A group of 54 mortgage lenders have developed a common ‘language’ for looking up former students’ debt using various apps. Incidentally, it is only possible if those students cooperate. The Mortgages Data Network association (Hypotheken Data Netwerk) announced this new development on Monday.

Parliamentary questions

The VVD intends to question the cabinet on this issue. “We want to make it easier for starters to buy a house, not harder,” tweeted MP Daniel Koerhuis.

When applying for a mortgage, banks take debts into account. The higher your debts, the lower the mortgage will be. This concerns, for instance, loans for a car or a telephone, but student loans also count.

Failing to report student debts

Student debts are a different matter, both from a practical and political point of view. The interest rate is low and the residual debt is waived after 35 years of repayment. For these reasons, they don’t carry as much weight as other debts.

Besides which, politicians don’t want to see former students bearing the burden of student debt. They have had the leeway to commit fraud when applying for a mortgage: former students have not been compelled to disclose student loans. Despite warnings issued by the Dutch Authority for the Financial Markets, the supervisory authority and the National Institute for Family Finance Information (Nibud), these debts are not registered with the Credit Registration Office (BKR).

DUO itself

Up until two years ago, DUO itself was willing to cooperate in a system like the one the mortgage lenders have now set up, and Minister of the Interior Ollongren recognised the advantages.

But the House of Representatives was furious. Virtually all the parties supported a motion from D66, CDA, VVD and SP to block it. They were afraid that students would then be forced, indirectly, to provide insight into student debts, which in turn would make mortgage applications more difficult.

Only the SGP took a different stand. Those who fail to report their student debt can get a higher mortgage and, by doing so, get the upper hand on those who have been honest enough to admit they have a student debt. Why would you reward liars, was the SGP’s rationale for this.

Permission

It is worth noting that it is unlikely that the cabinet is going to act on this. In November 2019, Minister Van Engelshoven announced that there’s nothing stopping mortgage lenders from building these apps. It’s none of the government’s business and former students can decide for themselves whether to give their permission or not.

The Mortgages Data Network association shares this view. “I’m not sure which political discussion you are alluding to,” a spokesperson told us, “but as long as the customer gives their permission and they still have control of their data, it’s not against the law.”

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