If you’re looking to rent in Amsterdam or elsewhere in the Netherlands but aren’t sure where to begin, a certified rental agent can help you avoid the often-costly mistakes expats make when signing a lease in the Netherlands.
Without solid knowledge of the market, the language and the laws relating to rental properties, searching for rental accommodation as an expat can be a murky process. Expatica offers ten ways working with a rental agency can help you avoid the pitfalls of renting property in the Netherlands.
1. Gain access to unlisted properties
Because the best rental properties usually rent quickly, listed properties are often already rented before they appear on real estate websites. Working with an agent gives you access to unlisted properties, maximising your chances of finding the perfect apartment or house.
In addition, many properties listed on websites are illegal sublets—either social housing that is not permissible to sublet or properties for which owners do not have a buy-to-rent mortgage—which can put you at risk of eviction.
2. Expand your market knowledge
It is difficult to get to know the various cities and neighbourhoods as extensively as an experienced rental agent, especially for expats. Rental agents are knowledgeable about the local rental market, and have access to databases that indicate the value of a property so you don’t overpay. Finding accommodation with realistic, fair prices can be problematic for expats looking for rental properties in Amsterdam and throughout the Netherlands—the price for a rental apartment may sound reasonable compared with their home country, even though their Dutch neighbours may be paying less. Every apartment has a maximum rent, and an agent will be aware of that.
3. Take advantage of negotiation skills
Aside from the monthly rental costs, there are other factors to consider when renting a property, such as whether the property is furnished (which can sometimes mean additional costs), whether bills are all-inclusive and the duration of the rental contract. In addition, a Diplomatica Clause can be negotiated, which allows tenants to end a rental contract if their work is moved further than 50km away from the property, or if the tenant resigns or is fired from their position; this clause can be particularly useful for expats who have moved for employment.
Some laws may differ from your home country and it’s important to avoid making assumptions. For example, in 2004 a law determining which party bears the financial responsibility of repairs was passed; a rental agency in the Netherlands can help you form a clear agreement with your landlord so there are no surprises.
4. Benefit from vast legal knowledge
Agents are well versed in Dutch rental laws and will ensure your agreement with your landlord complies with the most recent laws, concerning the contract language, local housing codes and contract termination. For example, if you are renting an apartment in the Netherlands, you have rights that expats may not be aware of—your landlord, for example, cannot end your written or verbal agreement other than in extreme cases (failure to pay the rent, for example). In such circumstances, landlords must go to court to argue for the termination of the tenant.
5. Gain local knowledge of Dutch cities and neighbourhoods
Rental agents know the city and its neighbourhoods, and not just its demographics and the average rental prices—they know the local flavour, the culture and where you’ll best adapt as an expat. A knowledgeable agent can help you find exactly what you are seeking—be it an active, nightlife-rich area or a quiet family neighbourhood. They can also advise on the best schools or offer inside knowledge of the public transportation options. This local knowledge will save you from doing extensive research and wasting hours looking in the wrong neighbourhood.
6. Get Dutch language support
Agreeing to the terms of a contract written in a language you don’t speak can be daunting—and risky. With a local Dutch rental agent, expats that do not yet speak the language have instant support with translations and negotiations, and they avoid the costs and hassle of hiring a certified translator.
7. Do an inventory check
Many apartments for short-term rentals are furnished, but others are completely empty—there are even no light fixtures or carpets. Your rental agent will visit the property with you to take an inventory of what is included, so you can prepare your budget when you do move in.
8. Assistance setting up utilities in the Netherlands
Once you have signed a rental agreement in the Netherlands, the agent will continue to work with you to ensure you are registered with the utility companies (water, electric, gas) and have telephone and/or Internet service. Again, for expats who do not yet speak Dutch, it can be a difficult endeavour, as much of the information about utilities is not available in languages other than Dutch.
9. Get those reference checks
To ensure the landlord is comfortable with you as a tenant, an agency will often organise a reference check to verify that you have the means to pay the rent and have been a reliable tenant in the past. Equally, to ensure your landlord has the right to let the apartment, a rental agent can help you register your address at the local municipality. You are legally obliged to do so, and if your prospective landlord says you cannot, it’s a sign of an illegal sublet.
10. Join a strong network
Many agencies work with corporate clients, human resource departments and relocation companies to help find the ideal property if relocating for a job. They are, therefore, very accustomed to helping expats navigate the Dutch rental market, and they are aware of the ways in which the Dutch system differs from expats’ various home countries. Many rental agencies in Amsterdam also belong to one of the city’s rental associations, such as the VVA, and they use the same legal team to draft contracts, as well as give preference to others—tenants and renters—in the network.