When your studio must make way for new plans
In rechtReeKs, the Kunstenbond, the union for artists and everyone who works in the cultural and creative sector, each edition takes a close look at a topic that is fundamental to the professional practice of the professional artist. This time Jet Hootsmans, a lawyer with the Kunstenbond, writes about the rights of tenants of studio space. What can you do if your studio or incubator has to make way for something else?
Image: Natascha Waeyen, s.t.
For each column in the rechtReeKs series, the Arts Union chooses an appropriate image created by one of its member artists that has no relation to the issues in the article.
Extra early I was in the office to quietly get rid of a few urgent matters. I hadn't even finished my first sip of tea when my phone rang. She immediately took off. The artist I spoke to had been renting a studio in a studio complex in a vacant factory on the outskirts of town for years; she had a lease but yesterday she had heard that the municipality wanted to change the building's zoning so that a developer could have housing built there. "A classic case of using incubators and studios to upgrade the neighborhood, only to sell the property for serious money!"
How long did her rental contact last? Last but not least, had the rent already been terminated?
Holding the phone a bit from my ear, I tried to get a word in. How concrete were the plans at this point? How long did her rental contact last? Last but not least, had the lease been terminated yet?
As I have also written here before, rent protection for studios, studios and workshops is very limited. These fall under the category of "other business premises" for which there are no mandatory legal requirements. Agreements on, for example, rent increases, the length of the rental period and the method of termination are free to be made. Protection of the tenant is actually only possible in very specific cases and is usually limited to temporarily extending the period within which the leased space must be vacated.
Tenant protection is really only possible in very specific cases
With contracts such as this one, the lease often ends by the expiration of the agreed-upon lease term (after which a new lease may or may not be offered under new terms). Open-ended leases are usually terminated by giving notice. This is inconvenient because it means that, as a tenant, you can be pushed aside fairly easily for new plans. Of course, despite the much-discussed importance of incubators and studios for the neighborhood, not to mention for the artist himself.
As an individual tenant, it is difficult to do anything and get a grip on the situation. Still, I don't advise you to stop there. By acting together, you can indeed have influence. Participation is considered very important in the Netherlands. By organizing yourself as a foundation, informal association or other club, you come into the picture as a discussion partner of the municipality, owner or media. By making your position clear to the owner, speaking up at council committee meetings, informing the local media, having conversations with political groups and maybe even putting out a petition, you can indeed make a difference. It won't be the first time studios have been preserved as a result or a better alternative space has been fought for.
Organizing as a foundation, informal association or other club puts you in the picture as a discussion partner of the municipality, owner or media
So the artist had to get to work himself. Knocking on neighbors' doors, making a plan, using the upstairs neighbor's contacts, a listening ear from some council members, and one thing led to another. The initial feeling of powerlessness turned into a powerful motivation. It turned out that the building plans were not yet very concrete and a zoning cannot be changed just like that. This gave the artists breathing room. The beginning was there and where necessary the Arts Union offered support.
The result is still some time away. In the meantime, litigation continues lustily and the leases are still in place. I will keep you informed.