Looking to rent an apartment or house in the Netherlands? Read about the quirks of the Dutch rental market to avoid any renting pitfalls.
Rules for renting a house in the Netherlands can be complicated and many Dutch rental properties are social housing with restricted allocation. First-time renters need to take care when choosing a property to rent in the Netherlands. Knowing the quirks and rules of the Dutch rental market can help you avoid renting an illegal property, and give you an idea of where to search for rental properties and what to expect when signing a rental contract.
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Guide to renting a house or apartment in the Netherlands
Just over 40 percent of Dutch people rent their homes, and the country has a high level of social housing. Rents are assessed and controlled for low-value properties, and in some areas there are restrictions on who is allowed to live where, giving priority to those with a strong connection to the area, such as having been born there, having family in the area or working nearby.
The estate agents association NVM reported in 2017 that rents just above the rent-controlled sector are rocketing and increasingly putting pressure on average earners to find decent accommodation. This has created a shortage of housing in the range of EUR 710 to 1,000 per month. With an annual average income of EUR 37,000 in the Netherlands, many workers don’t qualify for social housing yet often are looking at rents above EUR 1,000 per month. The problem is particularly acute in Amsterdam, where housing developers are building thousands of micro apartments (around 30 sqm) to meet demand.
Should you rent or buy in the Netherlands?
There are many factors to take into account when deciding whether to rent or buy your home in the Netherlands. As buying a property can take several months (generally at least three) and costs are typically at least 6 percent of the purchase price, it is recommended that you rent if you are new to an area or plan to stay less than three years. More information is detailed in Expatica’s guide to buying a home in the Netherlands.
Finding a property to rent
Social housing is by application to a central body, however few expats qualify for this. Therefore, flat hunting is similar to most other countries. One key difference is that all properties are assessed on a point system (details in Dutch only) called the woningwaarderingsstelsel. This sets a base rental rate which acts as a fixed price for social or rent-controlled properties under EUR 681.02 (2013) per month, and a guideline for properties over that value.
Online property portals are popular, and you can also find rental properties through letting agencies (verhuurbureaus) and advertisements in local newspapers, as well as classified ads and internal company websites. Commissioning an estate agent to find you a place will typically incur a fee equivalent to one month’s rent.
As most Dutch industries are relatively closely knit, even in the big cities, it’s best to only sign up with one agent or risk displeasing them all. Estate agents are obliged to work in the best interest of the tenant and should provide you with full information about the property.
The Netherlands is densely populated and competition for attractive properties in popular areas is fierce. As a result, it’s a good idea to spread your net wide – consider as wide a range of properties as possible – and be ready to sign when you spot the one you want.
Online property portals
- HousingXL (English and Dutch)
- Funda (Dutch only)
- Pararius (English and Dutch)
Specialised property portals
- Htel Serviced Apartments – furnished and short stay apartments
- Booking.com (40+ languages; short-term, furnished apartments and hotels)
- World Fashion Apartments – expat rentals with a personal touch of home
Most properties are completely unfurnished (kaal), which means they don’t have carpets, light fittings or any other furnishings. They will usually have basic fittings, such as a bathroom and a kitchen with fixed appliances like a sink and stove, but may not have other appliances like a fridge or washing machine. Making a kaal place habitable can add a significant amount to the cost of moving.
A step up from kaal rentals are those described as gestoffeerd, i.e. with soft furnishings. These will usually include carpets and curtains, and may include kitchen appliances.
Furnished lets are described as gemeubileerd and should be ready to move straight in, although some landlords have eccentric ideas of what furniture is required to make a place habitable. Short-term house shares and rooms-for-rent are usually gemeubileerd, while student rooms are generally not.
In Amsterdam, it is illegal to rent a property for a period of less than six months without a special licence. However, the law is often flouted and this can cause significant problems for tenants.
Throughout the country, short-term lets, holiday homes and aparthotels are common. Websites catering to tourists are often in English and can be a good resource to find a place to live for a few weeks, although prices are typically fairly high. You can sublet a property, but this is riskier – due to restrictions on residency by co-operatives and certain municipalities, you may not have the right to live in the property and have little legal recourse in case of eviction or malpractice.
Around 75 percent of Dutch rental properties are social housing. This can be significantly cheaper than renting on the private market, but is rigorously controlled, allocated based on need, and there are long waiting periods – waits of three to seven years aren’t uncommon. It is typically reserved for families with a total income under EUR 34,000. Social housing falls into two main categories:
- Municipal housing;
- Housing co-opperatives.
