New complaints desk for rental abuse

New complaints desk for rental abuse

Municipalities can now issue fines and warnings

22-01-2024 · News

MAASTRICHT. Service costs or deposits that are too high, discrimination or intimidation by the landlord: since 1 January, tenants and those looking for accommodation can report such matters to the municipal authorities. Which, in turn, can issue warnings and fines to lessors.

As of this calendar year, every Dutch municipality is compelled to have a ‘landlords good practices’ (‘goed verhuurderschap’) reporting office. It is part of the act with the same name, which came into effect last July. It contains a number of rules for lessors, for example, in the field of costs (the deposit may amount to no more than two months basic rent, service costs must not be unreasonable) and behaviour (lessors are not allowed to discriminate against those who are looking for accommodation and are not allowed to threaten or intimidate tenants).

Tenants and those looking for accommodation who reckon that the rules have been violated, can take the matter to a reporting office. In Maastricht, this will be managed by the Huurteam Zuid-Limburg (Zuid-Limburg Rental Team), a project initiated by the city and Maastricht University. Tenants have been able to make inquiries here since 2015 (when it was called the Housing Helpdesk) or ask for free advice and help with tenancy problems. “The knowledge we acquired over the past years can now be used to set up and implement the reporting office,” says project leader Rick Blezer, who emphasises that it will be a separate office. “It will have its own staff. So, we will also continue to carry out our other duties.” In addition to Maastricht, the Huurteam also functions as a Reporting Office for nine other municipalities in the region where students live, including Heerlen and Sittard-Geleen.

Upon receiving a report, the team will first check whether certain regulations in the Landlord Good Practices Act potentially have been violated. “If so, we will draw up a file which – with approval of the person who reported the case – we will send to the municipality. The latter will then decide which steps to take. This can be a warning or a fine – from 3,000 euro, running to even 90 thousand euro – for the lessor. In extreme cases, management of accommodation can be taken over.” In addition, the Huurteam will help the reporting party with possible other steps, such as discussing the matter with the lessor or putting the case before the Rent Tribunal.

The fact that the municipality is now allowed to implement enforcement by itself, Blezer says, is a “unique situation. Take discrimination by a lessor, by refusing a person looking for accommodation because the person is, for example, male, or not Dutch. In such cases, until recently one had to approach the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights, but now you can also approach the city authorities. This has a much lower threshold.”

People looking for accommodation who have to pay for viewings or for the drawing up of contracts can also approach the reporting office. It is against the law, but in the past, there were numerous agencies in Maastricht that charged considerable amounts for such tasks (and possibly still are). “You can reclaim this via a legal procedure, but the cost of doing so can be high. Now, there is another option: report the matter to the city authorities free of charge.” In addition to lessors, it will also be possible to make a complaint against letting agents.

Reports can be submitted via www.goedverhuurderschapmaastricht.nl

Photo: Loraine Bodewes

Tags: rent,student housing,huurteam,rental team,landlords,goed verhuuderschap,complaints desk,students

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