Approximately 80 percent of Groningen students rent from private landlords. Some of these private renters don’t want to obey the law. They overcharge students for rent or make them pay illegal brokerage fees. When tenants go to the rental committee to complain, the landlords will often try to bully and intimidate them.
Student organisations have repeatedly called for action against these crooked landlords. The municipality of Groningen is also done with the abuse, but ‘until now we haven’t had the tools to tackle the problems’. That is why the mayor and aldermen have proposed a new renters permit.
If the municipal council agrees, Groningen will be the first municipality to instate such a permit. Currently, no permit is needed for people who want to earn their keep as landlords. The municipality does need to give permission when someone wants to rent out rooms: a conversion permit. But that permit applies to a single building, not to people.
The proposal wants to make a personal renters permit mandatory from 1 January 2019. It also includes an extra permit for brokerage firms. When a renter or firm doesn’t obey the rules, their permits can be revoked. The municipality hopes to get rid of the bad apples among the private landlords.
The renters themselves aren’t happy with the plan. ‘The proposal is full of concepts and definitions that are open to interpretation’, renter Lammert Tel argued on Tuesday evening during a meeting with the committee of Spatial Planning and Living.
He represented an interest group of more than thirty private renters. ‘We want the abuse in the sector to end as well, but this proposed system has too many flaws to be a good solution.’
Code of conduct
The renters also fear that the new regulations will actually increase room shortage in the city: when landlords lose their licenses, the students renting from them won’t have a place to live. The renters would rather tackle the misconduct in their profession themselves.
‘Maybe we could introduce a code of conduct, and a mark of quality. We would like to invite the municipality to brainstorm with us. Let’s talk to each other rather than about each other.’
SP faction chair Jimmy Dijk was impressed with Tel’s ideas. ‘What have you been doing during the past few years? You could have introduced a code of conduct ages ago, but instead you’ve just been denying the issue.’
The municipal council will decide on a new renters’ permit in late September.