My room is sitting empty now. What are my rights?
Can my landlord evict me if I can’t make rent?
No. The Dutch government has released a statement that a landlord cannot evict you if you can’t make rent due to the coronavirus. You also cannot be disconnected from water, gas, or electricity if you don’t pay the bills. But the municipality of Groningen and the Groningen Student Union (GSb) advise students to contact their landlord to come to a specific agreement.
Can anyone help me with enforcing these agreements?
It’s harder to assert your rights with private landlords than it is with housing corporations. If anything happens and you’re not sure how to handle it, Jan Willem Leeuwma, chair of the GSb, says the union’s housing team and legal helpdesk can give you advice on what to do. But the most important thing, Leeuwma says, is to always have any agreements you make with your landlord in writing, so neither party can go back on their word.
Can I cancel my contract before the agreed-upon term?
Unless otherwise agreed upon with your landlord, you’ll have to give at least one and at most three months’ notice before moving. Students with short-stay contracts can’t cancel them early, unless they rent from SSH or Groningse Panden. While not legally responsible for housing, the UG has agreed to cover the cost of the vacancies for these corporations.
However, such deals cannot be made with private landlords, says UG spokesperson Jorien Bakker. The GSb is currently in contact with other short-stay parties to help students in this situation and change the terms of such contracts in the future.
In the case of a temporary lease, the government has decided that if your lease ends within the crisis period, it can be extended for another temporary period. Normally such a lease is either ended or made permanent.
What do I do with my belongings if I cancel my contract?
Can your landlord just throw your stuff out? The short answer is yes. As soon as your contract has ended, the room and its contents fall back into the possession of the landlord. ‘While it wouldn’t be considerate at all, they’re within their rights to do so’, says Leeuwma. It’s up to you to find a way to move out your things and perhaps store them somewhere until you return to Groningen.
Why doesn’t the Netherlands just freeze the rent for a while?
Several countries in Europe, like France and Ireland, have introduced a rent-free period. The Netherlands hasn’t done this. Leeuwma thinks this is because of the trickle-down effect. ‘If renters don’t pay, landlords may go broke themselves and have to give up their properties. Especially in such a tight market as Groningen, this could be detrimental in the future when all those new students come to look for a room.’