No one wants to be scammed, of course, but we understand that you don’t want to start off as a “problematic” tenant either. Especially in the first months of moving over here, you’ll have plenty of other things to worry about already. However, as a non-Dutchy, it’s not always easy to figure out what is normal and what your rights as a tenant are. That’s why in this week’s blog we’ll discuss the Dutch rental housing market, go into your legal rights and explain how you can have them defended as a (future) tenant.
The rental housing market in the Netherlands is split into two sectors, the social and the private sector. The social sector is geared toward people with lower incomes and capital savings, and is therefore legally bound by lower rental prices (max €737,14 per month). Accommodations in this sector are generally eligible for housing allowance (huurtoeslag) as well, but they require you to sign up with a social rental corporation (woningcorporatie) or with WoningNet, a platform that’s connected to various woningcorporaties.
Most of these corporations work with a point system based on the duration of your subscription, with more points ranking you higher up in the waiting list. In practice, you’ll have to be subscribed for a few years before you’ll be eligible for a room, apartment or house. This may seem completely irrelevant for now, but a subscription generally costs very little (we haven’t encountered anything above €22 per year yet). Therefore, if you’re planning to stay in the Netherlands for work or another study, the social sector offers you the perfect starting place when your income is likely still low enough to make you eligible for it.
So, when you arrive in the Netherlands, or if you have only been living here for a while, you’ll probably be renting in the private sector. Luckily, for these rooms, studio’s, and apartments there is also a rental price ceiling (independent houses are excluded for this rule). However, since this is not always respected by landlords, it’s important to be aware of your rights and the ways you can get them defended.
Legal support for tenants
The Rent Tribunal (Huurcommissie) is an independent organization that mediates and adjudicates rental agreements. They are rarely needed in the social sector, but in the private sector, you can engage them to adjudicate your rental price according to a point system. In addition, they can adjudicate rent increases (after renovations or improvements), rent decreases (because of defective maintenance), and too high or unwarranted service costs of your accommodation. Sadly, the point system check and other operations of the Huurcommissie are only in Dutch, so don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like assistance in this department! Keep in mind that you can only get too much paid rent back if you start your case within the first 6 months of your rental period or up to 6 months after a temporary contract of maximum 2 years. Too much service costs, however, you can get back for up to 3 years.
If the Huurcommissie deems any of your costs too high, it will mandate it to be lowered to the maximum legal amount. This mandate acts retroactively to the start of your contract, but it is up to yourself to get you money reimbursed from your landlord if you paid too much. Luckily, however, there are no-cure-no-pay organizations such as Frently that can represent you in court to help you get your money back.
Real estate agencies & Landlords
Other than by scanning the numerous advertisements on rental Facebook groups and housing platforms, you may want to arrange your accommodation professionally through a real estate agency. These agencies can help you find accommodation according to your desires, and act as an intermediary between you and the landlord. However, be wary of real estate agencies that illegally charge you (usually about 1 months’ worth of rent) for their “services.”
Legally, real estate agencies may only charge you if you actually assign them to find a place for you. Even if you find your accommodation on the agency’s website, it may not charge you for this because in this case, the landlord has already paid the agency to find him/her a suitable tenant. The agency fee, however, should not be confused with the rental deposit (usually 1 months’ worth rent as well), because this is perfectly legal for landlords or real estate agents to charge you.
Another thing that you should look out for is the way that the real estate agency and the landlord operate. If you pay the agency to look for a place for you, the agency should be representing your best interests, not those of the landlord. Sadly, this is not always the case and it’s often hard to determine this before you sign your rental contract. Yet, if you ask or Google around, you’ll find sources such as this subreddit and blog on the Groningen rental housing market that lists landlords and agencies with a bad reputation.
Ask for help!
Don’t be shy to reach out to us for help regarding your (student) accommodation. At Student Helpr, we have experienced everything regarding the rental housing market by now – not just unfair or illegal prices but also harassment, all-out threats, and even blackmailing. We understand that this is anything but easy and lighthearted because a room or apartment is not just an accommodation; it is also your home – a place where you want to feel safe, welcome, and respected.
So, do you want help to find a suitable student house for you in the Netherlands? Do you want to check the points of your current or future accommodation in order to determine the maximum rental price? Do you have questions or doubts about the number of service costs that you’re paying? Do you want us to find out if a specific landlord or real estate agency has a certain reputation? Look for our contact details on the Help & Support page, and we’ll help you out with anything you need!