(click here for Dutch)
In The Hague, a young couple is in danger of being evicted next month because a large investment company (Orange Capital Partners) wants to terminate their temporary contract. They have to leave the house that took them 6 months to find after living in it for only 12 months. They tried to claim their right for rent protection at the Huurcommissie and challenged the excessive rent of their social house that is €300,- to high. On Wednesday the 2nd of September the BPW organizes a demonstration in front of the office of real estate investor Orange Capital Partners, at 4 PM on the Minervalaan 63 in Amsterdam. Join our action and support the campaign on Facebook. After our demands to OCP we will also deliver our demands to local and national politicians since they can be held responsible for facilitating housing insecurity and delivering exploitation by real estate investors.
During their search, Nick (24) and Stefany (23) were forced to move twice in 3 months and share a temporary student room, before they could finally move into their current rented accommodation in September 2019. Had it taken a few more days, they would have been homeless. A year later, the two are forced to move again and are thrown back into the same precarious situation they were in only a year ago.
In September 2019 they signed a temporary contract for '2 years or less' with Vivada Properties I BV, part of the larger Orange Capital Partners (OCP). Orange Capital Partners is one of the largest real estate investors in the Netherlands with a housing stock of over 3,000 homes with a total value of 2 billion euros. It is clear that OCP wants to have as little to do as possible with the tenants of the more than 3000 homes. The management of the properties has been outsourced to MVGM Wonen, who take care of all the dirty work, only the rent is collected by OCP. Which means it is also a letter from MVGM they find on the doorstep on the 1st August 2020, including the cold-hearted announcement that their temporary contract will expire after just one year, on September 30th.
It doesn't become clear in the letter why OCP thinks it's necessary to put the couple back on the streets after just one year of renting, in the middle of a pandemic. MVGM cannot answer this either, they just receive a monthly list of contracts that have to be terminated from their client. OCP itself also feels no responsibility to elaborate why they chose to put these vulnerable tenants out on the streets.
“An annoyed OCP employee spoke to me on the phone. The reason for termination of the contract was clearly known to her, but apparently too damaging to their reputation to speak out loud. “We need the house for different purposes”. She did not want to tell me exactly what these purposes were, she just wanted to get rid of me as soon as possible. She also did not want to answer the question whether OCP feels any social responsibility for managing 3,000 homes in times of a housing shortage. As far as I am concerned, the lack of an answer on both questions says it all”Nick, flex tenant
Nick and Stefany decided to take action and force a statement on the eviction from OCP. After announcing a campaign in cooperation with the BPW, the tone changed of OCP and suddenly they came with a statement that was leaking on all sides. The house, which had been renovated recently, now also had to be made more sustainable, which was apparently already planned before the start of the temporary lease. OCP cannot explain why the tenants were not aware of this before the start of their lease and why the renovations were not carried out at the same time as earlier renovations. Evidence or justification that the planned sustainability will yield anything at all in the house cannot be provided either. There are plenty of possibilities to carry out renovations while the house is inhabited, but cooperating on a solution where Nick and Stefany are not forced to move is too much to ask. Instead, as a replacement an expensive unregulated sector house is offered far away, provided that this offer is accepted within a very short period of time.
These annual evictions are a result of, among other things, the Wet Doorstroom Huurmarkt. This law has made it a lot easier for landlords to offer temporary contracts and to be able to evict tenants without justification – and they do so en masse. Particularly in the cities, there is hardly any housing left in the unregulated sector that is not offered with a temporary contracts. At the end of the temporary rental period, the contract has to be terminated or automatically changes into a permanent contract. However, the safe way for investors is always to terminate. Of the 72,000 temporary contracts offered by investors and private individuals in 2018, only 1.6% have been prolonged (CBS, 2018) . This means that landlords are not tied to a tenant who is suddenly entitled to a whole range of things, such as a maximum rent increase. By offering temporary contracts, investors have the opportunity to easily evict tenants who question their rent and raise the rent permanently. In this way, the temporary contracts continue to generate income for investor, administrator and estate agent, and the tenant gets stripped of their money and rights. Everything indicates that Nick and Stefany are the victims of such an exchange trick. The housing stock does not improve, society doesn't profit from it in any way, you only give an investor like OCP the opportunity to exploit the situation on the housing market even further and keep young, vulnerable tenants in a vicious circle of housing insecurity .
Founder of Orange Capital Partners, Victor van Bommel, said in an interview with newspaper Het Parool that it annoys him that his company is measured by the same standards as slumlords. After all, they abide by the rules, rents cannot simply be raised and tenants in the Netherlands receive a good rental protection. However, the story of Nick and Stefany shows a completely different side of Orange Capital Partners. The rent of their house is more than €300,- higher than what is allowed, and tenant protection does not apply to temporary contracts.
