Wij Weigeren de Huurverhoging

Who refuses the rent increase?

Portraits of rent increase refusers - Jaap from Ermelo

Interview by Maaike Knibbe, photos by Mihai Gui

Jaap, a combative, 68-year-old pensioner, is sitting in the kitchen of his apartment when I speak to him. He tells me about his colorful past as a nurse and about the conscription he refused because of conscientious objections. When he starts talking about the apartment where he and his wife have been living since March 8, 2021, I notice that he cares deeply. The new apartment had looked good on paper and when he and his wife were looking for a smaller home due to chronic heart and lung complaints, they didn't have to think twice before registering as a tenant. The garden of their previous house required too much maintenance and it could now be exchanged for a more manageable balcony. The new apartment was also a lot smaller than their old house, which was nice because they also had less work to do indoors. Moreover, the location was very convenient, so close to the supermarket and less than a five-minute walk from the station, the town hall, the center and a five-minute bike ride from the forest. This was especially nice because they had to get rid of their car due to health problems and both were now dependent on public transport. It seemed to the two thatmore than suitable place to grow old togethersays Jack, 'and where my wife could continue to live well when I was no longer here.'  The fact that they saw their rent rise from 581 to 781 per month for this smaller apartment, they took into account the many benefits. 

Unfortunately, the increase in their rent continues steadily, due to the annual rent increase. After a year, their rent rises further from 781 to 791, and, after installing blinds, they have to pay an additional 19 per month. This brings their total rent to 810 after only 2 years of living, and with the upcoming rent increase on July 1, their monthly costs will increase even further.

"At the moment we get by just fine with our two pensions, but if I die, my wife will have to pay the rent on her own from her AOW and a small pension. That rent may have already risen above 1000, so that can't do that!"

An increase that does not bother either of them, all the more so because their plans to grow old together are now becoming increasingly uncertain. Jack tells  'At the moment we can get by just fine with our two pensions, but if I die, my wife will have to pay the rent on her state pension and a small pension on her own. That rent may have already risen above 1000, so that is not possible at all!'. The desire to be able to grow old together in their current home and to make it a place where his wife can stay after Jaap's death is therefore under pressure. And in times of inflation and rising costs, that brings stress.

Jaap and his wife are not the only ones who are increasingly struggling with the rent increase, and together with 19 fellow residents, he has united in a tenants' committee. He has also joined Wij Weigeren De Rent Increase, and he follows the step-by-step plan on the website to refuse the annual rent increase. When I ask him how things are going, he sounds positive. 'It goes well. You are threatened on all sides, with letters and fines, but they can do nothing, because legally you are within your rights'

He realizes that it is a long process 'not days but years can take'as he himself says. But that's what he's willing to do, and he's not giving up. He wants to ensure that he can continue to live with his wife in their current home for at least another 20 years, and attaches great importance to the fact that even when he passes away, his wife retains social security and can continue to pay the bills.

Despite the intimidation of his landlord after he refused the rent increase last summer, they can't get Jaap down. When I ask him what he wants to give others, he says fiercely 'Don't just sit with your problem and don't wait until it's too late, take action! Grab this opportunity. Follow the step-by-step plan of We Refuse the Rent Increase, and count on your landlord to bother you with threats, but follow the royal road and stick to WWDH's action points. 'because', so he goes on, 'It used to be different, then housing was there for the people. For the right to decent housing, and not for the profit of a handful of directors. That can and should be done again. It's not difficult, but it does take time and effort. According to the constitution, we are all entitled to a roof over our heads. Now make it true and intervene!'

This interview is part of a series of portraits of tenants who participate in the campaign 'We refuse the rent increase'. Also refuse the rent increase? Sign up! 

Are you a rent increase refusal and would you like to tell your story in this series? Let us know! Mail to info@wijweigerendehuurverhoging.nl