Utrecht wants blacklist of slum lords

In past years, Betty Chang was named slum lord of the year

Students regularly face landlords who set incredibly high rents for their rooms. They can first complain to their landlords, and then at the housing board. Research done by the Home Rental Team shows that many landlords don’t exactly take well to criticism.  Students have to deal with intimidating landlords. That leads to home invasion, cancelling the contract, eviction, verbal assault, sabotage of utilities, and stalking. Slum lords use these tactics in order to slow down the procedure, and to bully the tenants out of their homes, in order to re-let the rooms at, again, a far too high rent.

The city council now wants to fight the slum lords in a more thorough way. Their personal information will be made public if the housing board rules against a landlord twice in a period of five years at the same address. The landlord will be notified beforehand, and the information will be taken offline if the landlord goes two years without a negative ruling from the housing board.

The city hopes this blacklist will warn students against notorious slumlords. They also hope students will file complaints more often when they know measures are actually taken against slumlords.

The councilman says the plan is defendable, because the way things are now, students are often the victim of excessive rents. “And that’s a completely unacceptable way of renting out rooms,” he writes. He says the city has the authority to check for permits, but can’t actually do anything in case of intimidating behavior.

Aside from the blacklist, the city points out there are ways to reward landlords who do behave properly. There’s a Landlords Certification, and there’s an online rent checker, where students can check whether the room they wish to rent complies with the requirements of the maximum rent.

Student association Vidius is happy about the measures. “Anything the city does to fight the slum lords, is good news to us,” says vice chairwoman Fayka van Opijnen. She’d like to see the city take one step further. “We’re seeing more and more landlords avoid the law by offering students rooms under hotel legislation, which allows them to set a much higher rent. The tenant then has to deal with vacation rental legislation. We’d like to see the city make sure this sneaky way of renting out rooms is forbidden in the future.”

(Translation: Indra Spronk)