Below is our guide on navigating the complex – and often competitive – process of securing a property. Learn how to avoid common pitfalls and find out about the laws which are on your side.
What Is The Rental Market Like Right Now?
Since 2014, property prices in Amsterdam have soared, with 2016 seeing an almost 15% increase on the previous year. The rental market has reflected this boom, making it harder than ever to find affordable housing.The typical asking price for a 2-bedroom property of around 100m₂ is €2000 per month; more if you are looking in Centrum or Oud Zuid, and slightly less if you go a bit further out to Zuid-Oost, Nieuw West or Noord.
What Types of Property are Available?
Property in the Netherlands falls into two main categories: social, rent-controlled housing; and private housing, sometimes called the liberalised or free sector.
Around half of all properties on the rental market are social and are managed by housing associations or the government. These properties have their rent capped at €710.68 per month (2017 figures) and are assessed according to a points system which determines the rent. Your household income must not exceed €36,165 to qualify and you must have a residence permit (huisvestingsvergunning).
There are long waiting lists for social housing – think years, not months – and priority is given to low-income families. Low earners may also be entitled to housing benefit (huurtoeslag). For more information, see the tax office website.
The Private Market
The free sector offers a wider variety of properties and locations but is more expensive as the owner can choose how much rent to charge.
With the market currently so buoyant, rents are very high and are typically well in excess of a monthly mortgage payment on a similar property.
It is possible to make a lower offer on the advertised rent if the property has been on the market a while or appears to be overpriced. Likewise, some people may try to offer above the asking price to gain an advantage over other viewers.
Furnished or Unfurnished?
Across the rental market as a whole, most properties are unfurnished (kaal). As these properties are often without white goods, light fittings or carpets, it can be expensive to make them habitable and these additional costs need to be factored in. Sometimes you can choose to pay a bit more to buy furnishings from the previous tenants such as curtains or furniture. These are called overnamekosten.
Gestoffeerd properties are partly furnished. Most will have kitchen appliances and soft furnishings such as curtains and carpets.
Properties rented to international tenants tend to be furnished (gemeubileerd). Your contract should specify the monthly cost of having these furnishings. This is meant to be 1/60th of the value of the furnishings. Some landlords may try to increase their profits by charging well in excess of this. This is not allowed and you are legally entitled to a refund for any overpayment.
Inclusive or Exclusive?
Inclusive or ‘all-in’ rents may include the cost of service charges (common for properties with communal areas or facilities), utilities, city taxes, sewage (rioolrecht), and rubbish collection (afvalstoffenheffing).
The owner must provide you with a yearly statement (eindafrekening) with a breakdown of all the costs. Owners are not permitted to make a profit on utilities and service charges. You are entitled to a refund if you are overcharged and the owner may ask for more money if your energy consumption exceeds the estimate. Make sure that all utilities are metered and keep a record of your use.
For exclusive rents, you are expected to pay the city taxes and utilities yourself, in addition to the rent. For newcomers, organising this can be an additional burden, especially if you only intend to stay for a short period. If you hire an estate agent (makelaar), they may help you set these up as part of their service.
How Can I Find a Property?
With an Agent
Hiring a makelaar to help you find a property has many advantages. Agents have access to information about new properties before they are published online. Many properties are let before they make it to the internet listings.
The agent can also show you different parts of town and tell you a bit about the area, such as the transport links or the local schools.
Once you have found a property that you are interested in, they can visit it with you and help you see the pros and the cons. They can also check that the rent seems fair for the size and location of the property and, if necessary, help you negotiate on the price.
If you don’t speak Dutch, agents will translate documents for you. They can also take a look at your contract, inventory check, or deposit procedure and identify any issues.
The fee for a makelaar is typically one month’s rent + VAT (BTW). Reputable agents will work ‘no cure, no pay’, so you only pay once you sign the contract on your new property. The agency cannot charge you a finding fee if they are already being paid by the owner to find tenants. For more information on this, and how to claim a refund, visit Wijksteunpunt Wonen.
How Can I Secure a Property?
House hunting in Amsterdam requires time and persistence. Accommodation is scarce and expensive and the best places get snapped up quickly.
