A trailblazing mediation scheme for Groningen’s landlords and tenants was opened yesterday at the Lopster Veerhuis on Damsterdiep 36. The new rent support center (Steunpunt Huren) will work with parties to resolve issues around repairs, anti-social behaviour, arrears, and deliberate breaches of contractual obligations. It is available to all private rented sector tenants and landlords. The project aims to offer pro bono legal advice and an accessible, proportionate means of resolving a dispute and avoid, where possible, going to court.
Following the opening ceremony, councilor Rik van Niejenhuis urged tenants and landlords in the private rented sector to avail of the housing mediation service as a route to resolving disputes. The councilor said: “Everyone deserves a nice and affordable place to live. Steunpunt Huren will assist every resident of the municipality of Groningen with a rental question or a rental problem. The staff here are knowledgeable, free and independent.”
Groningen’s private rented sector has grown significantly in recent years and is now home to more tenants than the social sector, housing many who are vulnerable and on low incomes. The new mediation service hopes to play a vital role in helping the tenants and landlords come to agreements on a range of issues, preventing evictions and sustaining tenancies.
Located on the premises of a former bar, the center is funded by a grant from the municipality of Groningen and is overseen by Rik Kiers. Kiers said conflicts between landlords and tenants sometimes escalate before other options have been considered.
He said that in rent disputes, people are often shy about discussing solutions: tenants are often hesitant to admit they simply don’t know how to confront the landlord.
Kiers said the Steunpunt offers both help and professional mediation to help bridge the communication gap when tenants feel powerless to deal with their housing issues. “We are therefore very happy that we can now start with walk-in consultation hours in order to help so many tenants easily and efficiently,” he said.
Landlords and tenants who feel that they would benefit from this service can apply online or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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