Hearing the term ‘living by yourself’ probably makes you think of barbecuing all summer, decorating your toilet with posters of naked men / women, a weekly house evening and an overdose of IKEA furniture. On the other hand, you might have heard stories which make renting your own room sound like a nightmare; landlords who kick students out of their rooms, overdue maintenance and deposits that never return. Luckily, in Groningen there’s an independent association which helps students who aren’t experts at law, called the Kamerbewoners Adviesbureau (KAB) (English: the lodgers advice bureau). Luckily, they organised a popcorn-campaign at the Harmony Building, so we could ask them everything we wanted to know.
The KAB is a bureau that gives free advice in renting law to everyone, so not only to students, but also to the worrying grandpas and grandmas. They are mainly occupied with rental law and social renting facilities. This bureau is run by law students. They know the ins and outs of Dutch laws and rules and they understand the interests of students, since they are students themselves. Petra, one of the employees of the KAB explains: ‘We mainly receive questions about landlords who kick their renters out of the house, refuse to repair something or who demand too much rent. We notice that landlords more and more compel their renters to leave the house.’ Her colleague, Madhawi says: ‘People become scared and they don’t know that they have the right to stay where they are. Renting law is extremely strong, so landlords can’t just put renters out on the street.’
Twice a week, the students of KAB are at the Harmony Building to answer as many questions as possible on the phone, per email or in a conversation. In 2014, they received more than 400 questions! In their office they take the time to help you, and afterwards you get their advice on paper. Sometimes, though, even these students don’t know what to do. In that case, they call in a lawyer, who is a partner of the KAB. ‘Enno is our house-lawyer’, explains Petra. ‘Once a month, he visits our meeting, so we can ask him questions or he can explain something to us. We can also email or call him anytime.’ Madhawi: ‘Through us he can even go to the Supreme Court for very little money. The government provides subsidies to make sure that students, who aren’t that rich, can still defend themselves in court.
Obviously, issues with landlords happen in every student city. In many cities there’s a ‘rental-team’, which is part of the Student Federation. However, an independent organisation focussed on rental law, doesn’t exist everywhere. ‘We even receive questions from Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Brabant per email’, says Petra. ‘After a while you find out that they live on the other side of the country.’ Recently, the students of the KAB have contributed to the creation of the Steunpunt Bemiddelingskosten (English: point of support on agency fees). They had noticed that questions on the extra fees that landlords sometimes ask for increased. Therefor, they set up this point of support in cooperation with the Student Organisation Groningen, the Groninger Studenten Bond, the Township Groningen, the University of Groningen and the Hanzehogeschool, with the aim to lowert hese fees as much as possible. This initiative has only just started, but they’ve already received many questions.
So don’t worry about angry landlords who give you a hard time. Rental law protects students quite well and especially with the KAB-team behind you, nothing can stop you from renting your own room in Groningen!