Housing Law Consultancy Frently and how to face your landlord
Frently is a Housing Law Consultancy founded by Denise Zonnebeld and is located in Groningen. In short, the organization deals with landlords who are breaching rental contracts, and who are financially abusing students by asking impossibly high rental prices, not returning deposits or not performing maintenance.
What inspired Denise to open Frently?
Denise graduated law from RUG and meanwhile as a student she had a problem to find a room in Groningen. After months of searching, she finally found a room which was not well maintained and incredibly overpriced. Thus, she decided to open a dispute with her own landlord. So, she read the rental law, asked a lot of questions to her professors and continuously kept on calling institutions to find out more about her rights as a tenant. She was shocked to find out she was overpaying more than 100 euro per month. Her landlord refused to reduce the rent, so Denise started a procedure at the Rent Tribunal. The verdict showed she only had to pay 35 euro per month until the landlord fixed all the defects in the house. And guess what? He never did during the time she lived there. This all happened to Denise when she was just 19 years old. These happenings inspired her to establish an organization which represents tenants in the city of Groningen in their fight against unfair rental prices.
How can Frently help with your landlord?
• Basic rent
Frently has a few different services related to rent reduction. One of the most common is the reduction of the basic rent. The (legally permitted maximum) basic rental price depends on the square meters and the facilities present in your house.
If you contact Frently within the first six months of the rental contract, it is possible to reduce your rent from the beginning of the contract and your landlord has to pay you back the rent you overpaid. If you contact them when those six months passed, it is still possible to reduce the rent, but only for the future months.
• Service costs
The other part of the rent is defined as service costs which include the costs for gas, water, heating, TV, Internet and other services provided by the landlord. Many landlords ask you to pay a monthly advance payment but never return the overpaid amount of service costs.
Each month the actual costs are different because of the seasonal change as for example in the summer, the heating system does not work, or you are abroad, so you do not use anything. At the end of each calendar year, the landlord is supposed to calculate all the costs during the months and present you this overview. This overview should be sent before the 1st of July. In some cases, you might need to pay more because you have used too much gas, but in most cases the landlord needs to pay you back because you consumed less than what you paid for.
An amount of 75 euros per month is a reasonable service costs amount for a room and an amount of 100 euros is a reasonable amount for apartments. Service costs are also referred to as ‘overige kosten’, ‘privaatrechtelijke kosten’, or ‘vaste kosten’ in your rental contract, but in fact these costs are all considered service costs.
What else you need to know?
Recently, in Groningen the student exploitation practice by the landlord has become more and more common. Many times, you will find houses that are lacking maintenance, or the landlord increases the price of the rent furiously or decides not to return your deposit. In any of those cases, the tenant has rights to object and dispute the landlord about the problems. Frently can help you in this pursuit, find the landlord and bring him to the Rental Tribunal.
Why is this important?
Every tenant has rights and being a foreigner does not mean that you can be threatened to obey the landlords' wishes. Of course, a distressed foreigner is easy to misinform, manipulate and use. If every tenant is submissive to the landlord’s wishes, soon Groningen rent prices will become skyrocket high as in Amsterdam, London, and Berlin. The landlord is fined by the Rent Tribunal with a lousy 25 euros, but he overcharges you 100 euro or more per month. When you’ve decided to move out, a new (probably foreign) student will come, and the vicious circle will start again. This is not a problem for one or two people, but it is a problem that has a chain reaction and it reflects upon every tenant in Groningen.
Frently is located at Nieuwe Ebbingestraat 69 and they can advise you about your rental issues and questions. They also perform rent checks to see if you are overpaying and check your services costs free of charge.
For more on housing check the our housing page.