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.
Why agency fees are not allowed
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.
How to get a refund
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:
- The Dutch realtors’ association website NVM, see their page on commission.
- The Woonbond tenants’ association website http://www.woonbond.nl/pages/service/terugvorderenbemiddelingskosten.
- The Juridisch Loket legal support website, download sample letter.
Please send your letter by registered mail as well as by regular mail and make sure you keep a copy.
Go to court if necessary
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 have good experiences working with Guido Zijlstra. The Woonbond works with the Procedeerwinkel.