“I regularly have to explain to students that they’ve been scammed out of hundreds of euros”

“I regularly have to explain to students that they’ve been scammed out of hundreds of euros”

New series: A room of one's own

01-09-2022 · Interview

Martijn Hilders (25, Dutch), a second-year master’s student of Artificial Intelligence, pays €720 per month for a 42 m2 studio apartment near Vrijthof.

Can Observant take a look around his room? Not a problem, says Martijn Hilders. In fact, “People are always staring into the house. Sometimes I feel like I live in a shop window.” His studio apartment is on the ground floor facing the street, with two large windows offering passers-by an unobstructed view inside. It occasionally leads to unsolicited interactions, especially when the windows are open in the summer. “I’ll be lying on the couch with my girlfriend, watching a film, and some random guy will poke his head through the window to ask for a cigarette or a glass of water. Or people outside will stop and watch when there’s a big match on TV. It gets annoying, even if it’s funny sometimes. It isn’t boring here, that’s for sure.”

The location also has certain advantages. “A lot of my friends pass by here on their way to campus. When they see that I’m home, they hop in through the window. I quite enjoy it. We’ll listen to music on my record player, watch sports, or play a board game. My apartment has become like a living room, a place where everyone comes to hang out.”

A taste of freedom

And that’s exactly what it looks like, with two large couches. The place is big enough to accommodate a good number of visitors: at 42 m2, it’s the largest of the fifteen units in the student house. “I think it’s fifteen, because that’s how many people there are in our WhatsApp group. I must admit I don’t know all of them. I have my own kitchen and bathroom, so I don’t run into most of my housemates very often. We say hi when we pass each other in the hallway, but we’re not a tight-knit house. It’s too bad, I guess, but at the same time I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I have plenty of people coming over as it is.”          

Hilders has been living in the apartment for over four years now. “Since halfway through the first year of my bachelor’s degree. Before that, I had been a subtenant in three different houses.” That’s a lot of moving around – why didn’t he just stay at home with his parents in Landgraaf for those first few months? “I had already moved out the year before that. Once you’ve had that taste of freedom, you don’t want to go back.”

Can’t complain

Here, he found what he was looking for: lots of space in a great location in the city centre. He secured the apartment with a bit of luck and smart thinking. “It was already difficult to find a place to live back then. Nearly forty people came to the viewing. I decided to email the landlord to say that I’d want to stay here for at least five or six years, so they wouldn’t have to find a new tenant after a year. Apparently, it convinced them to choose me.”

He hasn’t had reason to consider moving since. Sure, the streets are quite noisy at night, with mopeds and nightlife noise, and the apartment doesn’t get much natural light. “But I can’t complain, really, with all this space. It was a blessing during the lockdowns. It’s not a place where you feel the walls closing in on you while in quarantine.”

Scammed students

There is one frustrating downside to the house, though. Online scammers have been advertising non-existent rooms for rent in the building for years. It’s a well-known scam, but desperate home-seekers still fall for it. “We regularly have students knocking on the door. Most of them come over to check if the room actually exists, but some have already transferred hundreds of euros to the scammers’ accounts. One of my housemates recently had someone show up at their door claiming that it was his room.”

Hilders is usually the one who has to break the bad news to scammed students. The doorbells don’t work, so visitors often end up knocking on his window. Do they ever get angry or aggressive? “Thankfully not. They’re usually just disappointed, and they understand that it’s not our fault. I feel bad for them and try to comfort them. I don’t understand how those fake listings are still being posted.”

In the new, weekly series 'A room of one's own' Observant interviews students about their rooms, in their rooms. Are you a student and interested to be in this series with your own room? Send a mail to [email protected]

Photo: Ellen Oosterhof

Categories: People
Tags: a room of one's own,student room,fraude,students,instagram

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