In October 2017, Stichting Studenten Huisvesting (SSH) sent the residents of the SSH building at the Kornoeljestraat a letter because of a noise complaint. In this letter, they threatened to take action against a group of mostly international (exchange) students if they broke the rules again. The letter, which the UK has in its possession, reads:
– When crossing the line from now on, you will be invited individually to our office and receive a warning, This means that your university in Groningen will be informed, as well as your university back home. If necessary, the university will inform your parents about the misbehaviour. Depending on the type of misbehaviour, the police will be informed as well.
–When crossing the line a second time, we will break your rental contract and you will be asked to leave the building per immediately. Also the university will stop your program and you will be requested to return back home.
‘Defamation and libel’
The university has expressed surprise at the letter: ‘This sounds fairly strange’, spokesperson Jorien Bakker says. ‘The university isn’t even authorised to terminate the programme on the basis of behaviour in the residence. We’re also not allowed to contact students’ parents without their express consent.’
‘We do get notified when there are issues at an SSH residence, but the students are always anonymous. We will be contacting SSH to discuss this’, according to Bakker.
Rental law expert Denise Zonnebeld, with consultancy agency Frently, is also surprised: ‘These are empty threats, they have no authority. Not only is the university not connected to SSH, in order to evict someone from their room, they would have to go to court. It’s a lengthy process.’
‘Moreover, informing the university or a student’s parents is a violation of privacy’, Zonnebeld continues. ‘If they actually did that, I would report them for defamation or libel. SSH would actually be committing a punishable offence.’
On behalf of SSH, Jolien Stokroos apologises to the students. ‘We should never have put this in the letter. Because of privacy issues, we’re not allowed to inform parents of students over eighteen and we certainly have no authority to terminate their programmes.’
Over the past few months, this particular paragraph has only been included in SSH’s communication to hall M at the building in the Kornoeljestraat, ‘because they just caused too much trouble’, according to Stokroos. ‘We were hoping to combat it with a strongly worded letter, but we realise that this was going too far.’
Stokroos does say that students can be evicted from their room after the second warning. ‘We offer Short Stay contracts at SSH, which means residents don’t have any rent protection. In case of noise complaints, we start a file and keep warning the residents.’
The residents of hall M at the Kornoeljestraat will be receiving an e-mail this afternoon that apologises for the letter’s wording, says Stokroos.