The Complex Issue of Illegal Subletting

By Sara Klusch

Posts on all sorts of topics appear on AUC’s ‘Excellent and diverse’ Facebook page. A frequent topic is subletting, as many students offer to sublet their rooms. Some offers are of legal subletting. The majority, however, are of illegal subletting. Students who illegally sublet in DUWO dorms can receive up to 10,000 euros fine and lose their room, if caught. The question is why risk getting caught to begin with? 

A straightforward answer would be money. “People sublet [il]legally primarily for a simple and actually quite understandable reason,” wrote Resident Assistant (RA) Rijk Willers in a message. “That is to avoid the costs of paying rent while they are not using the room themselves, albeit for valid or invalid reasons,”

The winter and summer holidays are a time of the year when illegal subletting increases, as many of AUC’s international students return home but still have to pay rent for their rooms. The DUWO team says that legal subletting is the way to solve this problem but that “it needs to be arranged in advance as this procedure takes time.” 

The subletting period has to be for a minimum of one month, so students can only legally sublet during the summer holidays or if they are going on exchange. The rent must be similar to what the tenant is paying for the room and the person subletting has to be a  full-time student or be doing a full-time internship in the region Amsterdam. “DUWO is a housing corporation not a hotel or hostel”, says DUWO spokesperson Danielle van de Tol, in a phone interview. Their aim, she says, is to provide affordable housing for students only. AUC needs to be notified first, then the documentation is processed by DUWO.

Safety is another reason for DUWO’s strict stance on illegal subletting. The agency wants to know who is living in their dorms at all times to ensure a certain level of security for their tenants. When tenants illegally sublet rooms, DUWO has no way of knowing who lives where. Earlier this summer, there was an accident involving someone illegally subletting a room. “I did not know they were living in the dorms. I never saw them,” says El-Sabbagh. The person sustained serious injuries after falling from a balcony on the second floor of one the buildings. “For me it was a shock,” says El-Sabbagh. His job is to create a safe and comfortable living space for all, he explains. “I want to go home with the feeling that there is safety in the building,” he says.

The issue of subletting is a sensitive one among students and alumnus Milo, who preferred to only have his first name published and was the only student willing to be interviewed for the article. His story shows that subletting is not always a black or white issue. Milo did not want a room on campus as his mother has an apartment close to AUC that he could use. AUC’s policy, however, states that all students have to live in the dorms as it creates a tight-knit community. “I live so close that it doesn’t really make sense to also rent a room here, especially if there is such a shortage of rooms,” Milo says.

He tried to get rid of his room by talking to AUC and then signing up to sublet his room when the university announced in his first year that they needed additional rooms for incoming students. In the end, he was not allowed to sublet his room and had to keep it.

In his second year he agreed to let a friend stay in his room. Everything was fine for the first few months. Then DUWO contacted him saying he had been reported for illegal subletting. “Reporting is quite nasty,” says Milo. Reporting illegal subletting happens through an anonymous tip-off to DUWO. “It does create some sort of paranoia because your anonymous neighbour can report you to DUWO,” he says.

As a consequence of subletting, his friend had to immediately leave and Milo lost his room. “The fact that I had to give up my room makes a lot of sense. It’s a logical consequence and it’s in the contract that I signed. No complaints,” he says. 

The RAs enforce DUWO’s policies by asking people to take down offers of illegal subletting from the ‘Excellent and diverse’ Facebook page. If the person illegally sublets despite the warning, the RAs notify DUWO. Willers says that the number of illegal subletting posts has not decreased since the summer, staying the same as in previous years. However, he is happy to notice that more posts for subletting now include specific mentions of DUWO and AUC’s criteria for subletting. “I like to see that as a positive result partially due to our immediate comments to previous posts,” he says.

Editor’s note: This news story is part of a collaboration between The Herring and AUC’s journalism course. The story was written, edited, and fact-checked by students of the journalism course. Some content may have been altered by The Herring’s editors for clarity and style.

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