Students in privately-owned homes still pay too much

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Almost 500 students sought the assistance of Utrecht’s Home Rental Team in 2016, wanting to find out whether they’d been paying too much rent. In over 90 per cent of cases, the rent turned out to be too high.

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Of the nearly 18.000 students renting a (part of a) privately-owned home in Utrecht, 470 inquired with the Utrecht Home Rental Team whether their rent was too high. In 93 per cent of cases, the rent turned out to be higher than allowed according to rental price legislation. On average, students in Utrecht paid 156 euros a month more than the advised maximum rent. This figure is higher than it was in 2015; back then,  students who came to the rental team paid an average of 130 euros a month too much.

More and more messing with service fees
The Utrecht Home Rental Team is a part of Utrecht’s city council and was started with the goal of balancing out the costs of renting privately-owned rooms and homes and their quality. This is not limited to the basic rent, but also includes possible service fees a landlord may require. Landlords mess with these service fees more and more, according to the Rental Team. In some cases, people had to pay over 400 euros a month in service fees only. In 26 per cent of cases, the team advised students to have their landlords draft an annual financial statement detailing the service fees, and ] encouraged students to ask their money back if they’d paid too much in service fees. The two other actions most often recommended were: asking for lower rent (27 per cent) and asking the landlord for building maintenance (18 per cent).

The Utrecht Home Rental Team does not exclusively work based on tenants’ initiative, but also makes sure to check on landlords who have set their rents too high in the past. Of the five hundred addresses the Rental Team visited in 2016, ten per cent once again asked too much rent for their property. Landlords raise the rent when a new tenant moves in.

Seventeen tenants intimidated
Seventy per cent of students decided, based on the Rental Team’s advice, to take action and contact their landlords. The others didn’t. Reasons for non-action included planning to move soon, or fearing problems after a confrontation with their landlord. It’s a realistic fear: seventeen tenants reported that they’d been intimidated by their landlord. Some were threatened with eviction or bully-like behavior such as cutting off the internet, gas, electricity and/or water, or even breaking and entering. Some were faced with suspicious-looking people hanging around near the house after complaining to the owner. At least half of the students who were intimidated, moved.

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