Can Covid-19 be a ground for terminating a rental contract prematurely on my behalf?

In the absence of court judgments on the matter, there is no certain answer. Based on general legal considerations, it is possible to say that Covid-19 could be considered force majeure for dissolving a rental contract prematurely, but only if the pandemic, which is an unexpected event beyond human control, has made it impossible to fulfil contractual obligations such as, for example, the payment of rent.

Whether the fulfilment of contractual obligations has become impossible, and due to Covid-19, needs to be established on the circumstances of each case.

Lawyers point out that the fact that performing contractual obligations, such as paying the rent, has become more costly or difficult because of coronavirus is not reason enough to invoke force majeure.

The landlord is selling the property. I am in the “high-risk” category for contracting the virus. What legal rights do I have to stop the landlord and others from coming into our home?

In the event of sale, the obligations of the tenant with regards to property viewings may be stated in the general terms and conditions of the lease contract. A mutual agreement with your landlord due to Covid-19 is possible. In case of not getting an agreement, we recommend seeking professional advice or get legal guidance. A number of organisations can assist you concerning disputes with your landlord.

For additional information:

access-nl.org/relocating-to-netherlands/legal-matters/.

Can I be evicted if I lose my job?

No one can be thrown out of their home during the Covid-19 pandemic, except in case of criminal activity or extreme nuisance.

Temporarily, tenants who have lost their income and are unable to pay the rent cannot be evicted. For tenants with permanent rental contracts, a judge’s permission is needed. If your landlord still wants to evict you, it is best to get in touch with a lawyer at the public legal advisory service Het Juridisch Loket or the Legal Expat Desk.

Losing a job is not a basis for eviction, but not paying the rent is. If you no longer have an income and have no financial resources to continue paying the rent, you need to try reaching an agreement with the landlord about a mutually acceptable arrangement until you find employment or other sources of income.

You are expected to actively look for a solution that will enable you to take care of your needs and fulfill your obligations, like paying the rent. You should check to see if you qualify for unemployment benefits while looking for a job. If you receive the benefits, you may be able to pay the rent at least partially until you find work again.

If you do not qualify for unemployment benefits, financial and other forms of support are available through municipal social services. Information about types of support and conditions can be found on municipal websites.

The following FAQs on our website regarding social benefits, unemployment, and housing may also be of interest to you:

access-nl.org/relocating-to-netherlands/dutch-social-security-benefits/

access-nl.org/dual-careers-netherlands/working/unemployment-netherlands/

access-nl.org/housing-netherlands/

 

What should I do if my temporary lease ends due to Covid-19?

You can ask for an extension of up to three months and maybe longer. Under emergency legislation enacted due to the Covid-19 pandemic, rental contracts (leases) can be extended for three months, until 1 September 2020 at the most, and potentially another three months.

The Emergency Act applies to temporary rental agreements of fewer than two years for regular living space and five years for room rental. It relates to the rental period that expires between 31 March 2020 and 1 July 2020.

The landlord can terminate a temporary rental contract by informing the tenant in writing one to three months before the end date. The tenant also has the right to terminate the contract prematurely.

Under the Emergency Act, there are several possibilities, depending on when the landlord informs the tenant:

  • If the landlord had informed the tenant before 12 March 2020, the lease can only be extended if the landlord and tenant agree in writing. The extension can be for one to three months, at the latest until 1 September 2020. If the parties cannot agree, the original end date applies.
  • If the landlord informed the tenant in the legally prescribed manner after the Emergency Act came into effect, he must also inform the tenant about the possibility of extension under the Emergency Act. Within one week of the landlord’s notification, the tenant can request an extension of the contract in writing for one to three months, maximum until 1 September 2020.

The landlord has one week to refuse the request, but only for the following reasons. The landlord:

  • has sold the property to a third party and has undertaken to transfer the property to a third party free of rent and use
  • has re-rented the property and the lease commences
  • wants to live in the property himself and no longer has any other accommodation
  • wants to renovate the property, which is not possible without termination of the rental, and has undertaken with third parties to make the house available for rental and use
  • wants to demolish the property and has undertaken with third parties to make the house available for rental and use for that purpose on a date that is before the expiry of the extension requested by the tenant and the landlord has entered into the obligation before 1 April 2020.

