Moving to another location can cause disruption to everyone in the household. Even in your own country, moving is stressful and time consuming. Not only do you have to deal with different regulations, customs, but also in a different language.
On a world map, the Netherlands is very small. With little space available, houses at the lower and middle end of the housing market tend to be very compact. How this is perceived depends on the experiences in your home country. No matter where you come from, it is essential to realize that housing availabilities are different than what you are used to in your home country. Real estate agencies and relocation companies can be of great assistance.
Housing Services & Professionals
Claude Debussylaan 235
1082 MC Amsterdam Zuidas
Van Alkemadelaan 338
2597 AS Den Haag
Verrijn Stuartlaan 50
2288 EP Rijswijk
Adriaan Pauwstraat 41-A
2582 AP Den Haag Statenkwartier
Furnished (in Dutch ‘gemeubileerd’, adverts marked with an ‘M’) properties are provided with complete furniture, floor covering (wooden floor, carpets), curtains, kitchen & bathroom appliances (cooker, fridge, washing machine and tumble dryer) and often linen & towels. You just have to bring your personal belongings.
Partly furnished (‘gestoffeerd’, adverts marked with an ‘S’) accommodations are provided with floor covering (wooden floor, carpets), curtains, light fixtures and most of the kitchen and bathroom appliances. You will have to bring in your personal belongings and your own furniture or purchase new one.
Unfurnished (‘kaal’) accommodations are delivered empty with no floor cover, no curtains or any appliances (light bulbs may even have been removed). Such accommodations are usually much cheaper but require a higher initial investment from the tenant.
Serviced apartments are accommodations fully equipped and furnished offering extra facilities as TV & internet connections, housekeeping and sometimes laundry facility and health club. Rates are all-in including basic rent, rent for furniture/equipment, utilities and cleaning services. Serviced apartments are usually meant for short-term residence (1 week to 6 months).
Short-stay accommodations are suitable for international staff assigned on projects with a limited duration; but also for expatriates arriving to the Netherlands and wishing first to explore the city before deciding where they want to live with their family.
The Netherlands has a large public housing sector whose dwellings (‘sociale huurwoningen’) are aimed for lower income groups with a maximum rent fixed by law (per 1st January 2012 net rent per month up to €664.66). Those social dwellings are allocated by housing associations on the base of eligibility criteria (among others: a maximum yearly taxable income of the entire household up to €34,085 (2012) and registration period).
The maximum net rent of €664.66 (in 2012) represents the so-called liberalisation limit between the controlled public housing sector and the free private sector with liberalized rents. Taking into account these criteria and average waiting time (often exceeding 3-4 years), social housing is not a favourable option for expatriates.
Expatriates usually turn to properties in the free (‘vrije’) private sector. Private rental properties are not subsidised and there are no pre-conditions of eligibility for tenants.
There are many real estate actors, some provide services in selling, buying and renting, some only with rentals.
Real estate agents and housing agencies manage private rental properties. The rental price for these properties is considerably higher than for accommodations found through housing associations, but in general, these accommodations are available for immediate tenancy.
If you hire a real estate/housing/relocation agency to search for a suitable accommodation (including viewings and negotiation of the rental terms on your behalf), you will be charged a mediation fee (1 to 2 months’ rent). Such a fee amounts to on average 8% of the annual rent (about 1 month’s rent) excluding 21% tax (VAT).
The apartments/houses will often be delivered with upholstering and possibly furniture and all necessary home appliances (for which payment can be asked). Also a deposit will be charged. As these accommodations belong to private owners, the rent can be agreed upon for a fixed period of time.
Real estate property managers take care of properties belonging to the private sector. These properties are owned by public and private institutional investors (pension funds, banks, insurance companies, etc…) and are available in various prices ranges (from relatively cheap to expensive). You will need to register, provide supporting documents and pay an administration fee. No mediation fee is charged for such properties.
In general, the apartments/houses will be delivered without upholstering. In some cases, the former tenant might offer to sell the upholstering or some appliances to the new tenant.
Also, many private owners offer their properties for rent. In those cases, the terms of tenancy can always be discussed. Often these apartments/houses are offered furnished and equipped. As no mediating agent is involved, initial costs can be kept down.
