Service costs (service kosten) are housing costs not covered by the basic rent. Such costs can include furniture, fixings, gas, water and/or electricity. Landlords must follow the housing laws with regards to the amount of service costs they can legally charge.
Unfortunately many tenants are overcharged for such items. !Woon (a tenant support agency funded by the Amsterdam council) come across many cases where expat tenants are being grossly overcharged, especially on furnishings, often by many hundreds of euros per month. If you have any concerns or questions about these costs and live in Amsterdam you should contact the !Woon office in your neighbourhood. They can offer confidential assistance, free of charge.
Other things to look out for
There are several other issues concerning additional housing costs to be on the look out for. They are:
All-in-price: The lease should clearly differentiate between the basic rent (kale huur or netto huur) and the service costs (service kosten). If this differentiation is not clear and one unspecified sum is mentioned, the lease is considered an “all in” contract. These contracts are not legal and the rent can therefore be significantly lowered.
Advance payments: Service costs for items such as utilities (gas, water and electricity), furnishings, cleaning costs and administrative costs are legally considered as advance payments. This means that, at the end of each year, these advance payments should be balanced with the actual costs (and provided to the tenant). If the landlord and the tenant disagree about the amounts, they can present their case to the Huurcommissie (tenancy tribunal) or the Kantonrechter (district court) at any time and the payments may be lowered if necessary .
Final calculation: At the end of each year the landlord must provide an annual final calculation (eindafrekening). This should include an itemised list of the actual costs and the advance payments made by the tenant. Every item, like electricity, gas, furnishing, cleaning etc. must be clearly listed. Costs and payments are then balanced. Sometimes the tenant will need to pay extra but sometimes they will get money back.
Terms and deadlines: Monthly advance payments can be legally challenged at any time. The deadline for the final calculation of service costs (such as furnishings) is 1 July of the following year. For example, the final calculation for 2012 should be provided before 1 July 2013. The landlord cannot raise the monthly service cost until the tenant has received this calculation. Service costs can only be disputed up until two years after the calculation deadline. After this date the service cost payments can no longer be disputed.
For more information please contact one of the organisations :
Tenancy tribunal (Dutch)
Information for tenants (Dutch)