Frently hires staff to meet demand

Frently, the student-orientated legal service for rental issues, has considerably increased its staff to meet growing demand: the organization includes five staff members and three interns this year, and founder Denise Zonnebeld says Frently will employ nine staffers in January 2016.

The idea behind Frently is to provide free information and to spread awareness of the rights students have as tenants, says one of Frently’s employees, judicial staffer Richelle Wolff. The organization’s tasks include rental contract checks and rent reduction procedures with the Huurcommissie, an independent governmental agency that handles disputes between tenants and landlords about rent-controlled housing, basic rental prices and service costs.

In addition, Frently offers legal help with rent deposit issues, housing taxes, rental subsidies, and free legal advice. Many of the students who come to Frently for guidance – internationals in particular but also Dutch students in general – are not entirely familiar with the laws that protect tenants against rental fraud, says Wolff.

‘Most students are still paying too much for their rent’
Currently, Frently has around 1,250 active cases and more than 750 successfully closed cases, a caseload which prompted the company to change its working schedule. In years past, Frently had offered rental checks one day per week, but starting this year, the organization has dedicated two days a week to conducting checks at ten addresses per week on average, and three days a week to appointments at their office.

Renting in Groningen

Renting a room or house in Groningen can be challenging, especially for students. According to Wolff, most of the students, and specifically international students, are still paying too much for their rent. In addition, the vast majority of international students don’t speak Dutch, which makes it difficult to understand their rights as tenants. Another obstacle is that a legal procedure can be started only after the room or house has been rented, says Wolff.

However, Frently is spreading awareness, not only amongst tenants, but also landlords. According to Denise, the myriad successful cases against rental fraud have changed the rent-controlled accommodation services offered by independent landlords and housing agencies for the better.

Thanks to a ruling by the Netherlands’ Supreme Court this month on rental agency fees, agents who charge homeowners a fee to advertise their property are legally prohibited from charging tenants additional fees. In light of this change, helping tenants reclaim agency fees will be another service that Frently will begin to offer to their clients, says Zonnebeld.

Creating Frently

November 2015 marks Frently’s fifth anniversary. The organization was officially established in 2010 under the name Bekijkhet! when, as a second year law student living in an eight meters squared room for 300 euros per month, Zonnebeld wanted to find an organization that could help her with her own rental case.

Because there was no such organization, she filed a case with the Huurcommissie herself and won. This caught the attention of her friends, who, as a result, asked for her help and Frently was created. Given the company’s popularity, Zonnebeld says that branching out further to other cities has been considered, but for the foreseeable future, Frently will remain Groningen-based.