City receives complaints about landlords weekly, but hands out no fines

GIULIA FABRIZI and CHRISTOPH SWAIGER

The municipality receives approximately three separate reports of bad landlording a week. Yet, three years after the implementation of a new renter’s permit, the city has handed out no fines, and none of the permits have been rescinded.

The reports vary from rent that’s too high to deposits not being returned and landlords intimidating and harassing tenants. But, says a spokesperson on behalf of the city: ‘The city is not a mediator and can’t help students on a case-by-case basis.’ 

The city does investigate signs of abusive landlords. ‘That means that when a landlord misbehaves, they run the risk of losing their permit’, she says. But that is only as a last resort, she emphasises. That’s why no landlord has had their permit rescinded, nor have any been fined.

Hotline

In 2019, the city implemented a new type of renter’s permit in an effort to tackle malicious practices perpetrated by landlords. They mainly victimise students, since this group represents a large part of the private renting market. 

The city and the Groninger Studentenbond (GSb) also created the Meldpunt Ongewenst Huurgedrag, a hotline where students can complain. The GSb and the city hoped this would help them gain insight into landlords that disobeyed the rules.

Improvements

While no one has received any sanctions, the city has noticed some improvements on the rental market. They initially received mainly complaints about harassment, but now they receive more complaints about specific problems such as rent that’s too high, an evaluation from 2021 shows. The city thinks that landlords are more likely to stick to the rules now that they run the risk of losing their permit.

Whenever the city received structural complaints about a landlord, they would have a talk with them. They say these conversations have resulted in improvements and it hasn’t been necessary to revoke anyone’s permit. 

Less afraid

GSb chair Leon van der Deure is happy with the hotline. Until a month ago, the GSb would receive the reports, which they then sent on to the city. ‘It’s a way for people to share their story. The city definitely looks at them’, he says.

‘For so long, people were afraid to report abuse’, says Van der Deure. ‘But now they’re becoming less afraid. According to him, this is partially because the reports can be submitted anonymously, and partially because the hotline has become more well-known over the past few years. ‘Whenever we have a campaign, like at the start of the year, the number of complaints always doubles.’

‘Does this mean we’ve solved the issue of harassment and malicious landlords? No, not yet’, he says. ‘But it’s certainly a step in the right direction.’

Nederlands

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