In both cases, you should apply as soon as you enter the country and also search for private market housing to fill the gap. A successful application gives you a right-of-refusal on available properties – rather than search for a property yourself, you wait to be informed about one which has been deemed to meet your needs.
There is a complex system of points for assessing properties and matching them with tenants. Students may be able to bypass some of the waiting lists, but it’s best to discuss your needs with your educational institution for more practical advice.
A form of very cheap, basic accommodation, anti-squatting networks divide empty buildings into rooms and rent them out at a low rate. Tenants have fewer rights, tenancies are typically short and end suddenly when the building is sold. Facilities are usually basic, but rooms can be large and quiet and rents can be as low as EUR 150 per month.
A rental benefit called a huurtoeslag is available for those renting private properties on low incomes. Conditions for accessing this benefit are somewhat complex – it’s best to consult your local government advice centre directly or check online (information in Dutch only).
Applying to rent a property
As in other countries, tenant applications in the Netherlands will request information about you even your closest friend would blush to ask. In some cases, landlords will request that your employer acts as a guarantor or provide a reference, so it’s worth having a chat with HR before you start looking.
Tenancy agreements in the Netherlands
Oral agreements are valid in the Netherlands, but you are strongly advised to get a written tenancy agreement. This must be signed by both tenant and landlord.
In addition to the tenancy agreement, you will often get a general terms and conditions notice from the estate agent or property manager working on behalf of the landlord. In apartments, you may also get a further set of regulations from the resident’s association. You should make sure you understand the implications of all three, particularly with regards to pets, notice periods and any costs or fees.
Most contracts have an initial term of 12 months, with a one month termination notice period required by either side. However, in practice it is very difficult for a landlord to get rid of a tenant without a good reason and a court mandate. If your stay in the Netherlands is at risk of ending suddenly and unpredictably during that period (for example, a recall to your home country) you may wish to add a break clause to that effect.
Your lease agreement should clearly indicate the basic rent (kale huur or netto huur) and any additional charges, such as utility bills or other service costs (servicekosten). It is common for extra charges to include utility payments, in which case your landlord must issue you with an account (eindafrekening) showing payments and real costs at least once a year.
It is not permitted to charge a fee without providing something in return, and over-payments for utility bills must be refunded. However, unscrupulous subletters or landlords may try to charge new tenants an additional fee, beyond estate agent’s fees, such as a deposit. This is an often called a ‘key fee’ (sleutelgeld), as the key (and thus access to the apartment) is usually held as ransom. If it is a fee for allowing you access to the property, and they don’t provide what they said they would in return (such as a carpet or estate agent services), then it is an illegal charge.
Cost of renting in the Netherlands
- Monthly rent: Typically EUR 600–1,200 for a two-bedroom apartment. Rent should only increase in line with inflation each year.
- Deposit: Typically equal to two months’ rent
- Agent’s fees: Typically equal to one month’s rent for a search agent hired by you, otherwise paid by the landlord.
- Furnishings: costs may need to include carpet, light fittings and often kitchen appliances.
- Utilities: Often bundled with the rent, in which case make sure you understand what you’re paying for and that the utilities are metered.
Moving in and out
Even if the property you are renting is completely unfurnished (kaal), it is often possible to buy the flooring and curtains from the previous tenant. However, no matter what agreement you made with the previous tenant or estate agent, you will have to reach a similar agreement with the following tenant because you usually have to return the property to a ‘neutral’ state when you leave – otherwise you will be charged the costs to do this. This typically means removing all additional flooring, light fittings and so on, and painting the walls white.
Dutch law is mostly in favour of the tenant, not the landlord, and there are fixed processes for disputing a rent, rental increase or other issues. You may wish to:
- Contact tenant’s rights organisation, Wijksteunpunten Wonen, or visit their website;
- Get in touch with the national rental commission (huurcommissie) in person or online (in Dutch only).
Dealing with noisy neighbours
A law in 2017 was approved to give local mayors greater power to deal with anti-social neighbours, for example, neighbours with continually barking dogs or who repeatedly play loud music late at night. Mayors will now be allowed to intervene, such as ordering a dog to be muzzled, the music turned off, an aggressive neighbour to attend behavioural therapy or impose a fine on those who cause problems by letting their homes on online sharing platforms.