Finding a home
2019-07-24 | By Anuja Tipnis-Randive
While the Netherlands has always welcomed internationals with open arms, one downside is an increased demand for real estate. Finding accommodation is a major challenge for internationals, but with the correct research, advice and general awareness it can be a smooth process.
Upon arrival in the Netherlands, internationals often opt for renting a property, and if subsequently they decide to stay for a longer term, many purchase their own property. Very often, property-owning internationals rent out or sell their home when they leave the Netherlands.
Whether renting or buying, finding a home in a different country involves becoming familiar with new rules, regulations and customs.
While renting accommodation might seem straightforward enough, internationals–particularly tenants–should be aware of their rights regarding regulations imposed by landlords. Disputes between tenants and landlords can be common in the Netherlands, especially when a landlord imposes his/her own rules for staying in a house without tenants being initially aware of their rights.
Dafna Eccles, legal housing advisor for !WOON, gives advice to help tenants avoid getting into conflict with their respective landlords or falling into scams. Her essential points for renting a property are:
- Be aware: Gain knowledge about the legal implications on renting imposed by the government. Bear in mind that legal rules always supercede those made by a landlord. The landlord is not allowed to make his/her own rules as they are not legally binding. Don’t panic, but be cautious and sensible.
- Be clear about the term of the contract: Read the contract properly to understand if it is for a fixed term or is indefinite. If the fixed term contract gets extended, it automatically becomes indefinite. If the contract is in Dutch, ask the landlord for an English version, and you can also take your contract to a !WOON walk-in to have it explained.
- Know your human rights (as per the European treaty): Every individual residing in the country has a right to a family and a right to privacy. A landlord cannot deny a tenant couple having a family or visit the house without the tenant’s permission. It is advisable that a tenant changes the locks after receiving the keys to the property.
- Research the essentials: Conduct research into the area where you are considering living–rent prices and connectivity. A makelaar (licensed estate agent) can help.
- Document everything: Tenants are advised to keep proof of any communications and charges they receive up to and after signing a contract. Keep an inventory of the contents of the property and ask for a pre-inspection of utilities before moving in.
Rental contracts can end automatically–if they are fixed term–and tenants can sometimes be forced to vacate the property. If tenants don’t agree, the landlord might need a court order, but if tenants lose in court they might end up having to vacate anyway in addition to paying legal costs. But this depends on the contract, so the important thing is that tenants check their legal situation before responding to any vacation notice from their landlord.
Over the past few years, many internationals in the Netherlands have bought property, and with rents rising many are taking this more permanent step to finding the right accommodation.
The process of purchasing an apartment or a house might be different in the Netherlands compared to other countries. Here, banks provide a 100% mortgage for the price of the property with no down payment.
The process of buying a property will usually involve a mortgage or financial advisor, a notary and an estate agent. It is always advisable for the buyer to have prior knowledge about the procedures and the cost involved. Buyers should take into account during or after purchasing a property:
- Read and understand all the legal documents carefully, mainly the purchase contract and the transfer deed. It is important that you include a financial clause in the purchase contract which states that you are eligible to break the deal at any time without paying a fee if the mortgage is not approved. If possible, get your contract read by a legal advisor to avoid any surprises.
- If you have bought an apartment, ensure that you know all the conditions of the owners’ association of the building (VvE) and the costs and rules involved.
From the landlord’s perspective
Often property-owning internationals will rent out their property when they move away from the Netherlands. So it’s not just tenants who need to be aware of issues involved; landlords do too.
When renting out a property, the landlord has to abide by the government legal implications and regulations set by the owners’ association.
Landlords should also be aware of regulations about the number of people permitted to be registered at an address (many municipalities have limits on the number of tenants, but not all. These limits might only apply to non-related adults, not to families. Even if there are limits on the number of tenants this can be sorted by getting the correct permit), take an inventory before and after renting, and continue to manage the upkeep of their property.
The main advice to prospective landlords is to check the status of the contracts they are using–fixed-term or indefinite–and if the apartment would be rent controlled. Individual rooms rented out in shared housing are always rent controlled.
Renting or Buying?
As an international away from home, it is mainly a personal and economic decision to buy or rent, but it is wise to get as much information as possible, be aware of details and know essential housing rights to make any process hassle-free. And above all, stay calm!
!WOON is an independent organisation providing free information, legal advice and support regarding renting, housing and tenancy rights.
About the author
Anuja Tipnis-Randive is an expat living in Amstelveen for the past four years, and loves the lush greenery and serene environment of her neighbourhood.