Many complaints about living in an anti-squat house
by Gerard Reijn – Volkskrant – 24-07-2010
Den Bosch – Co lived anti-squat in Den Bosch for five years and three months. Quite a stroke of luck, because anti-squat company Ad Hoc had said it was probably only for a year. But eventually the moment came that every anti-squatter can wait for: the owner wanted to work on the house, and Ad Hoc asked him to leave. Co refused. 'I said: for years I paid around 400 euros including gas and water. I consider that rent. So I should have rent protection.'
A lawsuit threatened, but Ad Hoc tempted him with another home. With a much lower rent (officially: loan fee) of 240 euros including gas and light. Co showed compliance and moved. But after a few months, Ad Hoc again came up with that dreaded announcement: you have to get out. And now he no longer had that strong argument of paying "rent" for years. Notice period, customary in the anti-squat world: two weeks."I've been in a sleeping bag in the park ever since," says Co. At 42 years old and with a serious heart condition. He didn't get a new home from Ad Hoc, because, says Co: 'They prefer a few students. They put two or three students in a house, and then they get 150 euros each.'
Attempts to get a house through the municipality also failed, and he is now homeless. And furious. That is why he wants the story in the newspaper, but not with his real name, because now that he is homeless, he has to cheat with addresses to get his benefits.
As of October 1, squatting is prohibited. This makes the phenomenon of anti-squatting seem superfluous, but the opposite seems to be the case. Justice has already announced that it will not evict every squatting action ('we do not evict for vacancy') and municipalities are also obliged to act against vacancy.
There are many complaints about anti-squat companies. Eight companies have joined up in the trade association VLBN and have taken the initiative to draw up a quality mark. But there are also many complaints about these eight.
In Den Bosch, the anti-squat market seems to be largely in the hands of Ad Hoc Beheer, one of the eight. The two housing associations in the city, Zayaz and Brabant Wonen, are customers. Several hundred homes to be demolished or refurbished have been put into use by the anti-squat company, which was chosen because it was bona fide.
Carlijne didn't notice much of that. She had to leave her house two weeks ago. She has now acquired a normal rental house, but still does not want to use her own name in the newspaper because she is still afraid of Ad Hoc: she has not yet received her bail.
She does not have a good word for the anti-squat company. When she got the key to her demolished house three years ago, the Ad Hoc employee said: 'Now everything is your responsibility. In the shed is all the junk from the previous occupant, you have to tidy that up within two weeks.'
But the worst was the lack of privacy. Ad Hoc employees had access to her home at any time, even when she was not there. And there were the weirdest bans. For example, she was not allowed to talk to the press or the owner of the property. Partying was not allowed, guests can stay for a maximum of three days. And she wasn't allowed to go on vacation without permission.
A lot of inconvenience, but at a low cost? Carlijne calculates: at Ad Hoc she paid 135 euros plus 90 euros for gas, electricity and water. Now she rents from a housing association for 310 euros, receives 100 euros in housing benefit and pays approximately 50 euros for gas and light. 'I now pay 45 euros more for a much better house without Ad Hoc guys who can walk in and out. And I have a lease of only one sheet left. At Ad Hoc I had ten sheets of prohibitions.'
An Ad Hoc spokesperson denies that residents are not allowed to talk to the press. 'But they do have to ask for permission, so that we can assist them in their press contacts.' And that of all those unnecessary inspections, that's not right either. 'They are intended for the safety and well-being of residents. We check the condition of buildings.'
According to Ad Hoc, the fact that the residents are attacked by unannounced visits is also not true. 'Our people are recognizable by their clothing. They ring the bell or knock, there is a whole protocol for that.' According to him, Ad Hoc is 'a very service-oriented organisation', which has received a score of 8.5 from the residents. "So congratulations on finding some disgruntled people."
Director Bas Maassen of housing corporation Zayaz is also surprised about the complaints from residents. 'We never get complaints,' he says. According to him, Ad Hoc must ensure that residents do not cause any nuisance, 'but that does not mean that they are not allowed to throw a party.' And: 'There can be no question of Ad Hoc representatives entering a home unannounced. If that happens, it's against our contract with Ad Hoc.'
At Ad Hoc I had ten sheets of prohibitions.
I was not allowed to throw parties and not just go on holiday.