A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
So, you have managed to find a room/house and you’re finally safe to start the academic semester without the worry of where you’ll sleep tonight! Congrats! But suddenly your landlord tells you that he has raised the rent, and from next month onwards you’ll have to pay 150% of what you’re paying right now! Whattt?? Is that allowed??? In this second part of the Housing series, it will focus on some of your basic rights, and the experiences of other international students with scummy landlords.
Unfortunately, scummy and scammer landlords are not uncommon in the private sector and especially international students are a common victim of these landlords, as you are even less familiar with rental rights than the average Dutch renter who does understand the language, and might know where to find legal advice. Is it, for example, allowed to raise rents unconditionally? To what extend is a landlord allowed to enter your place? and what if they demand extra money? These are some of the concerns and questions that were brought up when I asked my international friends about their experiences with renting and landlords in the Netherlands. Below I’ve answered some of these questions in the hope that you will feel a bit more secure about your position as a renter.
One student, Lionell, told me that his landlord kept refusing to fix the property and get rid of a mold infestation that had spread in the living room, as well as kept insisting that he and the other renters had not paid one month of rent. In the end they contacted the municipality for support in the matter, which led to some support, and a confirmation of their rights as renters. One thing that really helped Lionell and his roommates is that they had kept receipts of all interactions with the landlord and payment details, which meant they had definite proof of their case.
Another student brought up the issue of return of the deposit at the end of a rental period. She told me that her landlord held her responsible for damages in the house that, according to the landlord were due to her damaging the property, and thus he would not return the full deposit to cover the cost of these fixes. This student told me that the damages already existed in the housing when she moved in, however she never thought to take pictures of these damages, or discuss them with the landlord, thus she wasn’t able to provide evidence that she hadn’t caused these damages, and did not get her deposit back. This is an unfortunate case, as the deposit can sometimes be over a month worth of rent, and there is no legal restriction on how much deposit a landlord can ask for, though guidelines by the government indicate that 3 months of the basic rent is still considered reasonable. To avoid this similar situation, when moving into a place make sure to document any damages or broken fixtures (take pictures of them) and send these to your landlord at the beginning of your rental period, and get them to acknowledge these. Like the advice above, keep this documentation on record.
My friend Andra also told me a horror story about her landlord. Her landlord would enter their house without any prior notification, usually randomly in the evening, which left her very unsettled at times. But because she wasn’t sure what the rules and regulations on this were, initially she and her roommates just dealt with it. However, know you do not have to, your landlord is not legally allowed to enter your home without your permission, as this would be a violation of your right to privacy. Of course, your landlord might have to come by to fix certain issues, or conduct an inspection, but they should always announce when this will happen, and cannot enter on their own, you have to let them in. If your landlord violates this right, then the first step you can undertake is to try to talk with your landlord about it through an email or text message (take the advice above into consideration with this). As this article from the website hellolaw argues, you could also replace the locks, but whether you have to share the new keys to these locks with your landlord depends on what is specified in the rental agreement. Worse comes to worse you could call the police or a lawyer and press charges of trespassing, however this would sour the relationship with your landlord significantly so it’s not really advised.
The final advise I would like to give you, if you aren’t sure whether what your landlord is doing is entirely legal or right, is to seek contact with someone who does know more, this can be someone from the university’s housing office or a lawyer/ law office, as some give free legal advice, such as het juridisch loket. Often being an informed renter is already enough to scare landlords off from trying to pull on you.
Thank you for reading this article, if there are any other topics related to housing in the Hague that you would like to know more about, please mention it in the comments so that I can consider it for future articles