Househunting in Amsterdam
Of course, Amsterdam has numerous legitimate letting agents. Unfortunately, as can happen in any major city, housing scammers may be active, targeting expats in particular. It’s always a good idea to rent through agencies that are members of the MVA, the professional association for estate agents active in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, or the NVM, the country-wide association. If you live in Amsterdam and have any questions about rental housing, you can contact the Wijksteunpunt Wonen (WSW), a contact point for information relating to tenants and people looking for housing, in your area. Their advice is confidential and free of charge. If you do fall victim to a scam, immediately contact the police and press charges.
Find more information about rental housing in Amsterdam here, and follow the below tips to protect yourself against scams in the Dutch rental market.
Searching for rental housing in Amsterdam
Does the offer sound too good to be true? Then it probably is. Cheap rental accommodation on, for example, a grand canal in the city centre is extremely rare. Be extra alert if you are being offered a deal that seems too good to be true. If something about it makes you feel uncomfortable, if things don’t seem quite right, trust your instinct and be extra cautious.
Rental ads on Facebook, Marktplaats.nl, Craigslist or similar websites aren’t always trustworthy, and many of the apartments on offer are illegal sublets. You could end up paying lots of money but still being evicted or even fined.
Contact with landlords or agencies
Don’t do business with landlords or agencies who only have an email address, a mobile phone number and/or a Facebook page. Ask for more information to establish who you are dealing with, such as an actual business address or residential address. Ask for proof of ID, check it, do online research about the person or company. Be aware that ID copies sent via email can be fakes. This often occurs in combination with requests to transfer money via Western Union.
Don’t allow yourself to be pressured. Scammers are often in a hurry. They will push you to quickly sign the lease, claiming there are many other interested parties, that they need to leave the country or other excuses. Demand enough time to properly assess the situation, the apartment and the contract.
Evaluating the property
Check who owns the apartment via the Kadaster property register. If you live in Amsterdam and need assistance with this, the WSW’s Meldpunt Ongewenst Verhuurgedrag can help. If you find out that the owner is a different person from the prospective landlord, ask for an explanation, and if necessary ask for a written authorisation confirming that the landlord or agency are acting on the owner’s behalf.
Always ask if you can register with the municipality at the address (inschrijven). If the answer is no, that’s a red flag. The apartment might be an illegal sublet, a tax scam or some other scam. Also be aware that you are legally obliged to register at the correct address in Amsterdam and risk having to pay a fine if you fail to do so.
If possible, talk to the neighbours. Do they know the apartment? Do they know who lives there? Any extra information can help you assess whether the person offering the apartment can be trusted.
Be extra careful about renting an apartment you haven’t seen. If you’re not in the country yet, can you ask someone – for example a colleague, friend or classmate – to view the apartment for you?
Fees and financial transactions
Before you hand over large sums of money, check the apartment and make sure the keys work. If you can’t do this yourself, again, see if you can ask someone else to help. Be aware that even this is no guarantee for a legitimate rental – but it definitely improves your chances!
Scammers sometimes ask for various fees in addition to a deposit. Deposits are legal, but many other fees, such as agency fees, disproportionally high administration fees or contract fees are not. If you have paid a fee that was raised illegally, you may have it refunded: if you live in Amsterdam, the WSW can help you with reclaiming such fees.
Ideally, pay via bank transfer. Demands for other types of payment, such as Western Union transfers or cash payments (especially without receipts), are another red flag. If you do have to pay cash, make sure you get a signed receipt. Have witnesses present when you make cash payments. Send confirmation emails to the landlord or the agency. Use your phone to record the conversation during your cash payment: try to clearly state the amount, the reason you are paying (“this is September’s rent”), name the apartment’s address and the recipient. In general, build a file. Keep screenshots of the rental ad and keep all emails.