. As mentioned, we have had to consider the situation for the foundation and its equities and take into consideration our ability to serve guests and students in the future.
The dorm rooms are empty, as the international students cannot get to Denmark. Has CBS Academic Housing considered just renting them out to other students in need of places to stay short-term?
Sadly, we are not in a position to rent rooms to other than international students at CBS. This is due to the statues of the foundation.
Will CBS Academic Housing consider changing its name?
Another aspect of the situation is the confusion between the different parties. The exchange students have received emails and information from CBS International Office, CBS Housing Department and CBS Academic Housing.
CBS Housing Department is part of the International Office, and both are part of CBS. However, CBS Academic Housing is an independent entity that operates on its own.
The students CBS WIRE has talked to explain that they do not understand that CBS Academic Housing is not responsible for their stay and thereby should help them out and understand the situation.
Is it, in some cases, also challenging for CBS Academic Housing that the students mix up the different departments?
In the information provided to the students affected by the travel restrictions, we have tried to explain the role of the different entities. We are aware that the related names can make it difficult to distinguish between the legal entities and going forward we will work to improve the transparency.
Would you consider changing the name to make it easier for the students to differentiate between the parties?
We will ensure that a thorough evaluation of the situation will be initiated and of course such an aspect will be included in the analysis.
Will you reconsider the possibility of giving the exchange students, who have not managed to come to Denmark or arrived later than the beginning of their contract, a refund?
As indicated previously, a refund is not possible. We encourage all students to check if their travel insurances might cover the rent in line with cover of e.g. hotel rooms, flight tickets etc.