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Info for international students during Coronacrisis

How to reclaim the costs for energy and water for the months of April and May

The Flemish Government has decided that students who left their student accommodation before 1 April 2020 and did not return before 1 June 2020 can reclaim the costs for the consumption of energy and water for the months of April and May. The relevant Decree of the Flemish Government is intended for both the contracts that work with a fixed amount as for the ones that work with an advance. In that last case however there will always be a final settlement. This means that any overpayment will be refunded at the end of the rental period anyway.

How? Students can request a refund by e-mail to the landlord. 

Proof that you were not in your Antwerp student accommodation during that period may be furnished by any means of evidence, including witnesses or even similar presumptions. You were not allowed to move from the room to the parental home or vice versa during that period. A (preferably written) testimony by another student student who did stay in student accommodation and confirms that you did not stay there during that period is sufficient. But also a ticket around March 29 from the city where your room is located to your parental home, a testimonial from the pharmacist or shop assistant who confirms that you have regularly seen you in the municipality of your parents or an email from that period to the landlord or someone else showing that you were not in the student residence.

When? The request must be sent at the latest on the day the rental agreement expires. If the contract has already ended in the meantime, a request can still be submitted until 29 August 2020.

How much? There are 3 possibilities:

  • If there is a clear separate cost for energy and water in the contract, you can request to refund these costs.
  • If all costs are included in the rental price, you can reclaim 10% of the rental price.
  • If the costs for energy and water are charged separately together with other costs such as the cost for internet and it is not clearly stated how much of this sum is intended for energy and water, you can reclaim 10% of the rent + 10% of the separately charged costs.

If the landlord already granted a reduction you need to calculate the difference between what you are entitled to reclaim on the basis of this arrangement and what you received from the landlord.

If you are entitled to get back more you can reclaim the difference. If the landlord gave you more, you can no longer ask for a refund.

In your mail to the landlord you can refer to the website of Wonen Vlaanderen (Housing Agency Flandres) where this corona measure is explained in Dutch.

Can I terminate my rental agreement early?

The Flemish housing rental decree doesn’t stipulate any regulations for a situation such as the current corona crisis as this is a very rare situation. Neither has the government taken specific measures for student accommodation in the context of the corona crisis.

This means that you can’t terminate your rental agreement early because of the corona crisis.

The only legal ground for terminating your contract is stopping your studies at your university or college in Belgium. For you this means ending your Erasmus exchange.
In this case you have to provide your landlord with a proof of deregistration which you can request at the student administration office of your campus. Send a letter by registered mail to your landlord to let him/her know your intention to terminate the contract early, including the proof of deregistration.
The termination is subject to a two-month notice period, which starts on the first day of the calendar month after the month in which you gave notice. This means you can stop paying the rent from June onwards if you give your notice before 1 April 2020.

In all other cases you will have to pay the rent for the full length of the contract.
Of course you can always try to negotiate with your landlord and try to come to a settlement. 

Some extra tips:

  • Communicate your situation with your landlord openly and clearly. Don’t just stop paying the rent. Bear in mind that your landlord is also a victim of this situation just like you.
  • If you come to a settlement with your landlord make sure to have it on paper.
  • In case you decide to terminate you rental agreement leave your room tidy and cleaned. Don’t leave any personal belongings. If it’s not possible to do so as you already left the country thinking you would come back, try to come to an arrangement with the landlord about that.
  • Normally both parties meet at the end of the rental period to draw up a final delivery report in which any damage is recorded . At this moment this is not recommended because of the quarantine measures currently in place. Instead, we advise you to take as many detailed photos of your room as possible before your departure to avoid later discussions about damage as much as possible.

How do I live safely together in my student house in Corona times?
First of all it is important to follow the generally known hygiene precautions:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water (40 to 60 seconds).
  • Keep a distance of 1.5 metres from each other.
  • Try not to touch your face with your hands.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow. Or cover your nose and mouth with a disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing, and throw it in the bin immediately. Wash your hands with soap and water afterwards.
  • Isolate yourself if you’re feeling ill and consult a doctor.

In addition we ask you to respect the following specific 'kot measures':

  • When using the shared sanitary facilities: wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet. You preferably do this in your own room where you can use your own soap and towel.
  • When using the shared kitchens: limit cooking and eating together to your own social bubble. Make clear agreements with each other about this. Always keep a safe distance. Wash up everything you use before and after using it with hot water and liquid soap. Limit your use of the kitchen: stay only as long as you need to and only use the kitchen to cook.
  • Do not receive external visitors. If your landlord is planning visits for potential tenants, you are preferably not in your room.
  • If you live in a big student house with separate living units, avoid physical contact with people from other units as much as possible. They live in another bubble.
  • Wear a facemask in the building if you are not sure that you can keep the necessary distance at any time and any place.

    I want to start looking for a student room for the next academic year. How do I go about this?
    Everyone is still required to maintain physical distance. So, it's best to start looking for a student room online.
    From 18 May onwards the government is allowing physical visits again under the following strict conditions:

    • The visit is by appointment and there's a time frame if there are multiple prospective tenants. This means that visitors wait outside until the previous visitor has left and, as such, do not come into contact with each other.
    • The landlord, prospective tenant and the current occupant arrange a date and time for the viewing. The current occupant is, preferably, not present during the visit.
    • The rooms are adequately ventilated before and during the visit.
    • Upon arrival, the visitors and lethe landlord put on a mouth mask. The landlord provides disinfecting hand gel. Everyone disinfects his/her hands and the landlord wears gloves.
    • Only two people are allowed per visit.
    • Everyone respects the distance of 1.5 meters between individuals.
    • The prospective tenant doesn’t touch anything in the student room/building. The Landlord or the current occupant open the doors and (if needed) closets/cupboards,... Items that are touched are disinfected immediately afterwards.
    • Each visit is kept as short as possible. Any comments or questions are answered in the open air, outside the building.

    Visits must be organized with due observance of the resident's right to privacy. If the resident presents a medical certificate stating the diagnosis corona, visits cannot be organised.

    Can I as a student refuse to receive potential tenants in my student room for a viewing?
    No, you have to allow visits from potential tenants to your room. Strict conditions are to be followed (see the previous question).
    The landlord has to contact you beforehand to make an appointment. Preferably you are not present during the visit. If you are present, you have to adhere to the safety measures.

    Can I come back to Belgium again to follow classes or do exams?

    In the context of resuming school activities students from neighbouring countries can come back to Belgium.

    Can I come to Belgium to pick up my belongings?

    Students from neighbouring countries can come to Belgium to empty their student room.

    The rules applicable in your country must be respected at all times. 

    What if I can’t come back to Belgium to pick up my belongings before the end of my rental period?

    If you will not be able to return to Belgium to pick up your belongings and will therefore not be able to meet the obligation to vacate your room at the end of the rental period, the landlord has the right to vacate the room under the following conditions:

    • It concerns a student rental agreement, not a rental agreement for a main residence.
    • The landlord has to inform you by registered mail or email with confirmation of receipt of his/her plans to clear your room 
    • S/he is allowed to do this 1 month after the end of the rental agreement at the earliest  and has to store your belongings for 3 months.
    • You can get your belongings back from the landlord within this period of 3 months. If you don’t ask them back within this period, the landlord can keep your stuff.
    • The landlord is not allowed to charge you any costs for vacating your dwelling nor for the storage of your belongings. 

    Need help?

    If you want us to contact your landlord for you or if you have any other specific question please send an email explaining your situation and including your rental agreement as a pdf to your contactperson in Antwerp.