English

Housing in Amsterdam

There are rules and regulations protecting tenants’ rights in the Netherlands. Many tenants, especially expats, aren’t sufficiently aware of this.The !Woon tenant support agency (funded by the Amsterdam municipality) provides information, advice and support for tenants and owner-occupants. Confidentially and free of charge. By giving internationals more insight into the Dutch rental market and their rights and obligations as tenants we hope to contribute to their stay in Amsterdam. !WOON has offices all over the city with regular walk-ins (no appointment necessary). We also have a special department for extreme situations involving intimidation etc., called the Meldpunt.

House hunting

Amsterdam has a major shortage of affordable housing. Please note finding accommodation can take more time and effort than you were expecting. There are waiting lists for rent controlled individual housing and it can literally take decades to qualify. www.rooftrack.nl lists immediately available housing. You can try funda.nl/huur and pararius.nl, you could also contact an estate agent. National realtors’ organisations NVM and their Amsterdam department MVA or VBO  have complaints procedures. So if something should go wrong, they are more reliable than non-affiliated agencies who don’t have such procedures.

Please make sure a housing offer is legitimate. Check the address, the landlord and the letting agent via an internet search or through the Kadaster property register.

If you are not 100 % sure the house is being offered by a reputable person or business, please don’t send any money before you have actually been inside the property.  Ask if you can register at the address. If not, that is bad news. It could be an illegal sublet and you could be evicted. Please note that you do not need your landlord’s permission to register at an address. If you have proof of your residence, such as a written contract, you can ask the municipality to register your address. More on registration on this page of IAmsterdam.com

Tips on avoiding housing scams
If you are looking to rent an apartment in Amsterdam, or in the rest of the Netherlands, here are some safety tips you might want to keep in mind.

Of course there are many legitimate letting agents around, but unfortunately there are also quite a few unpleasant characters who especially target expat tenants.

Here are some tips to avoid scams in the Dutch rental market:

  • Does the offer sound too good to be true? Then it probably is. Cheap rental accommodation on a canal in the city centre is extremely rare. Be extra alert if you are being offered an apparently amazing deal. If you feel uncomfortable, if things don’t seem quite right, pay attention to that feeling and be extra cautious.
  • Don’t do business with landlords who only offer an email address, a mobile phone number and/or a facebook page. Ask for more information to establish who you are dealing with, such as an actual business or residential address. Ask for proof of ID, check it, do an internet search about the company or individual. Be aware that ID copies sent via email can be fakes. This often occurs in combination with requests to transfer money via Western Union.
  • Check who owns the apartment via the Kadaster property register (https://www.kadaster.com/about-kadaster). If you live in Amsterdam and need assistance with this the Meldpunt can help (meldpunt@wooninfo.nl). If the owner and the prospective landlord are not the same ask for an explanation, and if necessary ask for a written authorisation confirming that the landlord and/or agency are acting on the owner’s behalf.
  • Be extra careful about renting an apartment you haven’t seen. If you’re not in the country yet, can you ask someone to inspect the apartment for you? A colleague, friend, classmate, etc.?
  • Before you hand over large sums of money, check the keys and make sure they work. If you can’t do this yourself, again: perhaps you can ask friends, colleagues etc. to check the apartment. Be aware that even this is not a guarantee, but it definitely improves your chances.
  • If possible, talk to the neighbours. Do they know the apartment? Do they know who lives there? Any extra information can help you assess whether the person offering the apartment can be trusted.
  • Apartment ads on websites like facebook, marktplaats.nl, craigslist, or other advertising websites aren’t always reliable. There are many illegal sublets on offer. You could end up paying lots of money but still being evicted.
  • Ask if you can register at the address (“inschrijven”). If the answer is no, that’s a red flag. It might be an illegal sublet, or a tax scam, or who knows what is going on.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be pressured. Scammers are often in a hurry. They will push you to quickly sign the lease (because supposedly there are many other interested parties, or because they need to leave the country to go visit their sick relative, or whatever). Please demand enough time to properly assess the situation, the apartment and the contract.
  • Scammers sometimes ask for various kinds of fees, as well as a deposit. Deposits are legal, but often many other fees such as agency fees, disproportionally high administration fees, contract fees, etc. are not. Recently many expat tenants have successfully had their agency fees refunded. If you live in Amsterdam the !Woon agency or the Meldpunt can help you reclaim such unjust fees.
  • Preferably pay via bank transfer. Demands for other types of payment, such as transfers via companies like Western Union or cash payments (especially payments without receipts), are another red flag. If you have to pay cash, make sure you get a signed receipt. Have witnesses present when you make cash payments. Send confirmation emails to the landlord or the agency. Use your phone to record the conversation during your cash payment. In this conversation try to clearly mention the amount, the reason you are paying (like “this is September’s rent”), name the apartment’s address, and the recipient. In general: build a file. Keep print-screens of the apartment’s advertisement, keep all emails, copy and save Facebook messages, What’s apps etc.
  • If you still got scammed, immediately contact the police and press charges.

