Two members of an infamous family of property owners in Leuven have been arrested as the result of an investigation into scores of complaints over the insalubrious state of properties routinely rented out by the family.
The public prosecutor’s office confirmed that Arnold and Manu Appeltans, respectively father and son, had been detained as the result of an investigation into their reputation as “slumlords” in the student city, where they dominate significant chunks of the rental market.
Over the course of at least a decade, the family was found to have been striking leases with tenants for properties which they had officially declared as vacant or uninhabitable.
A total of four members of the family were recently arrested as part of the investigation into dozens of complaints tenants made against the Appeltans family over living conditions in the properties, dating as far back as 2010.
The complaints against the family continued to pile on, with tenants eventually creating a Facebook group titled the “Anti-Appeltans Front,” which saw the property owners opt to use a series of false names in order to continue renting out their properties, De Standaard reports.
An investigation into the family was launched in October 2018, as the tenants’ plight against them continued to make headlines and as the Facebook group’s membership broke past the 500-member mark.
“The investigation revealed, among other things that buildings that were declared uninhabitable or unsuitable were nevertheless rented,” the public prosecutor’s office stated, adding that some tenants lived in homes with “no water, heating or electricity.”
Arnold Appeltans’ spouse and a handyman were the other two arrested during house searches conducted different locations in Leuven, Brussels and the town of Hoeselt, in the province of Limburg, but both were later released.
The arrests follow numerous findings by authorities of the family’s illicit and abusive leasing practices towards their tenants, including reports that they were draining electricity from a student flat for two years.
It also follows a court’s decision to sentence the family to pay a fine of over €18,000 over the conditions in which they leased a student room, or kot, which authorities later found was rented out to statutory refugees, according to HLN.
Leuven officials said the arrest of the two members of the Appeltans family was a “very important step” in fighting the “slumlords” family’s dominion of the local rental market, which authorities have attempted to fight by teaming up with the University of Leuven and offering alternative housing solutions for students, who make up a significant portion of the city’s population.