Internationals are paying rent for an empty room

Like winning the lottery, that’s how it felt for some international students when they finally found a room in Tilburg at the beginning of the academic year. That has changed. With public life suspended worldwide, many have gone, or want to go home. Their empty student rooms, once so valued, have become a financial burden.

Talent Square (2013), huisvesting voor internationale studenten aan de Hart van Brabantlaan.

Talent Square before social distancing became the norm

For some international students canceling the rent for their student housing prematurely is not allowed, explains Jeroen Jaspers, coordinator at the Rechtswinkel Tilburg, an office for free legal assistance. Up till now twenty international students have turned to the Rechtswinkel for help. “Unfortunately, legally there is not a lot we can do for them. That is because most of them have had to sign a specific short-term lease that excludes early canceling.”

Share the burden

On behalf of those students Jaspers has contacted the two major housing firms in Tilburg, WonenBreburg and SSH. “WonenBreburg has stated that there is nothing they can do. We are still negotiating with SSH, the firm that rents out Talent Square, for lower rent. Why can’t they share the burden? They have spoken with the owner of the building, TBV, and the Tilburg University housing office. In turn the housing office is looking at the national government.” Jaspers doesn’t think this will amount to anything.

“It is very sad for them,” sighs Jaspers, “many students have gone home because they are called back by their government, or because they are worried about their family. The only connection they have with the Netherlands is the university. For them paying the extra rent can be a real financial burden. You would expect big rental firms with ample financial reserves would be able to help them out more, even though they are legally allowed to hold on to the lease.” In an interview in Brabants Dagblad a spokesperson for WonenBreburg announced that, although rent will still be due, in some cases deferral of payment or supple payment plans will be offered.

Cancelling early is usually possible

Although canceling the lease is not possible in these cases, for many it is, emphasizes Jaspers. It can be worthwhile for students to have their contract looked into. In rental agreements in the Netherlands it is usually possible to cancel early. “Sometimes landlords think they have excluded that possibility, but in reality they have not.”

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