 

Despite all of this, we hope you will find yourself a nice place to live and wish you good luck!

How to reclaim unjust agency fees

A lot of internationals living in Amsterdam have paid a fee to an agent. According Dutch law in most cases this is not allowed. Here’s what you can do if you did pay a fee.

How to reclaim unjust agency fees
If you rented an apartment in the past five years and you were charged agency fees, usually about a month’s rent plus taxes, this might not have been legal. If so, you might be able to claim a refund. This article offers guidelines on how to do this.

Because there is a conflict of interest, between the landlord and the tenant letting agencies are not allowed to represent both parties at the same time. They can only represent either the landlord or the tenant. This has been determined by several judges, as well as by the Dutch consumer authority ACM (Autoriteit Consument en Markt). The agency is only allowed to charge the party they are representing. If that is the landlord then the agency cannot charge the tenant, and the tenant does not have to pay the agency. If the tenant has already paid s/he can claim a refund.

So legally, who does your agency represent: the landlord or the tenant? Usually the first one to contact the agency about the apartment is considered to be the client. If the agency advertised the apartment-to-rent on a website then the landlord was clearly the first to contact the agency (according to the ACM consumer authority as well as several court verdicts). This means the agency is representing the landlord and the tenant should not be charged an agency fee.

If you live in Amsterdam please contact the !WOON tenant support agency to see if you are entitled to a refund, and if so, help you get it. If you live outside of Amsterdam you can contact the nearest Juridisch Loket legal support agency, or a lawyer (for example if you have legal insurance). You can search online for companies or lawyers specialising in reclaiming agency fees. They tend to work on a “no cure no pay” basis. If you win, a pre-determined percentage is deducted from the refunded sum. Below is a list of some of these agencies.  Some cities have “huurteams” who might be able to assist. The Woonbond national tenant support agency have an online check (in Dutch) to see if you qualify for an agency fee refund.

You can also start by doing (some of) the work yourself. Here is an explanation how you could claim a refund. The legal documents, like the sample letters and the sample summons, are in Dutch.

Write a letter to the agency

This letter needs to include the following information:

  • The agency was working for the landlord and therefore you were not obliged to pay an agency fee.
  • You want a refund within two weeks of the date on your letter.
  • If the agency does not comply you will start legal procedures, taking the matter to court.

There are sample letters on:

Please send your letter by registered mail as well as by regular mail and make sure you keep a copy.

Go to court

If the agency doesn’t refund your agency fee you will need to go to court. If you wish you can have someone represent you, like a lawyer or another expert. But you are also allowed to represent yourself. If you want to pursue the case yourself you will need to write a summons.

The NVM (Dutch realtors’ organisation) provides a sample summons, see also their page on commission.

 

We wish you all the best and hope you will receive the refunds you are owed!

 

More background information (in Dutch)

Some commercial agencies who offer to claim back agency fees.
We only have experience working with Guido Zijlstra, the Woonbond works with the Procedeerwinkel.

