What do you do if your house has defects?
In an ideal world, you rent a house for a certain period of time and never suffer from any defects. But what if you encounter a problem that needs fixing? Who is responsible in that case? Mr. Berendsen Advocaten explains.
What is a defect under Dutch rental law?
This is the definition in the law: a defect is a condition or characteristic of the property or some other circumstance not attributable to the tenant that prevents the property from providing the tenant with the enjoyment that a tenant might expect upon entering into the contract of a well-maintained property of the kind covered by the contract. In lay terms: if something is wrong and the problem was not caused by the tenant, it is a defect.
Examples of possible house defects include water and sewage leaks or blockages, mould, a faulty heating system, lack of hot water and bad noise, cold or heat insulation.
Statutory division of responsibilities for defects
The government has issued a list of defects for which tenants are liable:
Small defects: Do it yourself
The government list contains small daily maintenance issues for which the tenant is responsible. The rule of thumb is that if it could be repaired without specialised knowledge or equipment, it’s the responsibility of the tenant. For example, maintenance of the central heating system is the responsibility of the landlord, however, making sure that the water pressure is adequate is the responsibility of the tenant. If, however, you need to top up more than four times a year, there might be a leak in the system.
In this case, it becomes the responsibility of the landlord. For an extensive overview, search for the Decree on Minor Repairs (besluit kleine herstellingen) on the internet. The list is not exhaustive, which means that there could be other small defects for which a tenant is responsible.
Serious defects: Report (and ask for repair)
If a defect is not listed in the (appendix to) the Decree on Minor Repairs, then it may well be a defect for which the landlord is responsible. In that case, report it to the landlord immediately. If you do this by phone, confirm the same in writing (e.g. by email), so you create evidence. Tenants have a legal obligation to report defects, even if they do not want the defect to be repaired! In case you want the defect to be repaired, write that down also. So: legal obligation to report defects vs. legal right to ask for repairs.
In case you asked for action by or on behalf of the landlord, the landlord must act within a reasonable period of time. What exactly is a reasonable period of time depends on the (nature of the) defect. A broken radiator in a bedroom that you don’t use is less urgent than mould which might affect your health.
What if the landlord does not act?
If the landlord does not fix the defect (completely) then you have the following options:
Suspending rent payment
You could choose to suspend payment of part of your rent until the landlord fixes the defect. This is not an attractive option, because it only postpones your obligation to pay, and it involves the risk that a judge does not agree with you. You may end up being evicted for not having paid enough rent.
Offsetting repair costs
You may carry out the repairs yourself and offset the costs against the rent. This option is not that attractive either, because a judge might not agree. They may find that the defect was not the landlord’s responsibility or that you didn’t give the landlord enough time to do the repair. The judge might also find that the money spent by you was excessive, or you could end up being evicted for not having paid enough rent.
Finally, you may choose to ask the court to order the landlord to remedy the defect. You may also qualify for a lowering of the rent until such repair has been done. You can even claim such lowering retrospectively up to six months. This option is our preferred one, because this carries the lowest risk and gives you the opportunity to get financial compensation. You would need to hire a lawyer though, while the seriousness of the defect might not warrant hiring a lawyer.
Rental Tribunal (Huurcommissie)
An alternative to the above options might be to ask the rental tribunal (Huurcommissie) to intervene. You can submit a request online yourself. The court fee for such proceedings is very low.
Are you having difficulties with your landlord and do you need legal help? Contact Mr. Berendsen lawyers now!