There are no nationwide stats on the number of students who have fallen prey to swindlers posing as landlords. That was obvious from Van Veldhoven’s written answers to questions raised in the Lower House in response to stories published in Delta, the news site of Delft University of Technology. Since last summer, this university has received eleven notifications from international students who may have been scammed in their search for housing.
The SP also asked how the Minister feels about requiring landlords to obtain a permit before allowing them to advertise rooms. This would allow online platforms such as Kamernet to ban swindlers who do not hold the requisite permits.
However, the Minister indicated that she is not in favour of such a plan. She prefers a system in which local authorities grant landlords permits, thus allowing municipal governments to decide for themselves what type of measures to implement. For instance, since last year, people who let rooms to students in the northern city of Groningen require a permit to be able to do so.
However, the Minister will embark on an information campaign later this year to warn students of swindlers posing as landlords. She is also calling on universities and universities of applied sciences to provide their students with better information. They should do a better job of telling their students how to spot scammers and point them in the direction of reliable landlords and agencies. For instance, Delft University of Technology has an entire page on its website dedicated to housing scams.
In addition, Van Veldhoven feels that the online platforms themselves should do a better job of weeding out potential scammers. “Sites such as Kamernet warn their clients of online scams and are implementing measures to prevent them,” the Minister wrote in her letter.
Last year Delta investigated the methods used by the persons who had scammed Delft University students. They found certain patterns in the scammers’ methods. Often the ‘landlords’ just happened to be abroad, thus preventing them from showing the students their rooms. They pressured students into transferring a few months’ rent or an exorbitant deposit into their accounts. In the end, the rooms turned out either not to exist at all or to be occupied by other students.
Investigations carried out by university news sites UKrant, Mare and EM showed that scammers have also been active in the student housing markets in Groningen, Leiden and Rotterdam these last few years.