What are your basic housing rights when renting?

Dutch law has many rules that protect your rights as a tenant. There are rules regarding rent control, furnishing and service costs. Housing agencies in the Amsterdam Area must abide by the rules and can be held accountable if you are being charged too much rent. Crucially, a landlord cannot simply evict you from your home. If you do not reach agreement, only a court can terminate the lease.

Of course, not all landlords play by the rules. Especially when there is a shortage of available housing or when international newcomers arrive in the region, some landlords – a small minority – may try to exploit a renter's lack of knowledge. That is why it is important to know your rights and to read a tenancy agreement carefully before signing.

Your tenancy agreement is binding as a legal contract, however in some instances it is possible to re-negotiate the rent with the help of the Rent Tribunal (huurcommissie). For example, if your basic rent is more than the social renting threshold, but according to Dutch law it should be within the threshold for social housing, you can seek assistance from the Rent Tribunal. This must happen within the first six months of your contract. Or perhaps you are being charged unjust agency fees or excessive deposits. When the law is broken, you have the right to challenge the landlord and request refunds where necessary.

For any questions about this and other tenants' rights issues, you can seek free and confidential tenancy advice from !WOON.

What should you keep in mind when signing a rental contract?

  • Deposit and contract expenses: When you rent a home, the landlord can ask you to pay a deposit. Sometimes the landlord also charges contract and administration expenses. Landlords are allowed to ask for a reasonable deposit, but the charging of contract and administration expenses can often be disputed. Usually the deposit amounts to a rent of one or two months. Three months is considered unreasonable. If you have paid too much, you can try to get some money back. In such a situation, you can ask for free legal advice: www.juridischloket.nlLearn more about unjust agency fees in Amsterdam.

  • Buying items from previous tenant (‘overnamekosten’): Many tenants make home improvements at their own expense, such as a new shower, a modern kitchen, central heating, etc. When they move, they often ask the new tenants for a payment to cover the costs. This is only permitted for movable items in the home (e.g. curtains, carpets). The money you pay for items that the previous resident leaves behind is called ‘overnamekosten’ in Dutch. The price must be reasonable. The departing tenant may not charge anything for fixed masonry and carpentry work, such as plastering, a shower, central heating and so on.

  • Key fee (sleutelgeld): It is illegal for landlords to request that a tenant pay a fee before they can move into the home. This is called the 'key fee' (sleutelgeld), and departing tenants also sometimes demand such a payment, either with or without permission from the landlord. This term is also used when the tenant asks for overnamekosten (see above) without offering any goods in return. Essentially it means that you are paying a sum of money just to receive the key, while the other party does nothing in return. Charging key money is not permitted. Do not pay!

What should you consider during rental disputes?

  • Rental price and points system – Each property in the Netherlands has a designated rental value. The rental value of a home is based on a national points system ('woningwaarderingsstelsel'). The number of points is determined by the quality, size, location and facilities of the home. The total number of points indicates the maximum rental price for your home. On the basis of this limit you can determine whether the rental price (e.g. after a rental increase) is reasonable in proportion to the quality of the home. All information about the points system can be found on the site of the Rijksoverheid (Dutch Government).

  • The national Rent Tribunal (Huurcommissie) is the independent government organisation that can rule on disputes between tenants and landlords. But if you have a dispute with the landlord over the rental price, the first step is asking for advice from !WOON. Please note that in the liberalised segment of the housing market (private sector) the Rent Tribunal has no jurisdiction – only a court (kantonrechter) has.

  • Home maintenance – If you rent a home, both you and the landlord have obligations regarding maintenance. The tenant sees to small and day-to-day repairs; the landlord is responsible for major repairs and maintenance. For extensive information please go to the website of the Rent Tribunal or look at:
  • Neighbours – If your neighbours regularly make a lot of noise at night, intimidate or threaten you, or cause some other extreme form of trouble and you have already tried everything to solve the problem, there are various services you can turn to. You should always contact your landlord first. Your landlord may be able to act as a mediator between you and your neighbours. Housing associations have contacts with various services, such as Meldpunt Zorg en Overlast and Stichting Bemiddeling Amsterdam. You can also contact Meldpunten yourself to report the trouble caused by your neighbours.

Do you have more questions about housing?

Drop by or call !WOON for free advice on all rental matters. There are offices in each of the Amsterdam City Districts.