The landlord can also refuse the request for an extension if the tenant has not behaved as a good tenant.

The emergency law provides for the possibility of extending rental contracts after 1 September 2020 so that already extended contracts can be extended once more.

Source:

www.gmw.nl/en/temporary-law-to-extend-fixed-term-leases-a-solution-for-landlords-and-tenants-during-the-corona-pandemic/

Additional information about legal matters and housing:

access-nl.org/relocating-to-netherlands/legal-matters/

access-nl.org/housing-netherlands/

Can you tell me if there is any financial support for freelancers due to lost income caused by Covid-19?

The Dutch government has set up schemes that can help organisations and self-employed people during this pandemic. For an overview of the measures, consult:

business.gov.nl/corona-dutch-government-measures-overview/ and

www.kvk.nl/corona/het-coronavirus-check-hier-je-regelingen/ (both websites are in Dutch).

The three schemes most relevant to freelancers are:

  • Tozo (Temporary bridging measure for self-employed professionals): This loan is intended for self-employed professionals (such as entrepreneurs, including self-employed persons). If you meet the conditions, you will be able to apply for a temporary benefit to bridge the loss of income from 1 March 2020 onwards in the municipality where you live. If you meet the conditions, you can request support through your municipality for additional living and/or working capital benefits. The living allowance supplements income for up to three months to the social minimum if your total income has fallen below the assistance level as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Depending on your income and household situation, this can amount to a maximum of €1,500 (net). There is no capital or partner test, and you do not have to repay the income support for living costs later. You can apply for a working capital loan up to a maximum of €10,157 to solve liquidity problems. You can go to your municipality website for your application via a digital application form. This concerns the residential municipality, not the municipality where your company is located. Some municipalities use a separate organisation for implementation.
  • TOGS (The Entrepreneur Affected Sectors Allowance Covid-19): This scheme is a one-off payment of €4,000 (tax free). For more information and to apply, please follow this link: www.rvo.nl/subsidie-en-financieringswijzer/tegemoetkoming-schade-covid-19 (in Dutch). The allowance is intended for small and medium enterprises (with and without personnel) which suffer damage due to forced closure, limited meetings and/or restricted travel. You are eligible if you meet the conditions and the main activity of your company corresponds to one of the SBI codes specified in the scheme. The allowance is provided per company, not per location. To claim this scheme, the company must have been founded and registered with the Chamber of Commerce as of 15 March 2020. If you meet the criteria, you can submit an application at RVO. RVO approves your application within three weeks, after which you are paid. You have three months for your application. You can find more information about which entrepreneurs are eligible on RVO.nl.
  • TVL (The Reimbursement Fixed Costs for SMEs): This scheme helps SMEs with a maximum of 250 employees to pay part of their fixed costs. It is a compensation for fixed costs like rent and maintenance, for businesses with more than 30% turnover loss due to the corona crisis, and with one of the selected SBI codes (the same ones that are eligible for TOGS): business.gov.nl/subsidy/corona-reimbursement-fixed-costs-smes/.

For more information about these measures, consult the following sites (some of them are only in Dutch):

business.gov.nl/subsidy/temporary-bridging-measure-self-employed-professionals-tozo/

english.rvo.nl/subsidies-programmes/reimbursement-economic-loss-due-covid-19

www.kvk.nl/corona/tozo-inkomensondersteuning-en-leningen/

www.kvk.nl/corona/zzper-en-corona-dit-zijn-je-opties/

www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/zelfstandigen-zonder-personeel-zzp/extra-tijdelijke-ondersteuning-voor-zzp-ers

www.kvk.nl/corona/togs-4000-euro-voor-direct-getroffen-ondernemers/

At this time of the Covid-19 pandemic, I would like to help in any way possible. Are there any volunteering opportunities?

There are volunteering possibilities even during the Covid-19 limitations and restrictions. It is best to look on the Internet and social media, in particular for initiatives in one’s own area and neighbourhood.

Some organisations, like the Red Cross, are looking for volunteers. Existing and new volunteer platforms offer information where volunteers are needed and ideas about how to offer help. Most of the websites listed below are in Dutch.