“Immediately after we moved, we received a letter with the re-established WOZ value of our house, €110,000. I thought this was an incredibly low amount for a flat that we pay almost €900,- a month for. The WOZ value plays an important role in determining the maximum rent, so I decided to start a procedure with the Huurcommissie to get our rent down. The trial calculation showed that we pay more than €300,- too much per month. Asking too much rent from vulnerable tenants who you exchange for another tenant as soon as they stand up for their rights, from whom you can ask even more rent. As far as I'm concerned, that sounds like rack-renting in the purest sense of the word.”Nick, flex tenant
These excessively high rents charged by Orange Capital Partners are tolerated because of questionable laws and poor law enforcement by the government. For social housing, there is a maximum rental price, based on a scoring system. If your home exceeds the liberalization limit (€737 in 2020), the home automatically enters the unregulated 'free' sector, and landlords are free to decide on the amount of rent themselves. The only thing is that no-one checks or sanctions landlords for charging liberalized prices for housing that should actually belong in the social segment.
The responsibility for this lies with, indeed, only the tenant himself, who, in the case of a temporary unregulated sector residence, is given up to 6 months after termination of the contract to initiate a procedure at the Huurcommissie. Under the rules for regular tenancy (did we lose you already?), you must apply for such a procedure within 6 months from the start of the contract, otherwise you will no longer be able to start a procedure and no one will ever know whether your landlord has actually charged you €300 a month too much.
If you start such a procedure in time before you pay too much for years, you are almost certain that your landlord will have you leave again after a temporary contract. After all, even if a tenant wins a procedure with the rent assessment commission and his rent is lowered below the liberalization limit, your landlord will be allowed to put a new tenant in the same residence after your contract expires and make another attempt to see if he gets away with a rent that is far too high. The new tenant is then once again solely responsible for questioning this rent. All signals indicate that OCP is making eager use of this tolerated construction and is therefore removing the couple from their home as soon as possible, in order to prevent their liberalized social housing from falling back into the social segment and to allow the couple to continue living at a fair rent.
A combination of the Rental Market Flow Act and the inadequate enforcement of fair rents creates an ideal situation for companies and private individuals to make as much money as possible by converting social housing into temporary free sector housing and exploiting tenants. A situation that real estate investors like Orange Capital Partners are more than happy to exploit and, due to failing governmental policy, stand fully within their right to rent out houses for hundreds of euros too much and increase the rent every year without limit. A climate has been created in which tenants are being exploited on all sides and are being used to maximise profits, and if you, as a tenant, claim your right at rental protection, you will be thrown out of your home as quick as possible. From estate agents to property investors, everyone benefits from the temporary contracts, except the tenants themselves, who are left behind in a system of constant rising rents and hopeless housing prospects.
The Bond Precarious Housing Forms therefore demands from Vivada Properties, Orange Capital Partners and MVGM:
1. Stop the eviction of Nick and Stefany: renovate the house without evicting it's residents.
2. Offer housing security: give tenants an indefinite contract.
3. Respect rent protection: reduce the excess rent to below the legal maximum.
4. Take social responsibility: treat tenants with respect and answer them open and honestly
On Wednesday the 2nd of September at 4 PM we will hand over these demands together with tenants Nick and Stefany to Vivada Properties/ Orange Capital Partners at their head office on the Minervalaan 63 in Amsterdam. We can use all the support we can get, so join us! More info on Facebook.
Preventing the eviction of Nick and Stefany has not yet solved the bigger problem that exists within failing governmental policy.
The Bond Precarious Housing Forms therefore has the following demands for the responsible politicians:
1. Stop facilitating housing insecurity and exploitation as a result of the Wet Doorstroom Huurmarkt and make indefinite contracts the norm again.
2. Prevent homelessness by exchanging one tenant for another.
3. Make the scoring system legally binding and make it an economic offense when landlords charge more rent than they are legally allowed to.
4. Houses for people, not for profit! Stop selling and converting social housing into free sector housing with temporary rental contracts by real estate investors and commercial parties.
In the short term, we will also communicate these demands to the responsible members of parliament and demand an explanation on how it is possible that in times of housing shortage and economic crisis, real estate investors are in control of the housing situation of vulnerable tenants.
Are you also renting from Vivada, OCP or another major real estate investor? Share your story with firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to stay informed about this campaign? Then follow the Facebook or Twitter page of BPW Den Haag or Bond Precaire Woonvorm. Together for housing security!
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