Author: Gwen van Eijk
Photo: Cyril Wermers

Five years and a number of studies later, it is abundantly clear: the introduction of regular temporary rental contracts has led to the normalization of flex rental with very negative consequences for tenants. Instead of looking for 'better' flexible rental solutions, the introduction of temporary rental contracts should be reversed.

De Volkskrant wrote last weekend on temporary leases, which included the disastrous consequences for tenants, summarized as follows: “the life of flex tenants stands still”. De Volkskrant conducted its own research on the basis of a questionnaire completed by 352 temporary tenants, supplemented with an analysis of the supply of rental properties on Funda. The result: 14 percent of the rental properties on offer are offered with a temporary contract. In some municipalities the percentage is much higher: Zaanstad leads the way with 37 percent.

For those who find this alarming, this percentage is significantly lower than found in two previous studies. Investico/Fresh Concrete and companions (the latter commissioned by the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations) established in December 2020 and July 2021 respectively that the share of temporary rental contracts for rental properties offered is about 50 percent. Companen thinks that private landlords with more than ten homes now rent out about a third of their homes with a temporary contract. Judging by the research methods of the three studies, the 14 percent mentioned by de Volkskrant is probably an underestimate [see endnote]

Side Effects

The experiences of flex tenants recorded by de Volkskrant rightly evoked a great deal of indignation on social media about this development of the private rental market. Especially the real estate agent who said that "this only helps the biggest money makers", "but the tenants, he only works against it" is illustrative of the problem: why did the legislator in 2015 think that landlords would deny themselves (financial) benefits to guarantee security? and affordability to the tenant?

Now the two previous investigations of December 2020 and July 2021 should have been enough reason for the House of Representatives to request a reversal of rent flexibility. Unfortunately, Minister Ollongren of the Interior and Kingdom Relations did not draw that conclusion after Companen's evaluation. In the accompanying letter to the House However, the minister concludes that it is unclear whether the introduction of temporary leases has achieved its objective – more throughput and more supply on the rental market. She also concludes that there are 'side effects' of the law, including an increase in rents, but only briefly discusses the negative impact on tenants. The Volkskrant survey makes clear that tenants "have concerns about follow-up housing", as the minister describes it.

Promise not kept

The introduction of temporary leases for regular tenants (with the Rental Market Transition Act that came into effect on 1 July 2016) has led to the normalization of temporary leases in five years, while the then Minister Blok (VVD) of Housing promised that permanent leases would remain the norm. That promise has not been kept, just like the Woonbond and the Bond Precaire Woonvorm among others predicted.

Instead of concluding that it has not been effective and even harmful to allow temporary leases for regular tenants, Minister Ollongren now promises to look for "solution directions" to maintain flex rental by "inventing together with the sector opportunities to to combat the improper use of generic temporary rental contracts”, in which she thinks of “tightening the conditions for temporary rental, enriching local instruments to offer more tools and/or expanding the categories for urgent personal use so that more specific target groups can be assisted." Reversing flex rental is apparently not an option.

Housing security is the norm again

Justly the Senate voted just before the recess against a proposal to extend temporary contacts. TK member Daniel Koerhuis (VVD) – and the majority of the House of Representatives with him – thought it a good idea earlier this year to extend the duration of the temporary leases from two to three years, whereby the landlord is also allowed a minimum term. and to allow one-time extension of the temporary contract. This would mean a further deterioration of the tenant's position.

House of Representatives adopted this proposal in March 2021 without waiting for the aforementioned BZK evaluation of the introduction of temporary rental contracts and apparently also without taking note – or taking notice – of the previous investigation by Investico and Vers Beton from December 2020, which showed that flexible rental is out of control walked.

It is to be hoped that the majority of the House of Representatives will now understand, after another study into the negative consequences of temporary renting, that 'solutions' should not be sought at all to maintain flexible renting, as the minister wants, but that the introduction of temporary leases should be reversed. Fixed rental contracts and housing security should become the norm again. In other words, as they say at the Bond Precaire Woonvorm: “fuck flex“.

Note: three studies into temporary leases

There are now three investigations into temporary leases, in which the Volkskrant investigation differs. De Volkskrant journalists collected information on a total of 10,829 rental properties that were offered on Funda on three occasions and looked at whether the rental properties were offered with a temporary or indefinite lease. Result: 14 percent of the rental properties on offer are offered with a temporary contract. This is significantly lower than found in two previous studies of temporary leases.

The UK study is similar in methodology to the research by Investico and Vers Beton dated December 2020. They obtained their information from rental website Pararius, which has a market share of 65 percent in the free sector. The researchers drew a sample of 259 rental homes from the number of rental homes offered on October 7, 2020 (10,245 homes). So a smaller number of rental properties was examined here, but it seems that the researchers examined this sample more closely than the UK journalists: when in doubt about the rental contract, they called the landlord. They arrived at a much higher share of temporary rental contracts: almost 50 percent. Fresh Concrete reported specifically about Rotterdam, where 47.5 percent of the homes were offered with a temporary contract. That is also considerably higher than in the Volkskrant survey, which comes out at almost 20 percent.

The study by Companen was commissioned by the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and uses a completely different method, namely a survey among landlords who own at least 10 homes. This BZK evaluation was conducted in July 2020 sent to the House by the minister. Unlike the other two surveys, the researchers did not look at the supply at any given time but at the entire period since the law came into effect in mid-2016. The survey was answered by 353 landlords who together own about 76,000 homes. It is not clear from the report what exactly was asked of the landlords. Companen reports that “roughly half” of the rental properties are offered with a temporary contract. Landlords now rent out 27 to 34 percent of their homes with a temporary lease. 15 to 25 percent of private landlords never convert temporary contracts into permanent leases.

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