Websites:

The Red Cross needs volunteers in times of Covid-19.  You should check in your region whether you can volunteer as an English speaker. In The Hague region, with its large community of internationals, English and other non-Dutch speakers are welcome. The volunteers can spread information about Covid-19, help people in quarantine and perform other tasks.

www.rodekruis.nl/den-haag-rijswijk/vacatures/vrijwillgers-gezocht-hulpverlening-tijdens-corona-uitbraak/

Those who would like to volunteer at the Red Cross can register at ready2help.rodekruis.nl/ or send an email in English to: Ready2Help@redcross.

Extra handen voor zorg connects former health professionals with organisations in need:
www.zorgwelzijn.nl/corona-update-heel-nederland-wordt-vrijwilliger/

NL voor elkaar, the biggest Dutch volunteer platform, has a ‘hulp’ initiative:
https://www.nlvoorelkaar.nl/hulpaanbod/.

Coronahelpers provides information about Covid-19 help by province. It enables matching those who are willing to help with those needing help. You can fill in the form to offer your services in the city of your choice: https://www.coronahelpers.nl/.

Gewoon mensen die mensen willen helpen is a smaller platform for volunteering opportunities close to home (by postcode). Those who need help and those offering help come together through posts on the platform: www.gewoonmensen.nl/ik-wil-helpen.

Vereniging Nederlandse Organisaties Vrijwilligerswerk (The Dutch Association of Volunteer Organisations) oversees all voluntary work in the country. It has an overview of all regional volunteer centres (vrijwilligerscentrale) in the Netherlands.
www.nov.nl/default.aspx.

Vrijwilligerswerk.nl enables searches for volunteering by region and on nationwide websites: vrijwilligerswerk.nl/zoekvrijwilligerswerk/default.aspx.

The Amsterdam Volunteer Centre has Covid-19 help information: www.vca.nu/coronahulp/.

Handjehelpen: (for The Hague) www.handjehelpen.nl/vrijwilligers/helpen-tijdens-corona.

Volunteer The Hague: volunteerthehague.nl/home

For general information on volunteering in The Netherlands:

access-nl.org/dual-careers-netherlands/volunteering-netherlands/.

I am on a highly skilled migrant visa and due to the current Covid-19 situation, my contract has been terminated. What is the situation with my residence permit if I can’t find a job within 3 months?

Holders of highly skilled migrant residence permits need to leave the country if they do not find a job within three months of becoming unemployed and cannot reside in the country on another basis. The job search period starts on the day the employment contract was terminated, not on the last day of actual work.

Overstaying a residence permit means being in the country illegally, which could have consequences for any future request for residency.

Those who no longer have the right to stay but are unable to leave the country due to Covid-19 travel restrictions need to ask for an extension of their residence document. If that is not possible, the government announced that it will be less strict in controlling people staying longer than is allowed. They are, however, expected to try to go back to their countries. For help in returning home they should contact their embassy or consulate in the Netherlands.

For general background information, please check our FAQ section on legal matters concerning immigration:

access-nl.org/relocating-to-netherlands/legal-matters/immigration-to-netherlands/.

I have recently moved to the Netherlands and I don’t have a BSN number. Is it possible to have health insurance without a BSN number?

It is not possible to obtain Dutch health insurance without a burgerservicenummer (BSN – citizen service number).

If you are coming to stay in the Netherlands for more than four months, you are required to have a BSN. It is required for starting a job in the Netherlands, opening a bank account, using the health care system, applying for benefits, etc. When you are legally living or working in the Netherlands for longer than four months, it is compulsory to get Dutch health insurance, the so-called basisverzekering (basic insurance).

If you are temporarily residing in the Netherlands (fewer than four months), you are not obliged to take out Dutch health insurance. If you do not have a BSN, you are not registered in the Netherlands, but if you still would like to take out Dutch health insurance, you will need to apply at the Social Security Office (Sociale Verzekeringbank – SVB). If you are working, it is likely that the request will not be accepted. In that case, you should make sure to extend the international or travel insurance from your home country.

If you have further questions, contact the SVB on 020 656 4848.

