BY CRISTIAN APOSTOL AND YULING CHANG
In a city with thousands of students and not enough rooms, you are bound to run into problems. UKrant addresses the most common housing troubles and tries to offer some solutions. This week: what if you can’t register with the municipality?
After viewing five rooms in three weeks and being rejected for each of them, Rosa was desperate. She had come to Groningen to study at the UG, but she feared she was going to end up homeless. ‘I was in a position where I would take anything’, she says.
So when she heard of a young Dutch woman who was willing to rent out a room in her apartment, she jumped at the chance. ‘I wasn’t sure whether I could get anything else’, she explains. The catch: Rosa wasn’t allowed to register at the address.
That didn’t seem like a big deal at first, but she soon found out what that meant: without a legal address, she couldn’t get a citizen service number (BSN), open a bank account, apply for student financing, or get a job. It meant she was completely dependent on her parents for money.
Rosa’s experience is hardly unique: because the housing market in Groningen is so tight, students take what they can get – even if they can’t register there because it’s a sublet, or a house that’s being rented out as student accommodation illegally.
To register, students must show a valid identity document and – most importantly – a rental or purchase contract. So what do you do if you don’t have a contract?
First of all, don’t panic, says Rik Kiers, director of Steunpunt Huren Groningen, a non-profit organisation offering legal advice, mediation and information to both renters and landlords. ‘It’s legally allowed to live in the Netherlands without registration for a period of four months.’
That means you have some time to find a place that’s legal. But after those four months are up, the municipality can give you an administrative fine of up to 325 euros.
There’s always the option of applying for a mailbox address, says Stijn Honselaar, secretary of student union GSb. However, he adds: it’s at the discretion of the municipality to assign these addresses, and they are mostly reserved for homeless people and not for students. The chance of getting one isn’t very high.
If you don’t have a contract and you can’t get a mailbox address, you’re still allowed to register if you can get the occupant or owner of an address to fill out a form declaring that you live there.
Some international students pay to have someone do that for them. But, Kiers warns: if a person claims you live there when you actually don’t, they’re also liable to get a 325 euro fine. ‘It isn’t really legal. The main rule is you must register where you reside the most. Otherwise, you could get into trouble if the municipality found out you don’t live at your registered address.’
There’s a difference between the legal rules and reality, Kiers admits. After all, he says, ‘the municipality won’t take action unless they know there’s something amiss’. Still, he ‘strongly suggests’ students follow the rules. ‘Don’t take the risk.’