Fair rent for all in the Netherlands

16 November 2009, by
(3)

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At one time or another, all residents of Amsterdam - especially expats - will have been involved in heated discussions about the seemingly impossible task of finding reasonable and affordable housing in the city.

For some, the solution is to buy a house, but at the housing market’s current inflated price levels, this option is open to fewer and fewer people. For students, short-term residents and those on average salaries, or below, there is only the rental market.

As a member of Amsterdam city council’s Wijksteunpunt Wonen (District Housing Support Group), Guido Zijlstra advises tenants on a daily basis about their rights and entitlements. In this article, he provides some invaluable guidelines to expats in the Netherlands.

Expats often tend to compare rental prices in Amsterdam with those in their home countries. They consider a monthly rent of 800 euros, or more, for a two or three room apartment "reasonable" and are not aware that their Dutch neighbours probably pay no more than 300 euros.

This is why all the housing rental agencies love expats so much: they are ignorant to the local laws and some of them think that those laws only apply to locals or to apartments that belong to the city council.

Tenants’ rights in the Netherlands

As a tenant in the Netherlands, you are protected by the law in several ways.

 Rental agreements / contracts can only be terminated by the tenants

First of all, once you agree to rent an apartment (either verbally or through a written contract), this agreement can only be terminated by the tenant; not by the landlord, except in extreme circumstances (e.g. failure to pay the rent, in which case, the landlord must start a court case against the tenant).

A contract that states "temporary" or "one-year lease" does not automatically end after the expiry date. A temporary contract is only allowed in very rare and specific situations. So if you think you have a temporary contract, you most likely don’t!

 Maximum rent & the Huurcommissie

The second protection a tenant has is that the landlord cannot simply charge what he / she likes for an apartment. Every apartment has a maximum rent, which is calculated using a points system. Every square metre and all the facilities in the apartment score points and the total number of points equates to a certain maximum rent.

Everyone can ask a Huurteam to visit their apartment and perform the calculation at no cost!

If you pay more than the maximum rent according to this point system, you are entitled to have your rent reduced by the Huurcommissie (similar to a civil court that deals solely with housing rental cases/. It is very easy to start a re-evaluation process and the Huurteam can also help you with this, free of charge.

There is only one situation in which your rent cannot be reduced and that is if you pay more than 630 euros a month kale huur (flat rent) and you have paid that amount for more than six months. In such cases, the law considers that the protection it has offered for six months is not required.

So, always start a process within the first six months of the contract. The exception to this rule is all-inclusive rents, for which you can start a process at any time.

Taking on the rental agencies in the Netherlands

Many apartments that are rented out to expats are found via rental agencies. These agencies will try to make you pay as much as possible, because they normally receive one month’s rent as a fee. This is illegal.

The highest civil court in the country decided that agencies must work in tenants’ interests. This means that if you pay too much and you have rented the apartment through an agency, you can start a process against the agency.

One tenant who did this was awarded 15.000 euros in compensation by the courts. She was actually too late to lower the rent through the Huurcommissie (having lived there for more than six months), but she successfully sued the agency for not informing her about this law.

The agency has to pay her the difference between the maximum rent permitted by law and the actual amount that she pays to the landlord, for as long as the contract lasts!

Is it unfair to lower the rent?

Many expats that I have spoken to consider using the system to get their rent reduced unfair to the landlord with whom they have signed a contract. This is ridiculous and they obviously do not understand the Dutch politics behind the legislation.

Rental prices in the Netherlands are regulated precisely because the authorities do not want the inner city of Amsterdam and the surrounding neighbourhoods to be turned into yuppie zones, even more than they already have done, and so become more like London, Paris or New York.

If the rental system had been liberalised, as the government proposed around two years ago, most locals would have already left areas like the Centre, De Pijp and the Oud-West, and the apartments would have been rented out solely to expats, who are willing to spend half, or more, of their income on rent.

