Last week we dealt with students experience concerning living in the student apartments. This time I’d like to present to you an interview with service director of Lappeenranta Housing Foundation (LOAS), Joonas Grönlund.
Who provides homes for students
In Finland, students are accommodated in student houses belonging to different student housing foundations (in Finnish, it’s called OAS or Seudun Opiskelija-Asuntosäätiö). Such types of organizations are LOAS in South Karelia (mainly in Lappeenranta), HOAS in Helsinki, TOAS in Tampere and VOAS in Vaasa.
What is LOAS from inside?
Joonas Grönlund, LOAS service director says, “We have 16 people working for us and about 3000 students living in our apartments. Tenants’ rotation is quite high, so we make about 2500 rental agreements per year. Almost everyone moves out once a year. We have our own maintenance group of 5 people. They are conducting inside maintenance of the houses. Outside maintenance and 24/7 service are given to our contractors (2 different firms). We work only from 8am to 4pm during the week.”
LOAS has 5 vans in total. Every one of 5 masters has own car because there are tools and things inside each car.
How do you keep order in the apartments?
Joonas, “Well, there is no supervisor living with students but we ensure safety by providing security services for our student tenants. Our security makes rounds every day at certain times but of course we don’t announce or publish those times and when they are checking the buildings. They mostly walk outside only. There is a telephone number of security service displayed in each of the building’s corridor. If someone calls the security company, they will come if there is a need to. But our security doesn’t go inside the apartments. If there are some problems, the students have to contact the police.”
What kind of problems do you encounter while maintaining occupied apartments?
Joonas, “I think students are the easiest group of tenants to have. Almost everything goes without any problems. We see a student only when s/he comes to take or return a key. But of course, as we have 3000 people living with us there are problems sometimes. Normally, almost everyone is well prepared to live with another student and also for future life sake. Students usually want to maintain good relationships with everybody. They want to obey rules; they don’t want to create any trouble. Also, when it comes to the rental payments, those are usually paid. We have about 8000 euro underpaid rent amount annually. This is a very low amount comparing to our income revenues of 11 million euros per year. This lost sum is the sum that we won’t be able to get even with sending payment letters to students and with the help of the government.”
LOAS office in Lappeenranta. Customer service and lobby. There is no need to visit it frequently. Most of the problems can be solved online via intanet service or by e-mail. Students usually come here to get/return keys.
What do you do then with those who didn’t pay their rents?
Joonas, “We don’t return the deposits to those who didn’t pay but it doesn’t cover the entire underpaid sum. So we deal with the police in such matters. Usually, we get our moneys back because people are afraid of losing their opportunity to get a visa to the Schengen area. If you have an unfinished business in Finland, it may turn to be hard to get visa to Italy or Spain, for instance.”
Why is LOAS office located in an uncomfortable place?
Joonas, “The LOAS office is here, in the middle between the city center and the university because when this office was built in 1992, almost half of the students were in Saimaa University of Applied Sciences which was located in the center of the city. So, this office was placed here as a compromise to make it easy for everyone to come. But now Saimaa University has been relocated to the Skinnarila district. About 90% of students are studying in that district nowadays. We will relocate our office to Skinnarila soon.”