Protection from Corruption

Everyone, including experts, says that there is no corruption in Denmark. This is bollocks. It might not be the same sort of corruption you might find in the second world or in the places you’d expect in the third world or as ostentatiously sleazy as in the first world. But there is corruption in Denmark. There are shady deals, opaque dodgy decisions and cheating. Nepotism, dishonesty and outright thievery.

My ongoing saga is with the company that bought my old flat when it went on foreclosure auction. They are doing some seedy shit to avoid paying the deposit back. In order to combat them, I have needed to call on several friends.

1) to help me draft an email in decent Danish. Outcome: the company said we had longer than three days to find another painter and dropped the ridiculous insistence of being paid for painting two months before we have to stop paying rent.

2) to ring them and simply ask “is it legal to say they cannot have the keys back?” Outcome: we got the keys back

3) to introduce me to someone who knows a painter Outcome: I have a much more reasonable painting quote

None of this I could have done by myself. It’s great there are fantastic people who will defend their friends (and friends of friends) from robbery and unfairness.

But wouldn’t it be better if the Danish system prevented this shit automatically? Wouldn’t it be better if everyone was protected and not just those lucky enough to have a great network?

Plus, when this is over, I can’t ‘punish’ the company for their behaviour or warn others. The Danish system only kicks in when you have a dispute you can’t solve yourself. Not when a company makes up fake rules or puts undue pressure on you or tries to sting you for a lot of money.

These are the changes I would make to the Danish rental market.

No demand in rental contracts for the tenant to pay for redecorating at the end of the lease. Instead, reasonable wear and tear is to be expected. Of course if the walls are stained or damaged: redecorating might be in order.

The rental governing body can be contacted in cases of unreasonable or illegal behaviour. Not just a dispute.

All landlords need to be signed up to a code of conduct with real consequences if not adhered to.

There needs to be a clear guide for what to do in the case of problems. Most people I spoke to had some ideas about things to try but were also fatalistic about it. “It’s just a cost of moving out” This goes for the media as well!

Deposits of only one months rent and prepaid rent of max one month.

Maybe it wouldn’t be perfect but the only way is up.

Danish Landlords *epic eyeroll*

“I love our landlady. I feel like, when we move out, she’ll give us our deposit back as long as we don’t trash the place.”

“Yeah! She’s so great.”

And that, my friends, is what is known in the business as “speaking too soon”.

Our landlady had to sell our place when she fell on hard times and we ended up in the hands of a rental company.

I don’t know what you know about Danish rentals but there appears to be a symbiotic relationship with landlords and companies selling white paint (or the people that apply it with brushes).

How ever you left the place, it is going to get re-painted. At the expense of the person moving out.

If we had smoked and the paint was all yellow, I could understand. If we had slaughtered sheep and there were red splashes, I could understand. If we opened a bumper car ride in our flat, and there were black bumper car marks on the wall, I could understand.

Well. We didn’t do any of that. We put up some pictures and shelves (and then made good with spackle/poly filla/spartel/whatever you call it). Maybe it needs a lick of paint in some rooms. But they’re going to do the skirting boards, the ceilings, the walls…

Not to mention they’re going to look at changing the floor boards and un-painting the radiators. All on our dollar.

Plus, I had to go through the experience of having a stranger run her fingers over things I cleaned, say “This hasn’t been cleaned” and then “Look. It’s sticky.”

She was very nice and she didn’t push her luck with things like the fridge and inside of the stove which you actually needed sunglasses to look at. But every cupboard, same old. Of course I protested “I DID clean it.” Which is all part of the dance. On the last one, I said

“Man, what is that? Dust? For heaven’s sake.”

Of course cupboards get dusty two weeks after you clean them, that’s just entropy.

Whatever.

The dance is all in aid of a simple fact: Danish landlords do NOT have your deposit. These ones doubly so, they bought the flat from someone, so they’d have to find our deposit out of their own funds.

Thing is. They want to sell the place. For that reason, it doesn’t need to be painted, or cleaned for that matter. It can be sold as-is. I know this because I recently bought a place and they neither cleaned nor painted.

She even threatened to charge us over the deposit because “this is a big place and needs a lot of painting” I did the incredulous face and laughed. “Right.”

Then she backtracked and started an ill-advised rant about how we HAD to pay our rent for the next three months. “Of course we do! We signed a contract!” she kept at it. “If you don’t, we will come for you and it will be bad for you.” I kept saying “Yeah, duh.” but in the end, I kind of wanted to stop paying the rent, just because she’d lectured me as if I was planning on being dishonest. Such is the effect of being believed dishonest. And all the time, I wondered, would she explain that in as much detail to the Danish boyfriend? Or would she just confirm the last payment date with him? Like she did on the phone.

She said she couldn’t say for sure, before she had the quotes from the cleaning firm and the painters, but we’d probably only get charged if we were assholes about the rent.

The last inspection I had, the guy said he would need to charge me for floor cleaning, all the time knowing that I had walked past the brand new floor planks they planned on installing.

I have rented in eight different UK addresses, by the way. I only ever paid up to one month’s rent as deposit and I almost always got it back.

In fact, I was cheated only twice out of some deposit money. Once by a really unscrupulous letting agency, but they only charged us £100 or something. They made it all up and we were furious. It was bullshit but we learned a lot from the experience.

The second by an 80s pop star who, when the going got tough, rounded our deposit down and stiffed us £30. (He was really lovely and I assume it was an honest mistake borne of falling on hard times. One of my favourite landlords.)

In Denmark, you pay 3 to 6 months rent as deposit and then when you move out, they take almost all of it for ‘painting’ and maybe even charge you extra if you have a lot of rooms to paint. Whether or not the painting needs re-doing. And they run their fingers over surfaces and pronounce them ‘dirty’ when they fucking well are not, so they can charge you for cleaning.

When they say Denmark has the lowest levels of corruption, it makes me laugh because these sorts of every day corrupt activity somehow ‘don’t count’ and they are endemic.

Oh well, never have to go through that again, hopefully.