What you need to know about discrimination in rental ads

What you need to know about discrimination in rental ads

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The Legal Expat Desk (LED) is an information hub by GMW lawyers, advising the international community in the Netherlands since 2006. LED regularly publishes articles covering a wide spectrum of legal topics.

If you’ve looked for rental accommodation in the Netherlands, you’ve probably seen a lot of property descriptions. These property descriptions may tell you how large the apartment is, if it’s "cosy" or if it has "lots of light". However, sometimes the landlord of the property wants to ban certain groups from applying ("Not suitable for students"), or encourage other groups ("Perfect for expats"). But, is this allowed?

Direct and indirect discrimination

The Netherlands doesn’t allow direct or indirect discrimination on the grounds of religion, personal beliefs, political opinion, race, sex, nationality, sexual orientation and civil status.

Direct discrimination in rental ads

An example of direct discrimination would be if a landlord placed a rental ad saying, "No Belgians allowed". Indirect discrimination can be more difficult to prove.

Indirect discrimination in rental ads

The sentence, "Only Dutch speakers allowed", would be a good example of indirect discrimination in rental ads, since most people who speak Dutch are Dutch, this thus indirectly discriminates on the basis of nationality. Expats, defined in Dutch law as people who are living abroad temporarily for work, are not included in this group.

The Flow of the Rental Market law 2015

Last year, a new law went into effect governing rental properties. The Wet Doorstroming Huurmarkt 2015, or the Flow of the Rental Market law, covers a variety of topics surrounding rental properties.

The Dutch government was concerned about complaints that the previous laws were too strict and that this inflexibility led to housing shortages and higher rents. Amongst other changes, the options for temporary rental contracts were expanded upon and the opportunities for renting buildings that were for sale were extended.

Group restrictions

Prior to this new legislation, landlords and rental agencies could only end the leases of a few groups: the disabled, the elderly and students. As age isn’t a group that is protected in the discrimination law (for service providers, it is for employers), landlords could impose age restrictions on properties.

As of July 1, 2016, when the new law went into effect, more groups were added. Now there are six categories of people who can have their leases terminated if they no longer fall under one of the categories: the disabled, the elderly, students, PhD students, young people and those with large families. This is why, for example, a student can be forced to move out of a student accommodation after graduation.

For expats only?

Since many expats are looking for short-stay accommodation, the changes to the law have impacted the housing options available to them as well.

In 2010, a tenant association in Amsterdam requested that a judge determine if a real estate agent had broken the law when advertising an apartment in the building as, "For expats only". The judge ruled that this distinction constituted indirect discrimination. So, our advice is to always make sure to carefully word your ads, if you are renting out a property. 

Have you experienced discrimination? Or are you a landlord who is not sure what to include in their rental ad? Contact one of Legal Expat Desk's specialised lawyers:

  • Phone: +31 70 3615048
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Address: Scheveningseweg 52, 2517 KW, The Hague





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apeldoorn 15:01 | 3 April 2020

I have been having a huge problem in that I am an older person, and most ads for kamers are age-limited. Now, I am told that it is actually against the law for a landlord to rent a room to anyone older than 35. I don't know what I'm going to do. I certainly can't afford to rent a whole apartment or studio.

twinklemanoj2 00:18 | 18 August 2021

After sending some of my documents i got the news that the landlord accepted everything and we got the apartment. While we waited for the contract i emailed asking what was wrong and the broker asked for extra proof of income. I supplied more than sufficient proof and even offered to pay a bigger deposit. 19 days after being confirmed i would move in and sign the contract, 19 days after i stopped looking for a place I received the email that the landlords refused to accept due to “doubs in company bank statements” even tho i supplied 5 different sources of income all above the income requirement. Now i have 2 weeks to find a new apartment! I wanna get some justice and file either a complain or something. Something that allows me to regain control since I’m the one who will be homeless for no reason at all. What can i do?