Questions to ask: Moving to Amsterdam

When you first relocate to Amsterdam, many legal questions may arise. What is typical of Dutch contracts? What is the governing law of the employment contract, and are there any specific Dutch rules that might apply to a ‘foreign employment contract’? Where can I apply for permits or deal with other governmental issues? And, of course, where will you live: should you lease or buy a house and how does that work?  

Learn about Dutch real estate contracts

Dutch contracts are concise when compared to common law contracts as basic rules are codified in laws, acts and regulations; as such, these rules do not have to be repeated in the contract. Moreover, the meaning of a Dutch contract is not only in its wording, but also in its intentions, expectations and the behaviour of the parties involved. To minimise conflicts, it is important to clearly record these in the contract.

Buying vs. renting in Amsterdam

Buying is a long-term investment, and prices for housing in Amsterdam are rising. At the moment, buying is an attractive investment if the house, apartment or office suits your needs for a number of years.

Leasing offers more flexibility. This can be useful in case of a short stay or fluctuating needs with respect to space. A young expat couple’s housing needs, for example, changes if their family grows. And the same goes for a new business that may grow over the years. Office space will be abundantly available in the years to come, and those in search of a (common) office space should be able to negotiate competitive lease conditions. Another advantage of leasing may be that renters usually only need to perform small daily maintenance activities.

It is important to verify in advance whether your purposes for the premises correspond with the zoning plan — houses may not be used as an office, for example — or if municipal permits are required. Changes to the building that have an effect on the appearance of the premises, such as sandblasting, painting the facade or replacing single-glazed windows into double-glazed, require a permit, especially if the premises are a registered monument or part of a conservation area.

Buying real estate in Amsterdam

For buyers, it is important to do as much research as possible into the state of the premises — look for defects and gather all the permits — as well as its designated use according to the municipal zoning plan. The seller can only be held accountable for hidden defects that they should have been aware of if those defects prevent the normal use of the premises, e.g. foundations affected by woodworm or seriously polluted soil.

For the purchase of real estate, a written deed of purchase is usually used. A separate notarial deed of transfer is required for the transfer of ownership, which has to be registered in the land register. After that, the buyer will become the owner and the premises are safe from seizure by a creditor of the seller.

Renting real estate in Amsterdam

When renting premises, tenants are allowed to make only minor changes to leased premises without prior approval from the landlord, e.g. painting the interior. Major changes, such as removing walls or extending the premises, require the landlord’s approval, which can be superseded by the District Court’s permission. Therefore, it is wise to check in advance whether major changes have to be carried out. If both the location and rent are attractive, it is worth considering asking the landlord whether he would permit major reconstruction. As mentioned, a municipal permit may also be required.

When property is leased, a deposit must often be paid. If the tenant returns the leased property without defects to the landlord, the tenant is refunded the deposit. Therefore, the condition of the property has to be carefully documented (with photos) at the beginning and at the end of the lease. The renter should be present on both occasions.

Office space is usually leased for a definite period of time. A fixed-term lease will be terminated by operation of law, but the tenant must receive an eviction notice. The lease of office space for an indefinite term can formally be terminated one month ahead.

Housing accommodation is usually leased for an indefinite term. However, it is also possible to rent for a fixed term — for example, for those that will reside in the Netherlands for a short period of time. This must be laid out in the lease agreement. Renters of housing accommodation enjoy a lot of protection, and it is difficult for the landlord to evict them from their lodgings.