“I don’t find the increase reasonable at all”, says Blanka Szabó (21), second year International Business Administration student from Hungary. Her rent has been increased from 700 to 750 euros (7 percent), which is quite possibly the best case scenario for many internationals. “When I look at the new contract, the heating cost has been increased, even though I hardly use it. I’m already paying so much”, she says.
Second-year Psychology student Malak Omar (21) saw an even bigger 14 percent increase: “Currently I pay 745 Euros, and next year it would be something around 850”. Similar to Blanka, she doesn’t agree with the raise: “We’re five people living in a house, so if it’s more than a hundred euros extra per person, I think that’s a bit absurd”, she states.
Klaudia Kostrz (22), a Polish student of Economics and Business Economics, sees the landlord’s point: “Obviously the landlords also need to make more money due to inflation. I actually expected the increase to be much higher.” Her rent was increased by almost 8 percent, to around 800 euros including utilities.
The students are stressed out about what these increases will mean to their budgets. Especially Malak, who’s going to have to cut down considerably on essentials like food and groceries, and will spend less money on clothing and traveling.” It’s very tough because I shouldn’t have to compromise on food”, she states. She would have to resort to cheaper options on other expenses as well: “Even things like my sim card, I’d also have to find a cheaper subscription for my bike. I have to downgrade everything.”
In Blanka’s case, her budgeting plan was already based on simply spending as little as possible: “I don’t know if I can be more cautious, I already do everything I can think of. I don’t eat out, I always cook, only buy necessities, don’t go to hairdressers or get my nails done, nothing. What I buy is food and that’s it.”
Since she has a job, Klaudia is not worrying about her finances too much, but she sympathises with her roommate: “My roommate told me that before the rent increased last year, she could spend it on things like ordering food or traveling. Now, she has to watch her money carefully.”
Abuse of power
The three students all agree that there should be more enforcement when it comes to the amount of increase landlords can impose on the rent. “Especially for international students who aren’t familiar with the Dutch housing system, I think it’s very easy for landlords to take advantage of our situation.” says Malak. “Because we’re very concerned about finding a place, landlords think we’’d comply to whatever they say. They have all the power.”
Klaudia: “What if the landlord just tells you: I’m increasing the rent by 10 percent. That’s crazy, right?” She demands more fairness in the housing market in general. “When I was looking for apartments, some specifically said they’re only looking for Dutch people. If I can afford it, why can’t I move in? That’s definitely unfair.”
Blanka didn’t dare to ask for a lower price. She says: “We were already at a critical moment negotiating me subletting, so I didn’t want to be problematic and give him a reason for not renewing my contract.” Blanka agrees with Malak that landlords have ‘all the power’ and according to her, they abuse this power. She gives an example: “Some of my friends have two-year contracts, and their rent still increased in their second year.”
The three students are able to pay the rent for next year, but they are still concerned with the years following. Malak: “It’s a crisis. It has become so hard to find affordable housing here. In the next few years, if I want to stay after my studies, I may have no choice but to go back home.”
A suggestion Klaudia has to improve the situation is to give financial aid to some students: “If I was a struggling student and I was given a grant for the rent increase, that would be nice. Some people wouldn’t have to move out.” Without enforcement of the regulations or aid, students will continue to be put in tough situations. Klaudia: “At this point, you either find a cheap place that is probably below the standard, or you just pay. Or you go back home.”
The Dutch housing market is in fact already regulated. Rent of rooms (excluding utilities) can only be increased by 3.1 percent in 2023. The rent of houses in the free market can be increased by 4.1 percent.