News - May 12, 2011

Return of the landlord: 'They are such nice people'

The room shortage for students sees the number of landlords going up again for the first time in years. Who are these private individuals who are willing to share their living space with one or more students? And who are their tenants? 'The way I live here is better than in a student house.'

For years, it seemed to be just a matter of time before we saw the last of the traditional landlords. Or at least, that they would be pushed to the sidelines, to make way for huge student flats in which students can live freely without a meddlesome surrogate parent. But while the number of students has risen sharply in the last few years, construction of new student flats is sluggish. The result: the landlord returns. This is obvious from statistics provided by the housing desk of the Wageningen Students' Organization (WSO), by far the major go-between for tenants and landlords in private homes.

In the first four months of this year, 194 rooms have been rented through the WSO, 50 percent more than in the same period last year. About 20 percent of these are located in private homes, estimates André Vermeer, employee at the housing desk. He classifies 'landlords' roughly into two main categories. At one end is the classical landlord or landlady, this being a woman or a man who has lost a partner to old age and whose children have left the parental home for some time. 'For them, the extra income is a motive, but also the belief that a student can liven up the place.' The second category are families in which one or more children have just left. 'They can use the vacated room to benefit a student and earn some extra money too.'

Scary men
The room shortage has widened the circle of those with rooms to let geographically, says Vermeer. 'In the past, you can forget about offering a room in Renkum to Wageningen students. Too far away. But the demand is now so high that students would put up with the longer distance. We get offers of rooms from Ede, Zetten, Lunteren and all the way from Elst.'
WSO does not keep any records of the rents charged. Generally, the private sector asks for higher rents than housing provider Idealis, but WSO keeps a watchout that the rates do not go overboard.
Slumlords who attempt to let out rooms for more than what is recommended in a point system would have to provide a good reason for doing so if they advertize their rooms on the site of the WSO housing desk. 'In extreme cases, we remove them from the site ourselves', says Vermeer.
Not that this happens often. The atmosphere in the Wageningen rental market is in fact a pleasant one. For example, WSO has not come across 'scary men' who want more from their tenants than the monthly dues. This is perhaps because of the small size of the community in Wageningen and the surrounding villages, where such behaviour would cause one's downfall socially.

And so, the Wageningen tradition is carried forth; compared to other student towns, Wageningen has always have relatively many landlords. This may be because Wageningen lies a bit off the beaten track, making it necessary for students to live here. Of course, the steady influx of foreign students also plays a role.
At the same time, it has also become clear that renting from a private landlord is not a very popular form of living out for many students. 'Most students see this as a stopgap, until they can find a real room', says Vermeer. 'The best period for the landlord is therefore from August to December.' Except when a good relationship has developed and then the tenant would sometimes stay on longer. As the examples of students and their landlords in the following pages show.
Simone Herrewijn, Rob Goossens

Paulina 'Boobah' Borvsinska
'I had been searching for a room for some time, but the rent was either too high or I was rejected. When I came here, I was immediately asked when I would like to start, and that did make me quite suspicious. But they are such nice people and it feels like home here. They are always approachable, and when I fall sick, they help to call the doctor. They even helped to repair my bicycle. Besides, I can have dinner with them for a small price. Although I don't do that often, it's nice that the offer stands. Besides studying, I am a dancer. At home in Warsaw, I would go out with the other students right after a practice session, but I take it easy nowadays. The way I live here is better than in a student house.'
The Van der Wekken family
'Are the Polish people asocial?! No-one can make me think so anymore. Boobah is such a nice girl, so the others must be nice too. After having had two Dutch girls in our house, we now live with two foreign girls. Boobah lives in our house and we also have a hut in our garden with rooms for our son, a student himself, and a French girl. Sometimes, there is a little language barrier, but in general, the girls enrich our lives. Prejudices vanish like snow in the sun, and we get to learn about different languages, cultures and types of food. We had already intended to have students in our house some time ago, but an appeal for host families in the local paper made us take this up seriously. We had not known how acute the room shortage was. It suits us very well, and we would recommend this to anyone.'

Laurens van Buuren
'In Hoevestein, I lived in one of the corridors with very little cosiness. That was why I went in search of a homely student house a year later. I've certainly found this here. At first, there were sixteen of us, but now, there're six left.  I think that wherever you live, you have to be considerate to the other occupants; so too in this house. There's perhaps a sort of unspoken boundary that you do not cross because there's a family living here too. For example, you don't throw a very big house party. For a house in the town centre, its garden is quite big, and this brings everyone living here together in the summer. It's like a meeting place. But in general, everyone has his or her own stuff and it's pleasant when we come across one another.'
The family Van Boven
'Sharing your life with different people. This ideal has prompted us to live in this house. Since then, we have been sharing the house with another family and a number of students. Of course, you need to be able to accept living with students, and it wasn't always easy in the beginning to always have someone walking around. You're never alone. And yet, we and our daughters like it very much living with others in this way. There is a very special atmosphere about living together under one roof. The other occupants tell us that too when they return after being away for some time, such as for an internship. It's all about trust; after all, you develop a certain relationship with one another. In fact, the house is always full of life and we find this very pleasant on the whole. We don't make it a must, but people can always come to us for a chat.'
Heleen van Soest
'It would have been nice to have a garden or a balcony to relax in. Other than that, I like living here very much. It's great being in the town centre. I get some company and yet can live independently, which suits me fine. The privacy and the quiet are wonderful. I don't really need to be in a 'real' student house. Besides, I have put in quite a lot of effort to do up my room, and I feel good here.
'I don't see much of the Compagner family and those I come across are mainly the other students living here. Their rooms are located one floor above mine, where the kitchen for the three of us is located too. The young son of the landlord has a room next to mine and we share a bathroom, but I don't see him often either. Furthermore, the front door is the only other thing I share with the family. It's more like a quiet student house within a family home.'

Erik Compagner
'Now and then, people who seem like complete strangers would approach me with the comment: I've lived in your house. Our house has in fact always provided lodging to students, even before I live here. My parents bought it years ago from WSO and students have lived here since I was young. I've now bought the house from my parents and we have three students living with us. In the past, I chose our tenants, but nowadays, the students make the recommendations. That's better because they have to live together with the new occupant. The layout and the size of the house enable us to live fully separately. The tenants give us an extra income, which is of course al
ways good to have, and recently, one of the students staying here also takes care of the children, besides studying. This is really convenient and the children also find this very nice.'