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Accommodation in the Netherlands

Renting

There are two type of rental accommodation offered in the Netherlands — one by private landlords and the other through the country’s social housing system. Social housing is significantly cheaper, but comes with a number of conditions attached.

To give a rough idea of what to expect in terms of private housing, a one-bedroom apartment in the centre of The Hague might cost somewhere in the region of €775 (excluding charges). The same apartment outside the centre could cost €620. For a three-bedroom apartment, you’d be looking in the region of between €1,000 (outside the city centre) and €1,400 (within the city centre).

Accommodation tends to be slightly cheaper in other areas of the Netherlands, apart from Amsterdam, where prices are even higher.

You can rent accommodation from a private individual or from an estate agent.

Estate agents will typically show you properties for free, until you find one that you want. When you decide to take a property, you will usually be asked to pay a month’s rent to the estate agent as a finding fee. In some fairly rare cases this fee may be paid by the landlord.

Some agencies, primarily targeted at expats, also charge a registration fee in order to help you find a property.

Estate agencies will not generally show you a property on the same day you ask for an appointment. Most of the time you will be given an appointment two or three days later, depending on how busy they are.

If you like the place that you have viewed, don’t forget to let the estate agent know as soon as you can. The best places go within hours of being put on the market. Remember, once you have signed the contract, you still have three working days to change your mind.

You can always look for a property on your own as well.

Pay attention to the number of kamers (rooms) when looking for accommodation in the Netherlands. The Dutch include every room in their room counts, apart from the kitchen and bathroom. So a three-kamer property may only have two bedrooms.

The tenant has many more rights in the Netherlands than might be the case in other countries — refer to the box on p31 to make sure you are being treated fairly by your landlord.

If you are not sure how long you will be in the Netherlands, you can ask for a ‘diplomatic clause’ (diplomatenclausule) to be included in your contract. This clause — which isn’t, despite the name, just for diplomats — states that, should a tenant be relocated for work purposes more than 50 km away, the tenant is allowed to terminate the contract prematurely, providing two months’ notice is given. Nota bene, though, that the diplomatic clause works both ways — it also gives the lessor the right to terminate the agreement and reoccupy the property early.

A fixed-term contract will continue automatically — under what is known as a ‘silent agreement’ (stilzwijgende) — unless other provisions are made. So make sure that you give written notice to your landlord in advance of the end of contract, or you could face further unexpected rental charges.

You should carefully check the inventory when you move into a new rental property. Note any wear-and-tear that has not already been recorded. By law, you must return the place in the same condition in which you found it. Landlords can be unscrupulous in trying to charge you extra when you leave. Making a careful note of the condition of everything when you move in is a good first line of defence.

If you are on a low income, you can apply to stay in social housing, although there is a long waiting list for this (in some cases, as much as 10 years!) Expect to pay between €250 and €450 a month for a decent apartment.

The third type of housing is accommodation managed by a private letting firm on behalf of a client, who is usually overseas. This offers an incredibly cheap way of staying in some really nice places.

Buying

If you are planning to live in the Netherlands for some length of time, it might be worth buying a property rather than renting one. The general rule of thumb is that you should own a property for at least three years before selling it on. Any less and you may lose money because of the buying and selling fees.

One particular incentive for purchasing a house is that the interest from any mortgage is fully tax-deductible, although of course this is only an advantage to Dutch taxpayers. There is constant speculation that, in this age of austerity, the Dutch government may decide to lessen the tax benefit for mortgage-holders. However, the system currently proves too popular among Dutch voters for the government to make any overt movements in this direction.

Many mortgage providers will include a clause that says you cannot rent out the property without their permission. The logic behind this is that, if you cannot keep up repayments on the mortgage, the bank wants to be able to repossess the house without dealing with difficult tenants. Breaching this clause, if it exists within the terms of your mortgage, could land you in court.

A makelaar can help with your property search. Fees vary. Makelaars either ask for a fixed or monthly fee, or a fee based on a percentage of the price of the house that you end up buying (typically between 1% and 2%). There may be other clauses in the makelaar’s contract — such as a limit on the number of houses that they have to find for you each month — so check well.

The alternative to using a makelaar is to simply rely on viewings through individual estate agents. If you are shown a house that you like, then you can make an offer through the estate agent and they will negotiate on your behalf with the owner of the property. Remember, though, that the estate agent generally represents the seller’s — rather than the buyer’s — interests, since it is the seller who pays the fees. For this reason, it is in the interests of the estate agent to get the highest price possible.

When you buy a property, you will have to pay a standard transfer tax. The government temporarily reduced this rate from 6% to 2% in June 2011, in order to stimulate the housing sector.

Dutch law requires a notary to be hired in order to perform the property registration process. Legal fees are negotiable, but usually work out at around 1% to 2% of the total property value, and includes the fees that you must pay for the deed of transfer.



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