On the Dutch market it is common practice to use a real estate agent (in Dutch ‘makelaar’) or a housing agent when buying or renting an accommodation. On the rental market expats often make use of the service of a relocation company.
Time and patience are needed in large doses to succeed in finding a house that will eventually become your home. Although costly, hiring an estate agent or a relocation agency might make settling easier by saving you time and frustration.
N.B: if you do not use the services of an agent and wish to handle your house hunting on your own, be aware that agents represent owners. They only represent you when you pay them. Always check whether the property you are interested in is in the real estate agent’s own portfolio and whether it is commission free.
Rental contracts used by real estate agents must comply with the General Terms and Conditions for Lease of Housing Accommodation (model established by the Real Estate Council ‘ROZ’ of 30 July 2003).
Most of real estate agents belong to one of the main associations of real estate agents in the Netherlands. The main association is called NVM (‘Nederlandse Vereeniging Makelaars’). Members of the NVM operate under standard guidelines and use a rental contract consisting of a model tenancy agreement and related General Terms and Conditions. Both documents are available in English language (ref. annexes).
Most of the rental contracts that tenants have to deal with are drawn up based on the ROZ or the NVM model.
The Escrow agreement is a solution to secure the deposit that has to be paid by the tenant before entering the premises. With the escrow agreement, landlord and tenant agree that the deposit is transferred by the tenant to a third party’s bank account (notary’s bank account for example). Upon inspection of the premises by an independent party at termination of the tenancy agreement, the deposit will be refunded to the tenant unless a formal complaint has been submitted by the landlord and registered.
Before signing check whether the following data are defined correctly : date of entry, duration of the contract, notice period, rental price (with specification of service charges, etc… if applicable), deposit amount (1 up to 2 months’ rent), diplomatic clause (for the tenant and eventually for the landlord-owner), property manager, and special provisions.
Duration of the contract & notice period: in principle a minimum of 1 year with a notice period of one calendar month for either party applicable on termination of the 1st rental period. If the accommodation belongs to someone who might want to claim it back at any time (e.g. someone on assignment outside the Netherlands), it may be better to fix the contract for a longer period and to limit the landlord-owner’s diplomatic clause.
Notice should always be given by registered mail, even if a specific termination date is mentioned.
Rental price: usually the rental price is exclusive of the utilities costs (gas, water, electricity, TV/phone/internet connections). Still a rental price may be inclusive (all-in-price); in the latter case a detailed specification should be given of the basic rent, the costs for utilities, and whether the utilities’ respective amounts are considered as advance payments (to be balanced with the actual costs once a year) or as a lump sum (risk of overcharge).
Security deposit: in general, before entering the premises, you will have to pay a deposit (equal to 1 to 2 months’ rent). This amount will be (partly/fully) returned to you when you leave the apartment/house in good condition. The security deposit is not meant to be set off against the last month’s rent payment.
Diplomatic clause: if, on account of his work the tenant is transferred to a place 50 km or more away from the premises or must leave the premises for reasons beyond his control, the tenant is entitled to terminate the tenancy agreement prematurely – provided that he informs the landlord by registered letter whereby 1 to 2 full calendar months’ shall be observed.
Property manager: when renting a property, both the landlord and the tenant have obligations regarding its maintenance. The tenant sees to small and day-to-day repairs (ref. guidelines on minor repairs in annex). The property manager (landlord or his delegate) is responsible for the major repairs and maintenance to the premises (building and if applicable garden); his contact details should be clearly mentioned in the contract.
Special provisions: any additional provision (for example, wall paints to be refreshed, new carpet to be provided, etc…) should be clearly mentioned in the contract.
Condition report (‘état des lieux’) at check-in: is an integral part to the tenancy agreement and should be attached to it.
Before starting your search, you should list – by order of importance – the criteria that are relevant for you and will influence your choice – for example:
• type of accommodation (apartment/house), number of rooms, surface, etc.
• location (close to work or to the childrens’ school, type of neighbourhood);
• availability of connections by public transportation;
• price range;
If you decide to handle your house hunting yourself (not using the services of an intermediary), read the information available carefully. When you make an appointment, make sure you show up (or cancel in advance if you are not able to make it).
