No noise, no Wi-Fi, no guests

The landlady’s ridiculous rules

With rooms almost impossible to find, students feel forced to accept just any room. Even when it’s with a landlady who slaps you with crazy – and illegal – rules. ‘She always switched the Wi-Fi off at 10.30 PM.’
14 February om 10:28 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 14 February 2022
om 16:50 uur.
February 14 at 10:28 AM.
Last modified on February 14, 2022
at 16:50 PM.

Door Sofia Strodt

14 February om 10:28 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 14 February 2022
om 16:50 uur.

By Sofia Strodt

February 14 at 10:28 AM.
Last modified on February 14, 2022
at 16:50 PM.

Sofia Strodt

Student-redacteur Volledig bio Student editor Full bio

Whenever psychology student Keziah wanted to sleep over at a friends’ place, she had to email her landlady. The elderly woman was uncomfortable not knowing whether her tenant would be coming home or not. ‘She wanted to know everything. I really thought I’d have more independence, but instead I felt like there was no way out.’ 

Bringing people over was unpleasant, too. Guests had to leave before midnight and keep quiet all the time, for fear of Keziah’s landlady hearing them. ‘I was paranoid of talking too loudly. It was like having to live with your parents again in the middle of the lockdown’, she recalls. 

She’d been so happy that she landed this room during a housing crisis. Her space was of ‘decent size’ and the room was equipped with a double bed, a large wardrobe, and a big desk. But after just one month, Keziah wanted to leave again. Her landlady came up with too many rules and the atmosphere in the house was ‘eerie, tense, and weirdly sterile’.

Abuse of power

In student flats owned by corporations like Lefier or SSH, your rights are completely clear. But some landlords, particularly those who rent out multiple houses privately, regularly abuse their power, says Ale Pieter ten Cate, who is part of the rental team of the Groningen student union GSb that provides students with free advice. 

‘When terms are stated in the contract, they’re legitimate, as long as they comply with Dutch law, of course’, says Ten Cate. That means landlords can in fact forbid tenants to bring over guests or modify the facilities in their room.

It was like having to live with your parents again

‘However, when landlords try to enforce rules not stated in the contract after it’s already been signed, that’s when things get strange. These people think they are in a position of power and they abuse that or threaten their tenants with terminating the contract. Students very often don’t know what to do and are scared of being kicked out of their house, especially because housing is so scarce.’

But landlords cannot terminate a contract from one day to the next if there hasn’t been a breach of rules that are explicitly stated in the contract, according to Ten Cate. 

No Wi-Fi

Keziah felt that something was off with her landlady right when she arrived. ‘I had a lot of luggage with me, and my landlady was shaming me for it, saying that for some reason it wasn’t okay.’ Keziah blamed the Dutch directness. Besides, what other option did she have but to move in with the retired lady?

But things quickly went from bad to worse. ‘She always switched off the Wi-Fi when she went to bed around 10.30 PM. I couldn’t study after that.’ Keziah also wasn’t allowed to shower late in the evening, because it was too loud. The washing machine was off limits too, so Keziah and her housemates had to go to the laundromat. And she was forbidden from using sunflower oil, pungent spices, or scented candles, since her landlady ‘didn’t like the smell’.

On top of the regular rent, Keziah was charged 42 euros for cleaning each month, even though this wasn’t included in the contract. She always wondered why she had to pay for something she felt perfectly capable of taking care of herself.

She even had to cut meetings with friends short because she couldn’t be home later than midnight. ‘It was a very strange balance to be in a rush to get home and not wanting to see her at the same time.’

Hallway kitchen

Lara, who studies work, organisational and personnel psychology, was also confronted with a few crazy rules when she was looking for a room. ‘One landlady asked me whether I could go without using the kitchen in the morning. She expected me to make food for myself upstairs.’ 

The landlord would lock the door of the laundry room

‘The kitchen’ was just a hallway with an oven and a microwave. Tenants had to store their things in a cupboard near the stairs, while the space in the main kitchen was filled with the landlady’s things.

Lara was also warned that she couldn’t be too noisy. ‘During the viewing I was just sitting there thinking: What the fuck! Afterwards I went home in shock and called my mum. I just remember telling her that the living situation was ridiculous.’

Bring your own stove

She had to accept the place, though, because she desperately needed the room. Then, a few days later, she got a text that it had been given to someone else. ‘I think she didn’t like that I was scared of her three dogs’, Lara says. But there was something else at play as well, she feels: ‘Once they notice you’re the type of person who speaks up, they don’t give you the room.’

When Lara went to see another place, a similar thing happened. She couldn’t use the kitchen equipment there at all and was supposed to bring her own stove and microwave, even though there was a ‘cute kitchen’ right by the stairs that led to the room. 

Energy and climate law student Zelie Pavat was already living in Groningen, but wanted to upgrade her living space. Because she had a roof over her head, she was able to refuse the ridiculous rules at one of the places she looked.

You had to send a picture of what you’d cleaned or get fined 

‘There was one washing machine in a student house with seven people. The laundry room was closed throughout the week, which meant that everyone had to take care of their laundry in two days’, she says. Sneaking into the room wasn’t an option. ‘The landlord would lock the door. I think it was also just a way for him to check the house. I thought that was very weird, very controlling.’

The cleaning schedule was even more absurd. ‘Every day someone had to clean something. Afterwards you would have to send a picture of what you had cleaned within two days. If you forgot, there was a fine of one hundred euros.’ Zelie suspects that the other tenants were fine with this rule because ‘it’s so hard to find a place’. 

‘When demands are not stated in the contract, there is no legal ground for a landlord to enforce them’, Ten Cate explains. ‘In fact, many students underestimate how much power they themselves have and just accept these rules that landlords dictate. Mostly, the landlords also don’t know the law and just try to see how far they can go.’ 

After four months, Keziah moved out of her room. ‘My parents realised how bad it was when I said I couldn’t talk freely on the phone’, she says. When she told her landlady she wanted to leave, the woman got angry and blamed Keziah for ‘taking advantage of her’.

Because of the ‘very angry, intimidating email’ that Keziah received after her announcement, she felt pressured to pay for the landlady’s Kamernet subscription to find a new tenant. It was ‘anxiety-inducing’, she says. ‘Being able to move out was a huge relief.’

No matter how much a landlord scares you, speak up, Ten Cate recommends. ‘If students don’t question this type of behaviour, it will become normalised. It will give your landlord more power over you. It’s like a domino effect and you have to stop it at some point.’