Stichting !Woon received 11,000 complaints about Amsterdam landlords last year, ranging from high service costs to intimidating behavior toward tenants. Young people are increasingly vulnerable, Evert Bartlema, director of the foundation that advocates for tenants’ rights in Amsterdam, told Parool.
The number of complaints is not declining, according to the foundation. Many of last year’s reports concerned unclear and non-transparent extra costs. Especially people starting out in the housing market and people in shared private rental complexes pay service costs or other “community” costs in addition to their rent. In February, the court ordered the landlord The Don of the Don Bosco complex in Amsterdam Nieuw-West to refund a tenant over 1,000 euros in such service costs paid over two years.
Young people complained that their landlord did not have the mandatory permit for room sharing, resulting in tenants having to leave unexpectedly and remaining tenants facing higher rents. There were also complaints about landlords not allowing replacement tenants after a housemate moved out, instead increasing the rent per tenant considerably, leaving fewer people to pay a much higher rent.
!Woon also got complaints about private landlords implementing excessive rent increases. “He does not respond to any letter about overdue maintenance, but knows how to find the tenant with a rent increase proposal of 9.7 percent ‘based on indexation,’” the foundation said about one landlord.
International tenants are also a vulnerable group. Last year, !Woon received hundreds of complaints from tenants who did not get their deposit back after moving out of their Amsterdam rental. Tenants also often complained about landlords intimidating them, not fixing defects, or even turning off the heating after an argument.
Most complaints were about private landlords, but housing corporations aren’t blameless either, !Woon said. The foundation received recurring complaints about housing quality, particularly moisture and mold problems, and a cold attitude towards tenants. “Long waiting times at the customer contact center, callback requests that are not fulfilled, emails that are answered very slowly.”
Anne-Jo Visser, director of the Amsterdam Federation of Housing Corporations (AFWC), acknowledged that some tenants are dissatisfied with their services. But most tenants “know how to find us,” she added. “What is difficult, in terms of both service and implementation, is the staff shortages. But that is no excuse. We have to help everyone as best we can.”
Amsterdam alderman Zita Pels (public housing) said she would study the !Woon report carefully and asked for more support from the national government in tackling bad landlords. The government is working on implementing a good landlordship bill. A majority in parliament also wants to ban temporary leases to give tenants more housing security. Housing Minister Hugo de Jonge this week said he supported that proposal.
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