Student - November 7, 2019

Students homeless after fire safety check

Coretta Jongeling

How do you find a home for eight people, two cats, a dog and some chickens in five days? This task faced eight WUR students when their house in Renkum was quite unexpectedly declared unfit for habitation due to missing paperwork and inadequate fire safety.

Lianne Eertink in her now empty room
photo: Coretta Jongeling

During a fire safety check at a snackbar, the fire brigade noticed that the house behind it was inhabited too. It has been rented out to students for 30 years but has never been checked in all that time. It turned out many of its ceilings are made of inflammable soft board and there wasn’t a single smoke alarm in the building.

At first it looked as though these issues would be a flash in the pan: the landlord promised to take the appropriate steps. But when the housing inspectorate took a look, the house turned out not to be registered as student accommodation at all. The residents were astonished. ‘We are all registered with the municipality and you assume your landlord knows the rules,’ says Elise Lange, a Bachelor’s student of International Development Studies.

We had such a great house. It felt like a family.

After the inspection, the residents were given five days to vacate the premises. In that period, a firefighter sat on the sofa every night to guard the house. The residents took a week off to look for new accommodation. ‘We phoned all the campsites and hotels in the area, but everything was full,’ says Master’s student of Animal Sciences Lianne Eertink, who has moved back in with her parents temporarily. Renting a house together seemed impossible too. ‘As soon as they heard the word “student”, all the property-owners said no.’

The residents have now all found different places to stay temporarily and are still looking for a long-term solution. Eertink: ‘We had such a great, friendly house. It really felt like a family.’