Groningen going after slumlords

From now on, students who pay excessive rent or feel intimidated by their landlord can file a report at the municipality. They are launching a complaints desk.

Last week, the municipal council unanimously voted in favour of a proposal from the Socialist Party to set up the complaints desk. Malpractice in the rental sector in Groningen has been a thorn in the side of the party for a long time. ‘The municipality has not had enough insight into the abuses occurring in the room rental business to take appropriate action’, according to a previous statement by SP alderperson Mechteld van Duin.

By setting up a complaints desk, the municipality hopes to better understand the scope of the problem and to go after slumlords harder. ‘If a complaint comes in, a dossier will be opened for the landlord in question so that we could eventually make a case against them and take action’, explains Arjan Banach, president of the Student & Stad party. Such actions would vary from heavy fines to – in the worst cases – closing properties down.

Interim solution

Banach applauds the resolve to address the problems, ‘although we were somewhat sceptical at first. The rental sector is very unstable, and overly strict laws eventually lead to even higher rent prices. But this decision is a nice interim solution.’ Banach points to the positive results of a comparable complaints desk which was set up in Utrecht as an example. ‘We sort of followed their lead, and we are also working together with the Groninger Student Union (GSb), which already has its own complaints desk.’

GSb vice president Isabel Veldman is also pleased to hear about the opening of a new complaints desk. ‘We have had many conversations about this with the municipality and the alderman before’, according to Veldman.’We’re obviously able to help students who come to us by offering mediation and advice, but we can’t revoke any permits or fine anyone. The municipality can act on a level that impacts the slumlords, but they were standing on the sidelines. So we are definitely glad that they will be taking them on.’