Rent

Rent
Your contract should clearly differentiate between basic rent (“kale huur”) and additional costs like utilities, furnishing, cleaning costs etc. (΅service kosten”). So called “all-in” rent, without this clear distinction, is illegal and might be significantly lowered by the Huurcommissie national tenancy tribunal.

Basic rent (“kale huur”)
Rent control or free market rent

The basic rent is either controlled or free. Free market rent means there is no maximum rent. Landlords can ask what they want and tenants can decide whether or not they want to rent the apartment for that price. Rent control means there is a legal maximum rent. The rent is determined by a points system based on size, location and amenities If tenants are charged more than the maximum legal rent they can petition the Huurcommissie national tenancy tribunal to have their rent lowered. Please note that when the basic rent for an apartment that should be rent controlled is more than €710,68 tenants can only petition the Huurcommissie during the first six months of their tenancy! After these six months have passed this will no longer be possible.

When tenants share the kitchen and / or bathroom and / or toilet facilities and they are renting their room directly from their landlord (“kamerhuur”) this is always rent controlled. These tenants can always petition the Huurcommissie to lower their rent if they are being charged too much. Within the first six months of the contract the rent can even be lowered retro-actively.

If house-sharing tenants do not have individual contracts but instead are renting the entire apartment with all of their names on one contract, this is usually not rent controlled. Each of the tenants could be held legally responsible for all of the rent for the entire apartment, even if the individual has moved out.

To establish whether an apartment is rent controlled, and what the maximum rent would be, !WOON can make free points calculations for tenants living in Amsterdam. For appointments please contact the !WOON office in your area. Tenants can also do their own calculations using this online tool for individual housing  and this one for a room with shared facilities:  If you have any questions please contact the !WOON office in your area.

Annual rent increase
The annual rent increase does not apply to the service costs / additional rental costs, it only covers the basic rent. The annual rent increase percentage for rent controlled housing is set by the government. Landlords have to notify tenants at least two months in advance.

For free market there is no such mandatory minimum term. Free market contracts often include an indexation clause covering the annual rent increase. The contract then states which percentage or inflation percentage will apply. If the clause in your contract is based on the consumer price index (CPI) you can check your rent increase using this online tool.

 

Service costs, additional rental costs (“servicekosten”)
Contracts should clearly specify the basic rent and the charges for other things like utitilities, furnishing, cleaning, internet connections etc. For both rent controlled and free market housing these costs are strictly regulated. Landlords can only charge for the items listed in the contract, and only for the actual cost. Tenants pay monthly advance payments and each year they should receive a final calculation (“jaarafrekening servicekosten. This bill should include a clear and specific list of the items on the bill, and balance the tenants’ advance payments with the actual costs.

Built-in appliances are already included in the basic rent. They cannot be included in the service costs. For new non-durable goods (like small household appliances) the maximum charge per year is 20% of the purchase price. After 5 years the goods need to be re-appraised for their second hand value. For more durable goods (like washing machines or refrigerators) the write-off period is 10 years and the maximum annual charge is 10 %. Tenants should receive the annual service cost balance before July 1st of the following year. If landlords have not provided the annual balance they cannot raise the monthly advance payments.

Tenants in rent controlled housing who don’t agree with their service cost payments or didn’t receive their annual service cost balance can petition the Huurcommissie national tenancy tribunal. This has to be done within two and a half years. Tenants in free market housing cannot petition the Huurcommissie, they have to go to court (“kantonrechter”).

Security of tenure

The law outranks any contract. Despite what individual contracts might say, under Dutch law the majority of contracts that started before July 2016 do not have a fixed end date. Fixed time periods in these contracts are often minimum terms only, not maximum terms. Signing so-called “extensions” for such contracts is not only unnecessary, but can even harm tenants’ rights instead of improving them. If their contract is indefinite, with no fixed end date, tenants can already stay as long as they want and leave when they want, provided they give one month’s notice. By signing such an “extension” tenants could be committing to yet another minimum rental period, and possibly even giving notice by agreeing to an end date for their contract.

