Learn about the rules around renting office space in the Netherlands, including how tenancy regulations depend on the type of business you’re running.
Many part-time and full-time entrepreneurs in the Netherlands run their enterprises from their home address, while others choose to lease commercial offices, shops or other premises. Depending on which option you choose, your protection and obligations will differ.
In this guide, we explain the key financial, taxation and insurance considerations you’ll need to weigh up when deciding how to run your business in the Netherlands.
Renting a business premises in the Netherlands
Premises for retail and catering business
Retail and catering businesses do not have the same functions as offices. They are accessible to the public, whereas offices are private and can usually only be visited upon invitation.
The most significant difference for entrepreneurs is that retail and catering businesses are provided with a right to security of tenure (protection against having your contract terminated by the owner).
What classifies as a retail business premises?
Publicly accessible locations where goods or services are delivered directly to the public are referred to as business premises (middenstandsbedrijfsruimte).
Examples can include shops and cafés, restaurants, greengrocers, butchers and bakers, garages, dry-cleaners and collection and delivery services.
Entrepreneurs renting a retail premises are entitled to security of tenure for an initial period of five plus five years, or an initial period between five and 10 years. If you do not wish to take on long-term obligations, you could opt for a short-term contract with a maximum of two years.
Termination of a catering or retail lease
The owner of a premises can only terminate a rental contract when they have good reasons to do so, and termination can only take place if the statutory notice period and other contractual rules are observed.
Other business premises
Premises used by entrepreneurs to run a business which isn’t classified as retail or catering are referred to as other business premises (overige bedrijfsruimte).
Some examples of these include factories, offices, banks, travel agencies, bicycle lock-ups, car rental firms, gyms, law offices and doctor surgeries.
If you rent premises such as these, your contract does not have to comply with statutory rules on the term of the lease, and you and the owner of the premises are free to enter into any form of agreement you like.
There are some rules, however. The rent you’ll pay cannot be changed during the term of the contract, not even by requesting a court order, but you and the owner can include an interim rent review in your agreement. If you have not agreed otherwise, the lease will last for an indefinite period of time.
Termination of a business lease
If you want to terminate the lease you must give notice. If a notice period has not contractually been agreed, the period will be the same as the payment term for the rent. So, if the rent is paid on a monthly basis, the notice period will be one month. If the rent is paid twice a year, the notice period is six months, and so on.
If you are given notice of termination, you don’t have to vacate the premises immediately. Instead, you are given two months to request that a court extends the vacation period. If the court agrees, it can extend by a maximum of one year.
After the first request to suspend the vacation period, the court can grant another two extensions, up to a maximum of one year each. If you fail to meet your contractual obligations, e.g. you don’t pay the rent, the court may refuse to grant any extensions.
Renting office space in a large office building
An alternative to renting office premises or working from home is to rent space in an office building with office units for small enterprises. The advantages of this are relatively low rent and flexible conditions. In addition, notice terms are usually short, which enables you to get out quickly if you don’t need the space anymore.
Before choosing where your business should be based, check the local zoning plan for your proposed office location. In its zoning plan, the municipality determines the designated use of premises or locations.
The designated use of most houses – including terraced houses and semi-detached houses – is ‘residential’. This means that strictly speaking you cannot start a business at that address.
In practice, however, setting up an enterprise at a residential designated address is permitted provided that:
- the type of business you run can be classified as an office
- your clients do not visit the house
- you do not cause any nuisance to your neighbours
- only a small part of the house is used for business activities
A shop, hairdresser’s salon, beauty parlour or a mechanic’s workshop are unlikely to be seen as businesses which can be run at your home address.
Tax-deductibility of accommodation costs
The costs incurred for renting business premises are fully tax-deductible, but if your enterprise is at your home address, you’ll need to meet a series of stipulations first.
If you meet do meet the criteria, a maximum of 4% of the value of the office space and a pro-rata part of the costs of the office space are tax-deductible.
You can find out more about how taxation works in our full guide on tax for self-employed entrepreneurs in the Netherlands.
Renting or buying business premises only makes sense if you are a full-time entrepreneur.
Running a business at your home address will be a lot less expensive than renting business premises, but on the other hand, a business run from your home may look less professional to your clients. It’s useful to have a business telephone number attached to your trade name, next to a private telephone number.
Another way of smoothing the client’s ability to contact you is to engage a bureau that provides secretarial services. Secretarial tasks – answering your phone, taking messages or putting calls through – can then be taken over in your absence.
For business meetings and appointments you might choose to temporarily rent space at a business unit or park instead of receiving clients at your home address.
Dutch associations for entrepreneurs
There are associations for specific branches and special interest groups for young entrepreneurs, female entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs with a non-Dutch background. The Chambers of Commerce provides information on such organisations and associations in your area.
Expat centers have been especially designed for expats and internationals living and working in the Netherlands to provide expats with a wealth of English-language municipal and practical information during their stay.