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 to do when you have a horrible roommate?
‘My roommate’s bedroom was literally a trash room. Around forty trash bags were sitting nonchalantly on top of each other. The smell was unbearable’, says Larisa (21), a second-year biology student.
Larisa was overjoyed when, after sending out hundreds of messages, she found a room in an apartment in Vinkhuizen for only 250 euros. But when the Romanian native arrived in Groningen, she discovered there was a catch: ‘The moment I entered the apartment, a noxious stench hit me. The apartment was a dirty mess.’
Unless you are lucky enough to be able to afford a place of your own, moving out of your parents’ house means living with roommates, often strangers. And that can be an unpleasant experience if it turns out ‘hygiene’ is a word they’re not familiar with, like Larisa’s roommate Noa.
Vomit, blood and poop
‘I even had to re-paint the walls because they were so dirty. There was trash everywhere and the kitchen was in an awful state. The sink was overflowing with dishes and the dishwasher had become a breeding ground for mould’, says Larisa.
The bathroom was even worse: she found vomit, blood, pee, and poop all over the floors on a daily basis. ‘It was so much work that I had a full-on mental breakdown.’
And the squalor wasn’t the only issue. ‘Noa claimed to be a DJ and he would play extremely loud music at night, to the point that the walls would tremble.’ The neighbours complained about the noise and even Larisa and her other roommate, Anna, made anonymous complaints. ‘But nothing really happened.’
Parties until morning
Lina (22), a Lithuanian third-year student of American studies, didn’t have just one terrible roommate, but a whole group of them. ‘They partied until early morning with lots of alcohol and drugs. They even invited random people who responded to their invitations on Facebook or WhatsApp’, she recounts. ‘It interrupted my sleep and my studying. And this was at the height of the pandemic, so I was also scared of being exposed to Covid.’
She lived in Upsilon, a student housing complex owned by SSH, where tenants are only allowed a limited number of guests and overnight stays are discouraged. But her roommates didn’t let that stop them. ‘There would be drunk people sleeping in the kitchen in the morning.’
Lina filed a complaint with SSH, but that didn’t help. ‘The building manager eventually invited me for a personal meeting, only to tell me that I was the only one who had a problem with that behaviour. He said that I should re-evaluate what I had said.’
It frustrated her, but since she had a contract and no other alternative, she waited out the year before moving out.
What she could have done was talk to her roommates and try to negotiate with them about limiting parties to specific times and days, for example. But that doesn’t always work, as Larisa and Anna found. ‘I asked Noa several times politely if he could clean up after himself and his friends, who he was doing drugs with. But nothing would change.’
The girls even tried to set up a cleaning schedule, but that didn’t work either. And so they only had one option left: start looking for another place. First, Anna moved out, and another guy moved into her room. ‘He would sleep in his own tent in the bedroom’, says Larisa. ‘Noa was the main tenant and he didn’t pay the utility bills, so by then we had no electricity, gas or water.’
Soon, the new tenant also wanted to move out. And as luck would have it, a friend of his lived in an apartment where three rooms were available. ‘So we both moved in there, and Anna did as well. It was a good ending to a terrible situation.’
Lina and Noa are pseudonyms.