Absentee landlords and the room-rental scourge
In many Dutch cities and neighbourhoods, residents are complaining about absentee landlords who purchase homes and split them into units, renting small apartments and rooms to students and foreign workers.
By Frank Scimone.
In some cities entire neighbourhoods have been affected by a room-rental scourge. Problems of noise pollution, littering and poor upkeep are forcing many residents to leave.
In the northern town of Groningen the town council decided in 2005 to raise the number of apartments which can be rented to the tens of thousands of students who study in the town from nine percent to 25 percent. The result is that many working class neighbourhoods are being flooded with noisy students and residents are
fleeing to the suburbs. The town is now reassessing the situation.
Several years ago the town of Eindhoven decided to abolish an ordinance that allowed no more than ten percent of houses to be rented as rooms. In one street 90 percent of family homes have been turned into rental units for students and foreign workers. Residents have asked that the ten-percent norm be reinstated. The town refused, but has banned the sale of more homes to absentee landlords and room-rental agencies. In Utrecht the municipality recently decided to stop issuing permits allowing homes to be split up in a number of neighbourhoods.
The problem stems from the fact that the number of houses constructed in recent decades has not been enough to meet the increase in population. Also, in the past few years 100,000 Eastern Europeans have come to work in the Netherlands. The only way to house them - outside of places such as caravans - is to split existing housing into smaller units.
In its series of reports on problem neighbourhoods, de Volkskrant writes about the Woensel-West district in Groningen. Residents say that absentee landlords are the greatest threat to their neighbourhood. The speculators, who rent the rooms to students and foreign workers (mostly Poles) squeeze as many people as possible into homes that were built for a single family.
"A house with Poles looks more like a mattress-rental firm."
The greatest problem is noise since the tenants come and go at all hours of the day. And people who work 12 hours a day have little contact with their neighbours. The buildings are also run down since the landlords don't spend enough on the upkeep of buildings which are already suffering extensive wear and tear.
In Groningen residents are setting up committees to fight the rundown of their neighbourhoods. One committee, an Undisturbed Night's Rest, protests against the noise pollution. The town of Groningen has set up a web-log where residents can list their complaints. People write in to complain about loud music, beer bottles being thrown out the window and cans of beer in the garden.
One resident writes that the woman above her is selling her apartment out of desperation because of all the noise and irritations caused by the students. She say she has no other choice but to leave as well.
"It's the only upper-storey flat in the area without students and there's a very good chance it will also be inhabited by students, in addition to the 11 students in the two other upper-storey flats."
She writes that besides the noise they've caused three leakages and the garden pathway is usually blocked by eight to 15 bicycles.
"As far as the slumlords are concerned, I hope that one of them will at least be willing to buy my flat."
She writes that no one else will purchase her apartment for a decent price. She hopes the slumlord will rent the flat to four or eight Poles.
"It can be easily done with bunk-beds. Then you'll really see a conflict in lifestyle (between the students and the Poles). I can't afford a decline in the value of my property of 10,000 to 15,000 euros. I don't have the bank account of a room-rental agency or slumlord."
[Copyright Radio Netherlands 2008]