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Refugees being ‘ripped off by private landlords’

The Vienna public prosecutor is investigating allegations that dozens of refugees have been ripped off by unscrupulous landlords in the city.

Refugees being 'ripped off by private landlords'
Photo: Roland Geider/Wikimedia

One man being investigated is the head of a company called Aldiar KG, which has its office in the Margareten district and has rented out apartments to numerous refugees.

Nina Bussek, spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office, said that it appears that refugees “who found themselves in a predicament and lacked inexperience or judgement” have been massively exploited.

When contacted by the Austria Press Agency (APA) the owner of Aldiar said that he hadn't been swindling his tenants, but that some of them had in fact not paid him any rent. He currently rents property to 80 people and claims that between 11 and 14 of them had failed to pay him rent.

When searching for accommodation on Vienna’s private housing market refugees face discrimination, high rents and poor quality housing, according to aid organizations.

The public prosecutor is looking into at least one other similar case where a real estate owner is suspected of ripping off refugees.

According to APA one suspect is a businessman from the Middle East who acts as an estate agent and has rented out apartments to families from Syria and Iraq. However, he has allegedly kept the rent money himself and some of the families have since been evicted by police from their homes, losing the deposit and commission they paid to the agent.  

Aid organizations such as Diakonie and Caritas say they have been aware of the allegations for some time. The Vienna Social Fund (FSW), which subsidises rents for refugees, has also forwarded names of suspects to the police in cases where they fear that families are being exploited.

One Syrian refugee, who asked not to be named, said that refugees are sometimes warned that certain landlords or agents have a bad reputation but feel that they have no alternative. He said that he and his family were evicted from their apartment, despite having paid the rent, because the apartment’s owners never received the money from the agent.

Many property owners and agents refuse to rent to refugees as they require proof of income and employment before signing a rental contract.

The situation is likely to become critical over the winter. Currently, 9,000 asylum seekers have been provided with private accommodation in Vienna, according to Caritas expert Karin Knogl. However, she said that there are many more asylum seekers across the rest of Austria who plan to move to Vienna to be with family and friends once they have been granted refugee status.

 

For members

IMMIGRATION

What is Vienna’s MA 35 doing to offer better service for immigrants in Austria?

The city of Vienna now has several new appointment slots for a 'first information meeting' for those wanting to apply for Austrian citizenship. Here's what you need to know.

What is Vienna's MA 35 doing to offer better service for immigrants in Austria?

The office for immigration and citizenship in Vienna, MA 35, is known for long waiting periods, delays and even mistakes being made in applications. It has recently received renewed criticisms as new appointments for Austrian citizenship were not open until mid-2023.

Things got even worse, and applicants now have to wait until October 2023 to get the first appointment. Only after this meeting will they receive another date (sometimes also a year later) to submit the documents asked. 

READ ALSO: ‘Insensitive and inefficient’: Your verdict on Vienna’s immigration office MA 35

Green politician Aygül Berivan Aslan said the reform of MA 35 had “failed”. She said she welcomed the SPÖ’s push towards simplifying access to citizenship but felt that “theory and practice do not match”. Speaking in the Viennese parliament, she introduced a motion for a six-month evaluation of the office.

Aslan also proposed that in the case of delays of more than six months, citizenship costs should be waived for applicants. 

Stadt Wien service screenshot

How bad is the situation?

Not only do people have to wait months for a first talk and then months to submit documents, but once their part is done, the wait is not over. There are currently 3,800 procedures pending for more than half a year in the MA 35, Deputy Mayor and City Councillor for Integration Christoph Wiederkehr (NEOS) said.

He justified delays saying that the number of applications had risen by around 30 percent his year in Vienna – only last month, there were 600 appointments booked. 

“The sharp increase can be explained by the eligibility of refugees from 2015 to apply for citizenship as well as by uncertainties caused by the war in Ukraine”, he said.

READ ALSO: ‘Bring everything you have’: Key tips for dealing with Vienna’s immigration office MA 35

He added that the goal would need to be “simplifying the procedures nationwide”. However, Wiederkehr also said there were reforms still being implemented in the MA 35.

Wiederkehr said: “On the part of the city, there are ongoing staff increases at MA 35. The training of the employees is so complex that it takes about a year.” 

“In addition to the increase in staff, there was an analysis to optimise some work processes, as well as intensive training. Digitalisation is also being accelerated”, he added.

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