Thousands of ’empty’ homes in criminal hands: ‘can happen next to anyone’

There are cities in our country with thousands of houses where no one is registered, but where people do live. They‘re criminals who stay there anonymously, hidden from the authorities. Municipalities, police and real estate agents are worried.

In Rotterdam and Tilburg, among others, police actions have been set up against criminals operating from residential areas. A place that stands out is Diemen, near Amsterdam. Especially Holland Park, a neighborhood with only rental housing of more than a thousand euros per month, is popular with criminals. At the end of September, a rogue housing mediator was arrested in raids. In addition, the police also arrested two Colombian criminals.

See in this video how the police invaded a property:

Yesterday, the police held a new action in the neighborhood. Superintendent Arno van Leeuwen: โ€œWe checked ten homes with the municipality where what seemed wrong. In addition, we found a number of criminals who had rented houses with false employers’ declarations and were not registered with the population register in Diemen. So they sat here anonymously.โ€

Among the criminals detained was an old acquaintance. โ€œWe had him arrested for the weapons bill last year. He played in a rap video holding an uzi in his hands. Now he was in the apartment with an illegal South American prostitute.โ€

Mayor Erik Boog is very concerned about the โ€œghost housingโ€. โ€œHolland Park is a new neighbourhood where there is no social cohesion yet, people do not know each other well. And with that, the district is vulnerable to undermining crime, to illegal renting. We have had to deal with trafficking in human beings, illegal prostitution, drug production and drug trafficking from homes. Many different types of fraud, benefit fraud, payment fraud.โ€

Criminals look for each other

Criminals are also using the illegal rental to stay under the radar, says Boog. โ€œThe danger is that other criminals will visit them, causing shelling and liquidation in the district.โ€

โ€œ And it is unjust. You can see that so many people have to wait so long for an apartment. And those homes are now occupied by criminals. I find that simply socially unacceptable.โ€

โ€œGovernment goes wrong billionsโ€

According to Detective Van Leeuwen, the Amsterdam region is โ€œa few thousandโ€ homes where criminals hide anonymously. According to George Rasker of the Undermining Team, the problem is in all 355 municipalities. โ€œEverywhere there are dwellings of which it is not known who lives.โ€

He says that the government is missing EUR 5.5 billion a year, partly because illegal residents do not pay taxes.

The housing fraud happens throughout the Netherlands, notes also brokers‘ association NVM. โ€œWhat we see is the tip of the iceberg,โ€ says Chairman Onno Hoes.

โ€œ When you see what happened in Diemen, what is happening in Rotterdam and other places, you wonder ‘is it really possible in the Netherlands? ‘ Well, in fact, it can happen next to anyone. It is shocking that the undermining crime is getting so close to home.โ€

Realtor is gatekeeper

Mayor Boog has an idea about how to deal with the criminals. โ€œWe need to arrange nationally for landlords to better screen their potential tenants so they can’t use fake papers to get leases.โ€

Rasker also believes that the rental brokers should be able to better fulfil their โ€œrole of gatekeeperโ€. โ€œThey themselves indicate that they need a better way to anonymously report suspicions of fraud.โ€

Boog then thinks of a nationwide blacklist of criminal tenants and rogue housing intermediaries and better exchange of information between institutions. โ€œFor example, the tax authorities could provide information to prevent malicious tenants. Significant steps have been taken in the last few years in tackling undermining, but it must and can be better.โ€