What are unjust agency fees?
According to Dutch law, letting agencies cannot represent both the landlord and the tenant at the same time because of their conflicting interests: landlords prefer higher rents, tenants prefer lower rents. If tenants respond to an ad on the internet then the agency that placed that ad is already representing the landlord. The law has always been clear about this, as has the government. However, the practice continued because expat tenants didn't know it was illegal and agencies refused to rent to tenants who didn't want to pay these fees.
!Woon decided to address the problem, and with their support some expat tenants were willing to take legal action. The tenants in question won their refunds, and their verdicts made for even stronger legal jurisprudence. More publicity and political pressure were generated, and the ACM national consumer agency proclaimed that charging unjust agency fees is a dishonest business practice for which the ACM can prosecute and impose fines. Many tenants have since successfully claimed refunds on unjust agency fees
Are you entitled to a refund on illegal fees?
In October of 2015 the High Court (Hoge Raad) issued a very clear verdict: if the agency is representing the landlord (which is almost always the case) tenants are not obliged to pay commission, agency fees, contract-costs, or whatever those cost might be called. If tenants have been unjustly charged they can demand a refund.
Currently, most agencies no longer charge a full month's rent, and no longer refer to so-called "agency fees", "courtage", or "bemiddelingskosten". They usually now charge around €300 - €400 in so-called "contract fees" or similar. This is still not legal, but it is a lot less likely tenants will start court procedures over these relatively smaller sums.
!Woon have published this how-to guide to help expats claim refunds on agency fees. Refunds can be claimed for up to five years, so in order to avoid claims from former tenants some agencies stopped doing business and some filed for bankruptcy. Many of these agencies then resurfaced under almost identical names, such as Perfect Housing and Domica. If tenants are still unjustly charged agency fees (whatever these fees might be called) and want help getting a refund, they can contact the !Woon agencies listed in the !Woon guide on how to reclaim unjust agency fees.
More about !Woon
There are many rules and regulations protecting tenants’ rights in the Netherlands. !Woon, funded by the City of Amsterdam, can advise expats on these rights, and provide free, comprehensive information regarding renting a property in Amsterdam. Find out more about !Woon.