Slum landlords won't stop on their own
Soner Sari was named the Slum Landlord of the Year 2017. He is now the tenth landlord who has received this (dis)honour. Every year, the youth organisation of the Socialist Party of the Netherlands organises an election for the worst landlords of the year. These terrible landlords are known in the Netherlands as ‘huisjesmelkers’ which translates to slum landlords. It is a problem that affects a great deal of Dutch and international students, and the problem is only growing.
By Leonie Andriessen and Romy Bruijnzeel, December 29th, 2017
This is why Laurens Ivens, a Dutch alderman that handles living situations in Amsterdam, has draughted a pressing letter that has been signed by eleven other alderman from different student cities, and sent it to the minister of Internal Affairs, Kajsa Ollongren. The letter is supported by the national student union: the LSVB.
Students need to stand up
Landlords are increasingly breaking the rules that are drawn up to protect tenants. However, this is hardly visible in any numbers, because the victims of slum landlords often do not report it at the Rent Committee. This is where the heart of the problem lies, according to Ivens. Students often rationalise the situation by saying they signed a contract with a certain price which they are obliged to pay, because they agreed to it, even when the price is way toigh. But by doing this, students are making it easier for landlords to increase pricing even more for the next tenant. This is one of two reasons why landlords keep breaking the rules: because students accept it. The solution to this would be to collectively draw a line when it comes to rent. When multiple people stand up to their landlord at the same time, or go to the ‘huurcommissie’, they will have a more powerful position to change the situation.
Another reason for the increase of slum landlords are the sanctions on breaking the rules. Currently, the fine for slum landlords is 1400 euros. This does not compare to the amount of money these landlords earn on the extra costs they make their tenants pay for. Also, after having been sanctioned as a slum landlord, they can just lower the price to a norm on which they will still make money. This is not really threatening to the landlords. This is why, in the pressing letter, the aldermen are asking minister Ollongren for higher sanctions.
Student Housing in The Hague
‘’The circumstances regarding slum landlords and housing conditions for students are rather different in The Hague’’, says Matthijs Gordijn, head of the department Housing at municipality The Hague. ‘’The question is when is a city considered a student city?’’, he states. Nearly 15.000 students live in the Hague, amongst them 5.000 international students. Most of these students attend the University of Applied Sciences (in Dutch: HBO). According to Gordijn, these students are more demanding than the average university student: ‘’HBO students are less likely to want shared facilities in their accommodation than university students. The demand for self-contained flats is therefore higher than for student dorms.’’
Landlords in The Hague
When we ask Gordijn about the issues with slum landlords in The Hague, he says: ‘’We rarely hear students complaining about slum landlords. However, this is something that has a priority in the local council, but there is only so much the local authorities can do.’’ In the Netherlands it is actually regulated quiet well. For instance, in The Hague there is a ‘’rent team’’ that guides people who have to deal with slum landlords, but there is nothing we can do about the intimidation towards tenants. When tenants do not report intimidations, we cannot offer them any help. According to Gordijn, informing tenants is very important. Some tenants do not even know that the Rent Committee exists. The municipality of The .Hague provides information by sending a folder about your rights as a tenant. Awareness among tenants enhances the position of the Rent Committee, but the Committee can only operate within the frames of the law. For further regulations the government has to take steps against slum landlords.
From January 1st 2018, DUWO (a student housing organisation) is launching a new online platform for student housing: ROOM! The new national platform offers available student dorms and apartments. This platform is established to help students to find a new roof in a fair and transparent way. Students who are registered at ‘Studentenwoningweb’ will automatically be submitted to the new platform from January 1st on. Take a look on the website after its launch: https://room.nl/
A better world starts with you
It is not looking like the government is going to change the regulations on slum landlords anytime soon, but meanwhile you can do something to change the situation. If you pay too much for your housing should not let your landlord get away with (check if you pay too much rent here: https://dutchstudentunion.nl/rentcheck/). When you have a disagreement on your rent contract you can call in on the rent committee. The rent committee will bring in an independent verdict about the situation and this is binding for both parties.The more tenants will stand up against these landlords, the more their position will be weakened. By doing nothing you only amplify the influence of landlords even more.
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