Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes
Project: Keurmerk Prettig Wonen
MAASTRICHT. The attaching of the small shield stating ‘Keurmerk Prettig Wonen’ (Enjoyable Living Quality Mark) to the façade of the student building on the Maastrichter Heidenstraat 7, last Friday, marked the starting signal for the check-up of forty student houses. It is a trial project and a unique event in the Netherlands.
“There have been attempts before to set up a quality mark for student houses in the Netherlands, but something always went wrong with the collaboration aspect,” says Maurice Evers, chairman of the Keurmerk Prettig Wonen foundation and managing director of Student & Staff Housing at Maastricht University. “It proved impossible to onboard the most important partners, often private landlords, but we managed to do so. Our quality mark is supported widely by the institutes of higher education, the private landlords, the city council, housing corporations, the student council and neighbourhood committees.”
The quality mark is a voluntary scheme and can be applied for by the property owner. Trained inspectors (including staff from housing corporations) will inspect the accommodation and the documents, such as proof that maintenance has been carried out on the central-heating system and floor plans. Tenants then know that a building that has been passed is approved in terms of fire and burglary safety and that the owner is trustworthy and accessible.
“On a national level, additional fire safety requirements apply only for accommodation consisting of five rooms or more, but the quality mark also makes this compulsory when three or four rooms are rented out,” say Huib van Gastel and Tom Kissels from VVWM (Vereniging Verhuurders Woonruimtes Maastricht, an association of parties renting out living accommodation in Maastricht) and board members of the Keurmerk Prettig Wonen foundation. The VVWM furthers the interests of 46 per cent of all student housing in Maastricht. The corporations Woonpunt, Maasvallei and Servatius represent one quarter.
Evers: “The good thing is that the fire brigade is given access to the floor plans too, so that when a call comes in, they are familiar with the lay-out and the number of rooms.”
The foundation wants to make at least 60 per cent of all student buildings in Maastricht safer within five years.
The neighbourhood committees were the last parties to join the quality mark, although there are still doubts here and there. “They expect a quality mark to solve all the disturbance, but that is not what it is meant for. Of course, there is always a list of house rules, which you hope the inhabitants will adhere to, but we cannot enforce anything. There will still be red rubbish bags put on the pavement on the wrong day,” says Van Gastel. Evers: “And in that case we say: address the students themselves. Talk to them, because unfortunately that doesn't happen often enough.”
In the case of serious complaints or questions, the neighbours can always leave a message for the property owner on the website keurmerkprettigwonen.nl. Van Gastel: “The owner will answer and take action.”
The start-up phase is being financed by the city council (20 thousand euro), the private landlords of VVWM (10 thousand euro) and the Studentenhuisvesting Maastricht foundation (20 thousand euro), which also covers Maastricht University. Depending on the size of the building, parties renting out accommodation pay between 1.80 and 2.80 euro per tenant per month after receiving the quality mark.