For more information related to your first three months in the Netherlands:

access-nl.org/relocating-to-netherlands/first-three-months/formalities/

Our family is relocating to the Netherlands. How do we register during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Due to Covid-19, the municipalities and other administrative offices in the Netherlands have restricted their services to emergencies. It may take longer to receive an answer by mail or phone. You can visit a municipality office only if you have an appointment; walk-in hours are not available.

For non-EU citizens, a BSN (Burgerservicenummer – Citizen Service Number) can only be issued after your residence permit has been approved by the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND). Please note that during the Covid-19 pandemic, the IND will only schedule an appointment for collecting your first residence permit (card).

For more information related to registration, check:

access-nl.org/relocating-to-netherlands/first-three-months/formalities/

I recently arrived in the Netherlands just as the many restrictions started. I have tried to register with several doctors and have been unsuccessful. What can I do?

Registering with a general practitioner (huisarts) is advisable but not required. Registering may be complicated as many practices may be full. Together with health insurers, health care providers and patient organisations, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (Ministerie van VWS) ensures that there are sufficient facilities and that people have sufficient choices. However, you must find your own doctor.

To search for a local doctor, check the ZorgkaartNederland website (in Dutch) and enter your postcode. For more information you can contact your health insurer or your municipality.

For more general information about relocating to the Netherlands, specifically the formalities needed for your first three months of stay:

access-nl.org/relocating-to-netherlands/

I received a letter to collect my updated residence card. I went to the office and it was closed. How can I collect the residence card during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the IND offices have limited appointments available. At present, the IND will contact clients in order to schedule an appointment. The IND will only schedule an appointment for collecting your first residence permit (card).

This is in case you have received a positive decision on:

  • your application for a first residence permit and you have entered the Netherlands with a provisional residence permit (mvv), or
  • your application for a first residence permit, you have entered the Netherlands without a provisional residence permit (mvv) and the IND has already taken your biometrics (fingerprints, passport photo and signature), or
  • your application for a first residence permit for asylum, or
  • your application for a first residence permit for asylum for your family members (family reunification, journey to join an asylum seeker).

In the instances above, the IND will call you to schedule an appointment. You can only contact the IND yourself in order to provide biometrics after you have received a positive decision on your application for a first residence permit and you have entered the Netherlands without a provisional residence permit (mvv).

Until further notice, it is not possible to schedule an appointment for any other services or products. In case of emergencies, you can call the IND information line at 088 043 04 30 (Monday-Friday, 9:00-17:00). More information about IND operations during the Covid-19 pandemic is available on the IND website: ind.nl/en/pages/coronavirus.aspx

For more information related to the residence card:

access-nl.org/relocating-to-netherlands/legal-matters/immigration-to-netherlands/

I’m leaving the Netherlands and I cannot visit the town hall in person. How do I de-register during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Deregistration options can vary by municipality. For example, in The Hague you can deregister in person or via post, whereas in Amsterdam you also have the option to deregister using your DigiD.  Therefore, depending on your municipality, you may deregister in one of three ways:

  • In person at the municipality in which you live: Please note that due to Covid-19, procedures may differ from normal. Municipalities are open by appointment only; therefore you need to ensure you book an appointment online or by telephone. Please bring your passport or country ID card with you. You will receive a printed confirmation of deregistration from the municipality.
  • Online: Report your move and deregister online using your DigiD. Follow the Dutch instructions for reporting your move.
  • By post: By sending a deregistration notification to the municipality in which you live. Please download the deregistration form of your municipality, fill it in and send it to the gemeente address of the municipality where you were registered. For your information, you can only deregister by post when all the members of a family at one address are moving abroad together. If this is not the case, then everyone who is leaving the Netherlands (including minors) must appear in person at the department’s counter to deregister.

If you have a Dutch residence permit and are leaving the country on a permanent basis, then you must return your residence permit as it is a property of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. You can send it by post to the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (Immigratie- en Naturalisatiedienst – IND):

IND Bureau Documenten

P.O. Box 7025

8007 HA Zwolle

Before mailing the document, you must make it invalid by making a cut in the document or perforating it. Do not cut the document in half. It is also possible to hand in your residence document at the IND desk in your region. Please call the IND 088 043 04 30 (Monday-Friday, 9:00-17:00) to make an appointment.

For more information related to deregistering, check:

access-nl.org/leaving-the-netherlands/deregistration/