Since July 1st 2016 private landlords can include a fixed end date within two years for individual housing and five years for shared housing. If such a contract gets extended it automatically become indefinite, regardless of the duration of the extension. Minimum rental terms in fixed term contracts are no longer expected to hold up in court. Contracts with minimum rental terms of more than two years for individual housing or five years for shared housing will be considered indefinite, with no fixed end date.

In general, residents of shared housing have the same security of tenure as residents of individual housing. An exception is made for tenants renting a room from a landlord who lives in the same apartment (“hospita verhuur”). In this situation landlords are allowed to end the contract during the first nine months of the tenancy, giving at least three months’ notice. After the first nine months have passed “hospita” landlords can no longer do this.

If a group of tenants rent an apartment together with all of their names on the contract (“contractuele medehuur”) they have not rented individual rooms. Instead, the tenants can divide the rooms amongst each other as they wish. Some contracts allow tenants to move out and the remaining tenants to select new tenants (“coöptatie”), but some don’t. Other contracts might not allow individual tenants to leave.

Sublets are only allowed with the landlord’s permission. Many contracts contain legally binding “no sublets” clauses. Tenants illegally subletting to others can be evicted, as can their sublets. Under European law tenants have a right to family, which means their partners and children are allowed to live with them and are not considered sublets.

Housing up for sale can be temporarily rented out, provided the landlord has a “Leegstandwet” permit included in the contract. Social housing companies (“woningcorporaties”) can only offer temporary contracts to specific tenants such as students, with the contract ending when their studies end.

Anti-kraak (anti-squatting) is a form of live-in guardianship of a vacant building. Although not illegal it is not considered tenancy and residents do not have tenants’ rights. This does mean that instead of being charged full rent they can only be charged a usage fee, which should be considerably lower. For more info on the rights of anti-kraak residents please contact the Bond Precaire Woonvormen.

Accommodation reserved via AirBnB, Wimdu etc. is also not considered tenancy. Instead it is comparable to booking a hotel room, not housing. Residents do not have tenants’ rights. If the holiday accommodation is being rented out illegally residents can be evicted.

Maintenance

In general landlords have to pay for bigger more expensive  repairs and maintenance requiring specialist skills. Tenants have to pay for simple inexpensive repairs that don’t require specialist skills, to easily accessible areas.

Built-in appliances are considered to be part of the building, included in the rent, and their maintenance is the landlords’ responsibility. Landlords are responsible for the maintenance of any furnishing and un-attached appliances rented to their tenants. The charges for for furnishing and appliances should be listed in the contract as “service cost” monthly advance payments.

Tenants are responsible for any damage they have caused, except for regular wear and tear.

Some landlords offer service contracts where in exchange for a monthly fee (usually around € 5 / € 6) they also do the maintenance for which tenants are responsible.

The full list of who should do what is called “Besluit Kleine Herstellingen” (in Dutch)

Examples:

LandlordsTenants
Painting the outside of the building, and repairing holes and cracks outdoorsPainting walls and ceilings, and repairing small holes and cracks indoors
Checking, repairing and replacing the heating systemBleeding the heating system, refilling water in the heating system
Replacing tapReplacing shower head
Repairing communal drainage pipesKeeping the shower drain & sink drain unclogged
Replacing outside lamp fittingsReplacing outside lamps / bulbs
Repairing downpipe / rainpipesCleaning the gutters
Larger repairs and replacing hinges, screens etc.Maintaining / cleaning / lubricating hinges, screens etc.

 

Tenants should give their landlords reasonable time to fix the maintenance problems.

If landlords are not willing to do the necessary repairs then tenants in rent controlled housing can petition the Huurcommissie tenancy tribunal to lower their rent until the repairs have been done.

If tenants in free market housing are having problems getting the maintenance done they can write their landlord that if the repairs don’t get done the tenants will have to call in the maintenance people themselves, hold their landlord responsible for the costs, and will be planning to deduct this from their rental payments.

In case of an emergency (for example when the heater broke and it’s freezing outside, or when the plumbing broke and the toilet can’t be used, and the landlord’s nowhere to be found then tenants can also contact maintenance directly and hold their landlord responsible for the costs.

