Rats run riot in student kitchen

After a dozen dead rats were found in their kitchen, two students living in an apartment building owned by Swedish student housing foundation SSSB have asked for compensation equal to a month's rent, but SSSB is refusing.

The company has offered the two students 650 kronor ($91) each, but they are saying it’s not enough for their ordeal.

The rat infestation began in December, when the girls returned to their Lappkärrsberget area home in Stockholm after the winter holidays.

“We heard them in the kitchen scratching on the walls,” recalls Ida Hedén, a resident of the Forskarbacken building with the problem. “We called the SSSB and they set up traps, but they didn’t catch any rats, so they started with poison.”

She says dead rats then started appearing “everywhere” in the kitchen.

“We called SSSB again to see if they would come dispose of the rats, but they weren’t available because the guy who would come to our building was sick,” Hedén says. “So we had to get plastic bags and pick them up and throw them out.”

Anders Cronqvist, information manager of the SSSB says that was the company’s “mistake.”

“We should have taken them out ourselves, the tenants shouldn’t have to deal with dead rats,” he adds.

But he says the company also had to find the source of entry for the rats, which took until May.

“We didn’t want to tear the whole building down just to find rats,” Cronqvist explains. “We had a big problem to find the way they accessed the building, but finally we found it, though a sink pipe which was broken. We had to search and be patient, so that’s why it took four months.”

Hedén says the pipe had not been patched properly following maintenance work done a few years ago. Cronqvist says he doesn’t know why it was broken, but the SSSB “immediately” started repair work.

“SSSB said it would take two weeks to fix that hole, but it took over two months,” Hedén explains. “On July 3rd, they finally fixed it, and said we could each have 650 kronor.”

According to the SSSB’s tenant contract, they are not responsible to compensate for any rat problems, says Cronqvist. However, if renovation is done on a communal floor kitchen, and as a result it can’t be used properly, they will compensate.

“We have paid the students for those two months when we had to repair the kitchen, which was May and June,” Cronqvist says. “Even though it was a double kitchen, and one part was fully useable during the time of construction.”

Now, Hedén says she and her corridor mate are asking for 3,000 kronor each – the cost of one months’ rent.

“The standards of living have been horrible since the rats came in,” she says. “Okay, we could use the kitchen, but not as well or as safely as we should. Rats come with diseases, and they have been walking all over the place.”

She also says maintenance workers left plates and cutlery on the floor for rats to walk on, and residents could smell the poison.

Cronqvist says he has “no comment” on this, but the company has already compensated enough.

“It’s not dangerous to breathe the poison,” he says. “We have specialists who guarantee it’s no problem. The rats didn’t bring diseases into the kitchen.”

According to Hedén, between 12 and 15 dead rats have been removed from the kitchen. She says she will accept her 650 kronor compensation but will continue to push for more.

“If they really want to try this, they are welcome to go to court for tenants and landlords,” Cronqvist says.

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