House hunting in the Amsterdam
Of course there are many legitimate letting agents in Amsterdam, but unfortunately, as can happen in any major city, there are also quite a few scammers, targeting expats in particular. Generally it is safer to rent through agencies that are members of established realtors’ organisations like the MVA or the NVM (in Dutch) rather than agencies without this association. If you live in Amsterdam and have any questions about rental housing you can contact the !Woon agency in your area, a contact point for information relating to tenants and people looking for housing. Their advice is confidential and free of charge.
Find more information about rental housing in Amsterdam here, and follow the tips below to protect yourself against scams in the Dutch rental market.
Searching for rental housing in the Amsterdam Area
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.
Be wary of landlords who only offer an email address, a mobile phone number or a Facebook page. Ask for more information to establish who you are dealing with, such as an actual business address, residential address or proof of ID. Be aware that copies of ID sent via email are easily faked. This often occurs in combination with requests to transfer money via Western Union.
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.
Evaluating the property
Check who owns the apartment via the Kadaster property register. If you live in Amsterdam and need assistance with this, !Woon 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.
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?
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.
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.
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 !Woon agency can help you reclaim such unjust 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.
If you do fall victim to a housing scam, immediately contact the police and press charges. Best of luck with finding a great place to live in Amsterdam.