A landlord who walks into your room unannounced, starts yelling at you if the house is not clean enough or threatens to cancel the contract: young tenants experience it all, according to research that we had carried out in collaboration with 3Vraagt among 2,150 young people from 16 to 34 years old.
Female tenants are relatively often the victims of transgressive behavior by their landlords. For example, 18 percent of them indicated that they had received sexually explicit comments and 23 percent experienced verbally aggressive behavior.
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Someone who unfortunately can talk about the horror of slum landlords is 27-year-old Bethe from Utrecht. For fear of her former and current landlord, she prefers not to appear under her own name in this article. Between 2013 and 2015, Bethe rented a room in a student house in Utrecht, where she ended up through a real estate agent. Bethe: “It was an old workers’ house in which five small rooms had been built, there was no common living room. I paid 380 euros including. That doesn’t sound like a lot these days, but back then that was still a considerable amount for a poorly maintained room of 11 square meters.”
One day, Bethe and her housemates received a letter from the Utrecht rental team, with an offer to calculate the permitted rent using the points system . Rental teams are teams set up by municipalities that provide free advice to tenants and assist them with problems. “That calculation resulted in a much lower rent,” says Bethe. “So we then had the rent assessment committee send a letter to my landlord requesting that our rent be lowered.”
It turned out to be the start of a long series of intimidations to chase Bethe and her roommates out of their rooms. “Suddenly he was at the door to speak angrily to us. When I indicated that we were right, he removed the electricity and hot water from our house. For a while we couldn’t shower or wash the dishes.”
One roommate left, but no new tenant came into his room. “Instead, a homeless man who often roamed our street was given the keys, he took his dog. A very strange situation, but we were not necessarily bothered by him,” Bethe looks back. Her landlord decided to put two other men in the room.
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“Then the situation got really grim. They sat there with orders to get us out of the house. We were yell at in an unfamiliar language, set off the fire alarm, unplug our fridge and threw yogurt and egg at our door. There were even shards of glass on the floor in front of my room door, so I got in.” Bethe reported to the police, but did not feel taken seriously. The absolute low came shortly after, she recalls. “There was shit in our shower, completely crazy.”
For you ten others
It makes Marcel Trip, spokesperson for the Nederland’s Winbond (an association that stands up for the interests of tenants), sad to hear Bethe’s story. Yet such excesses come as no surprise to him. “In recent years, we have been receiving more and more reports of landlords intimidating tenants when they raise a problem.” Trip knows that some tenant are mentally damage by a broke relationship with their landlord. “If your home is no longer a safe place, it affects your entire functioning.”
According to the spokesperson, the number of reports of abuses has increased because more and more rental home in the free sector are being add. “Politics has focused on commercial rent, so there are now more than a million homes in that sector. But the protection of tenants has lagged behind.”
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Despite the growth of the private rental sector, there is still a housing shortage there. That promotes cross-border behavior on the part of landlords, thinks Bethe. “It gives them a stronger position of power. They think: for you ten others to whom I can ask the full blow or for whom I do not have to carry out repairs.”
This scarcity is being felt by more young tenant: our research show that 87 percent of young people looking for a new home are not confident that they will find a new roof over their head in the next six month. Bethe now rents a small independent studio in Utrecht for about 900 euros per month. “When I look at some of my peers, it really feels like luck. While it is of course an absurdly high amount for a single starter.”
She has not forgotten her bad experiences. “I try to ask as little as possible from my landlord. I know from a roommate who also rents a studio from him that this landlord can also be very unpleasant in his communication, so I keep a low profile.”