If you see something you like, phone up straight away and turn up at the appointment dressed smartly. You are likely to be competing with other interested parties, who may well attend the same viewing as you. Expect to have to make a decision quickly, so do your research on the area prior to the viewing and have your questions about the property ready.
To secure a property, you will normally need a deposit equivalent to one or two months’ rent. Freelancers require a larger deposit and will be asked for extensive proof that they can meet rental payments.
You may need to provide a reference from your employer, a work contract, bank slips, or pay cheques. You may also be asked for your residency permit, especially if you are non-EU.
Newcomers to the city are particularly vulnerable to fraud as they are less familiar with property values, the procedures for renting, and the rights of the lessee.
Here are 12 tips to help keep you safe:
– If you can afford it, hire a reputable agency that works on a no cure, no pay basis, to help you find a property. They will be able to confirm its legitimacy and they can help you check the paperwork.
– Unless your employer is arranging your accommodation, always visit the property.
– If it seems too cheap for the location and size, be suspicious. Don’t fall into the trap.
– Do your research on the owner and the property and get an address for them. A phone number, Facebook page or email address is not enough. You can check to see who owns the property via the Kadaster property register.
– Never pay a fee to view a property or to secure a tenancy. The only payment should be the deposit, which comes much later.
– Any owner who asks for a ‘key fee’ (sleutelgeld) before you can access the property, is breaking the law. Once you receive the keys, check that they work before you pay the deposit.
– Check with the owner that they are happy for you to register (inschrijven) with the council (gemeente) at the property address. If not, they are up to something.
– If you don’t speak Dutch, ask for a translation of the contract and read it carefully.
– Ensure that the figures on the contract for the deposit and rent match what you have agreed to pay. Be especially careful when you renew the contract that these figures have not been altered.
– If your rent is exclusive of utilities, check that any neighbouring properties or spaces belonging to the owner have their own meter and boiler, and that you are not inadvertently paying to heat their garage or office. Make sure that the owner is transparent about who is paying for the utilities for communal areas.
– Most reputable lessors will ask for the deposit via bank transfer. If they request an alternative method, alarm bells should ring. Never send any money until everything else is finalised.
– If you want to check your rights, need advice or support, contact the Huurcommissie (rent controlled properties only), Wijksteunpunten Wonen or Hulpbijhuren (in Dutch). Woon Thuis in de Stad is also a useful source of information.
Managing Rent Increases
In the private sector, the frequency with which the owner can increase the rent depends on the terms of your contract. Some contracts allow the owner to increase the rent in line with market values every five years. Other contracts have a clause which permits the rent to be increased annually in line with the price index number or inflation.
Tenants enjoy excellent protection under Dutch law. Rental contracts are typically for a one year period initially, with a notice period of one month should you choose to vacate. Your contract might say ‘temporary’ but you can only be evicted under very exceptional circumstances, such as nuisance issues or criminal offences. Unless a special licence has been issued, it is against the law to rent a property for less than six months.
The tenant does not need to sign a new contract each year, it automatically rolls on. Even if the owner decides to sell the property, you do not need to move out. Instead, the buyer will become your new landlord/landlady and take on the responsibilities of this role.
You are expected to do any basic, minor repairs on your new home that crop up during your tenancy. Inform the owner of any issues such as damp or damage as they are responsible for all major maintenance. You are not permitted to make major alterations to the property without the agreement of the owner.
Request a detailed inventory and condition report (opnamestaat) for the property before you move in.
Once you have given notice of your intention to leave, arrange a pre-inspection of the property to take place several weeks before you vacate. The owner will check the property against the inventory and condition report and identify any repairs that they would like you to do before moving out. This helps clarify the expectations of the owner, reduces the risk of losing your deposit, and avoids any surprises when you check out.
The owner must factor in fair wear and tear to the property. Wear to carpets, tiles, woodwork and furnishings is normal and not considered negligence or damage. You cannot be expected to pay for the full replacement of these, especially if they were not new when you moved in.
You will normally need to have the accommodation professionally cleaned prior to departure.
When you return the keys, there will be a final inspection. Should any issues which are legally the responsibility of the lessee – and which were listed in the pre-inspection – still be unresolved, then the cost of these repairs can be taken out of the deposit. Otherwise, the tenant is entitled to the full return of their deposit.