Do not sign any agreement or pay any rent before having visited the property, being definitively interested and having agreed all conditions with the landlord or his representative.
In the Netherlands, a verbal agreement is binding once parties agree on the conditions. Do not commit yourself verbally but make a written proposal to the landlord or his representative. This will avoid any misunderstanding. Upon reaching an agreement with the landlord or his representative, ask for a written confirmation while waiting for the tenancy agreement to be drawn up.
Be aware that the asking prices are always negotiable. It is worth negotiating the price with the landlord or his representative. As part of the negotiations you may ask also for works to be done in the premises (refreshing the wall paints, replacing old carpets, etc) and/or additional appliances or furniture to be provided by the owner.
On entry into the accommodation (hand-over of the keys), a condition report should be drawn up in your presence by the landlord or his representative. This condition report has to be signed by both parties. If an inventory list is supplied too, do check that you have been provided with all the items listed. You have one month time to report the malfunction of electric appliances to the property manager.
Buying goods from the previous tenant: many tenants make improvements to the property at their own expenses, such as fixed modifications to the premises (fixed masonry or carpentry works as plastering, new shower…) or purchase new fixtures and furniture. The tenant must always ask for the permission of the landlord before bringing important fixed modifications to the premises. The landlord may give his permission under the condition that when leaving the tenant returns the premises to their original state.
When moving out of the premises, a departing tenant might ask the new one for payment for these improvements. This is only allowed for movable goods (such as floor covering in an unfurnished accommodation, curtains, carpets, etc…). The costs for taking over these items are called in Dutch ‘overnamekosten’; their amount must be reasonable. There is no obligation for the new tenant to purchase any item from the departing tenant.
Key fee: some landlords request tenants to pay a fee before they may move into the property. Departing tenants might also request for such a payment, sometimes in relation with ‘overnamekosten’ whereas they do not offer any good in return. This practice is called the key fee (in Dutch ‘sleutelgeld’). Charging key money to tenants is not allowed.
Local taxes: tenants are charged by local authorities with certain taxes, i.e. garbage collection tax, water surface pollution tax, environmental pollution tax, etc. Staff members of international organisations, consular posts or diplomatic missions should check with their respective protocol officer whether they may be entitled to local tax exemptions.
Insurances: it is advisable for a tenant to take out a household content insurance (in Dutch ‘inboedelverzekering’ which covers damage to his household goods (furniture and personal belongings) caused by fire, burglary, explosion, storms, water, and various other factors. The sum insured will usually be subject to average; it is important that the tenant checks on a yearly basis whether the sum insured is up-to-date.
In the case of fully furnished rented properties, the owners are in principle to take out the residential premises insurance and the household content insurance.
Still it is advisable that tenants take out a household content insurance to cover their personal belongings.
Usually the deposit sits on the account of the landlord for the duration of the lease (without interest). Before a tenant vacates premises, it is necessary that an inspection of the premises takes place with the landlord or his representative. It is important that the tenant is present at this inspection.
It is even advisable for a tenant to ask the landlord or his representative for a pre-inspection allowing the tenant to be aware of the eventual works to be done prior to the final check-out inspection. If there are deductions (for repair or cleaning outside the normal wear and tear) to be made against the tenant’s deposit, this should be noted in the inspection report which should be signed by both parties.
The deposit amount or its balance should be returned within 1 to 2 months by the landlord.
Regarding the rental price be aware of the following: The rental price of properties with a net monthly rent up to €652,52 (maximum for dwellings in the public sector) is limited by the Dutch law. The maximum rental price applicable for a property can be determined with the house valuation system (in Dutch ‘woningwaarderingsstelsel’). It is a rating system that expresses the quality of an independent property in points; points are given on the basis of a number of criteria (condition, size, location and facilities of a property). The total number of points indicates the maximum rental price applicable for the property concerned. It allows a tenant to check whether the rental price is reasonable in proportion to the quality of the property.
If your net rent would be higher than the maximum rent according to the points system, you may request to have it reduced by the tenancy court (‘huurcommissie). A re-evaluation process has to be started within the first 6 months of the rental agreement.
The house valuation system does not apply in principle to dwellings from the ‘free’ private sector with a number of points above 141.
The necessary information about the house valuation system can be found on the website of the Ministry of Housing.