The Netherlands’ rental laws are intended to keep cities and their inhabitants diverse, lively, colourful and cosmopolitan. Surely these are exactly the reasons why most expats chose Amsterdam as their new home in the first place!

So, consider your circumstances and, if possible, please do get your rent reduced. It is your duty as a resident and it makes perfect economical sense.

What tenants in the Netherlands need to know

There is no such thing as a temporary contract (except in very rare and / or particular circumstances).
 Only a tenant (not a landlord) can terminate a contract (except in very rare and / or particular circumstances).
 Anyone can ask a Huurteam to visit their apartment and calculate the maximum rent, at no cost.
 Make sure you contact the Huurteam within the first six months of your rental contract.
 Try to get your rent reduced, if possible - it is your duty to the city.
 Visit www.wswonen.nl for further information.

 

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Comments arranged by date (Total 3 comments)  
Argentina
February 25 2011, 12:13AM

You seem to consider all landlords as bad capitalists wanting to make money on the back on poor tenants.
My friend lived in Amsterdam for 10 years. He bought a small flat there and then got offered an opportunity abroad. Wanting to come back to what he considers as his home, he rented his property. He was very ill advised by his agency regarding the points system and for how much he could rent the place and now got a tenant who refuses to leave, got rid of all his personal belongings and refuse to forward his mail or allow an inspection in the house. What she pays is not even covering half of his mortgage. He lost 25,000 EUR so far, has no home to go back too he goes back to NL to start a new job and seemed to have lost all rights on what is his home. I call this spoliation. The Dutch government is expecting him to pay for the mortgage of a house that is no longer his and pay for rent at the same time? What is fair in this? My friend is a decent, normal person like you or me, and yet he is being treated as a criminal because he is a landlord.

LucyTenantsRights
June 27 2011, 11:09PM

Dear Argentina, your comments provokes a number of questions. First off, if your friend was planning to return to Amsterdam after his opportunity abroad was finished, why didn't he get permission to rent the flat for a fixed period of time? Such a permit allows exactly what your friend sought to have. Secondly, if he was ill advised by the agency, why does he blame the tenant and not the agency? Has he filed a complaint against the agency for its misinformation and/or fraudulent behavior? Thirdly, if you friend has lived in Amsterdam for 10 years, how is it possible that he does not know about the points system? Everyone I know who owns an apartment is highly aware of the points system and the consequences on the profits they can expect if they rent out their flats. Fourthly, as far as I read it, the tenant is merely exercising her rights. Why does your friend have personal belongings in the flat if he is renting it out? Why should she forward his mail? The more appropriate question is, what kind of relationship does your friend expect from his renter? Is she supposed to be the care-taker, storing and taking care of his personal belongings? Is she a mail forwarding service? Or is she a tenant who is renting out his flat under Dutch law. You seem outraged by your friend's situation, portraying him as a victim. As far as I read it, he either did not bother learning Dutch tenants law or he just assumed that his renter would not claim her rights. Either way, your friend is not a victim at all, but merely a businessman who failed to assess the risks of renting his apartment in a highly regulated market.

VincenzoVitale
April 03 2013, 02:27AM

Why the dutch law doesn't also impose a selling limit to the house price.
Prices in Amsterdam are extremely high and when a mortgage is being paid back (the majority of cases) the legal rent should at least cover the monthly payment done to the bank.
The guy rented the house to someone for a temporary period, having probably in mind to come back but not specifying it in the contract. Is this enough to make him an ugly businessman, greedy of money? I do not think so!

The legislation would be more coherent if it would also limit the maximum mortgage people can get for buying a property, and this limit would be directly linked to the point range the house belongs to.

But if the housing regulation is there, then why the legislation in the last decade didn't also impose a limit for the selling prices? Now we have a lot of people paying enormous interest to the banks for houses they cannot legally rent out for a price which would cover at least the interest being paid.

 
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About the Author
Guido Zijlstra

Legal advisor, rental issues.

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