Of course in situations like these tenants can only demand reasonable refunds and only for professionally done repairs of good quality. It is therefore very important to get realistic quotes (preferably several) and only hire qualified maintenance people.

About your deposit, and how to get it back

What is a deposit?
When renting out living accommodation landlords can ask for a deposit. The amount is usually one months’ basic rent (“kale huur”: the rental costs without additional charges for things like furnishing or utitilities). This deposit is only meant to cover the repairs of any damage done to the apartment during the rental period. It cannot be used to cover any other money still owed by tenants (such as back rent, or outstanding utility bills) unless this has been agreed in advance, in writing, by both landlord and tenant.

What damage?
Regular wear and tear is not considered damage. Tenants are responsible for indoor painting and small and inexpensive maintenance (like replacing a broken showerhead), landlords have to take care of more specialist and costly maintenance (like repairing a broken water pipe). The cost of this maintenance is already included in the basic rent. Tenants should notify their landlord, preferably in writing, if there are any maintenance problems during their stay. Alterations to the apartment are only allowed if the landlord gave written permission in advance.

Moving in
When renting an apartment tenants should receive a check-in report, a written record of the condition the apartment (“opnamestaat”). This record is only binding if it is signed by both the landlord and the tenants. Without such a written record the apartment will be assumed to be in good condition. If the lease dates from before August 2003 tenants have to prove they left the the apartment in the same state as it was when they moved in. If the lease was signed after August 2003 the burden of proof is on the landlord.

If the apartment is furnished tenants should receive an itemised inventory list. If no such list is provided, they should ask for one. If tenants don’t receive a list we advise them to make their own, preferably with pictures, and send a copy to their landlord.

Moving out
When tenants give notice they should request a pre-inspection of the apartment. This pre-inspection  preferably takes place a few weeks before the tenants move out, giving the tenants time to do repairs or deep cleaning if necessary. During this pre-inspection the landlord and the tenants check the condition of the apartment using the check-in report and the itemised inventory list (if the apartment was furnished). A pre-inspection written report is made and signed by both landlord and tenants listing any repairs or cleaning the tenants need to do. At the end of the rental period, usually on the day the tenants vacate and hand over the keys, tenants and landlord have a final inspection. They check if the issues mentioned in the pre-inspection report have been taken care of. Both sign the written final check-out report. If during this inspection any of the maintenance problems listed in the pre-inspection report still remain, and they are legally the tenants’ responsibility, the cost of these repairs can be deducted from the deposit. Any repairs for which the landlord is legally responsible should still be paid for by the landlord. If no maintenance problems remain the deposit should be returned in full.

Deposit refund
After the deposit refund term mentioned in the contract (usually one or two months) the tenant can claim a refund, minus the cost of repairs for which the tenant was responsible. If the deposit is not refunded within that term the tenant can send the landlord a reminder.

Assistance
If tenants have sent the reminder-letter but still haven’t received their deposit back then the !WOON agency (a government funded tenant support agency) offers professional assistance, free of charge.  !WOON will need copies of the following documents:

  • Rental agreement
  • Deposit invoice and proof of payment
  • Inventory list (if the apartment was furnished)
  • Check-in report (“opnamestaat”), pre-inspection report, check-out report
  • Reminder letter to the landlord
  • Any other correspondence with the landlord regarding the deposit refund

 

English publications and more information

  • Our folder ‘Tenant Rights
    When expat tenants become more aware of Dutch rules and regulations regarding housing they greatly improve their chances of being treated fairly in the Dutch housing market. Some of the common topics like security of tenure, deposits, agency fees, rent, service charges, maintenance problems, etc. are discussed briefly in this folder.
  • Unjust agency fees in Amsterdam (on iamsterdam.com)

 


Non-commercial room agencies for students

ASVA Studentenunie kamerbureau
Studentenwoningweb
The 3 housing corporations which let studentflats in Amsterdam work together in the organization “studentenwoningweb”. You can find information and a registrationform on their website.

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!WOON