Conman 'estate agent' steals thousands of euros from expats in Amsterdam

Amsterdam housing advice foundation Stichting Woon is taking legal action against an estate agent who has conned at least 30 people, mainly international workers, out of thousands of euros. Farhan Malik, who runs the Accurakey and Fam Makelaardij rental housing agencies, was arrested last month. Stichting Woon says it is now hoping to help recover the cash he stole from unsuspecting home hunters via the courts. The Parool quotes one worker who signed up to rent a flat in Haarlem, only to be told just before the move that the landlord had decided not to rent the property out after all. Malik promised to pay back the deposit she had already handed over, but never did. In another case cited by the Parool, two international students thought they were lucky to find a rental agent who would take them on. Instead he made off with €3,100 they had paid in advance rent and deposits for a flat in Amsterdam Noord. The paper says Malik was finally arrested after one of this victims - Australian national Eddy Burnfield - make a second appointment to view a property and alerted the police. Disappeared However, Malik was allowed out of jail pending the court hearing and he has since disappeared, the Parool said. Expats are vulnerable in the overheated Amsterdam housing market because they do not know how the system works, Woon spokesman Gert Jan Bakker said. 'Anyone can claim to be an estate agent. Amsterdam does have rules but they are not a priority.' Woon is appealing for anyone else who was scammed by Malik or other estate agents to get in touch.  More >

Fewer homes created from old offices

Converting redundant factories, offices and shops into housing generated 7,570 new homes last year, of which the most - 600 - were in Amsterdam, the national statistics office CBS said on Friday. That means almost 8% of the new homes which came on the market in 2017 were conversions, the CBS said. In most cases the new homes were small rental apartments lived in by students and young people. The 2017 figure is down some 500 on 2016. Some 40% of the total number of new homes were derived from converting old office blocks, but former schools and hospitals also generated a significant number. In total, 1,900 buildings nationwide were given a new lease of life. Between 2012 and 2017 42,000 new homes were created by revamping redundant buildings, the CBS figures show. The number of conversions rose sharply in 2012 after the government changed building regulations to make it easier.  More >

ProRail warns about railway vibrations

New homes built close to railway tracks should be better protected against the vibrations caused by train traffic, given that it will grow in the future,' according to railway infrastructure company ProRail. ProRail says it has sent over 100 letters to local authorities since 2015 warning them about the problem but with mixed results. In Delft, for example, agreements were reached about housing on the new railway tunnel but in one case, ProRail has threatened to go to court, the company said. The state-owned company says local authorities and developers should be aware of the problem. 'We are making mention of this now because we will be blamed in the future if cups start rattling on tables and cracks appear in walls,' chief executive Pier Eringa told Radio 1. Pressure on the railways is increasing and dozens of housing developments have been planned close to tracks, he pointed out. In Zuid-Holland alone, 75,000 homes have been planned close to railways, Eringa told the broadcaster. ProRail is also taking steps to alleviate the problems by, for example, placing rubber mats in track foundations to absorb the vibrations.  However, the simplest solution would be not to build too close to railway tracks, he said.  More >

MPs tackle high earners in social housing

The four coalition parties want to take action to get high earners out of social housing by putting rents up to the maximum in one go, the AD said on Wednesday. Currently landlords are allowed to give high earners a rent increase of not more than 5.4% a year but the coalition says landlords should be allowed to whack the rent up to the maximum of €710 in one go. The maximum rent in the rent-controlled sector is €710 and rents are assessed on a point system depending on factors such as location, number of rooms and facilities. Rent-controlled property is restricted to people with an income of less than €41,000. 'It should not be the case that people who are entitled to a rent-controlled property are on a waiting list for years while people with a far too high income are keeping these houses occupied,' Christian Democrat MP Erik Ronnes told the paper. At the same time, people whose income drops unexpectedly could be given a rent cut, the MPs say. The MPs have asked home affairs minister Kajsa Ollongren to discuss the issue with housing corporations, which are responsible for most of the rent-controlled property in the Netherlands. Mid-market rentals Research by ING last year showed that the higher rent rises for households with an income of over €41,000 a year had a limited effect. One reason for this is the lack of rental property with a rent of €710 to €1,000 a month. Earlier this year, Ollongren published plans to boost the amount of affordable housing in the Netherlands. She says the Netherlands needs 75,000 sustainable homes a year to keep up with demand. As well as building new homes, old office blocks and other redundant buildings will be reused, to offset the shortage of inner city building ground, the minister said.  More >