If you have come to the Netherlands temporarily for work and/or to live here, the rules surrounding housing can be different from what you are used to back home.
As there are many private people who rent out their property, there is no real standard for rental properties, but overall the quality of housing in the Netherlands is satisfactory to good; all properties have hot and cold running water, heating (natural gas, electric, or solar) and electricity.
Rental prices vary as well, depending on the location, size and quality of the property and on whether it is close to (international) schools, shopping, and public transport, whereby big cities such as Amsterdam, Utrecht and The Hague offer more choice in rental properties – but are also more expensive than other places. Dutch realtors expect that rental prices will be going up over the years to come, as the sales market for properties is picking up, leaving fewer properties available for rent. Over the past couple of years, many owners rented out their property because they couldn’t sell it, but this is now changing.
Unfurnished/Semi-Furnished; Soft-Furnished/Fully Furnished
Sometimes there is confusion regarding what constitutes unfurnished or furnished property. In the Netherlands, rental houses and apartments are generally unfurnished. This means that you rent the ‘shell’ of a property; no curtains, no lamps, no wall or floor coverings, and a kitchen that has no appliances. When the tenant leaves, he strips the place and returns it to its original state (the state he received it in), unless the new tenant agrees to take over the property, as is, and signs for this.
This way of renting can be very time-consuming and expensive for an expat who will be staying in the Netherlands for a couple of years, as he will either need to do a lot of DIY or he will have to have it done by a handyman – and labor in the Netherlands is expensive! Therefore, most expats rent a property semi-furnished, or soft-furnished. In that case, a property has wall and floor coverings, curtains, (ceiling) lights, a kitchen with appliances, and sometimes even a washer/dryer – and the tenant brings or buys his own furniture.
If you rent a place that is furnished, it will usually be fully furnished – including linen, kitchen equipment, pots and pans, cutlery, plates and glasses, TV, DVD player, towels, bed linens, etc. However, as there is no real standard, always be sure to check beforehand what will be staying, and do not make the mistake of assuming that only because certain items were there when you visited the property, they will still be there when you move in. Usually, an inventory list will be added if a property is furnished.
Fully-serviced apartments (mainly available in the western part of the Netherlands and Eindhoven) are always fully furnished; all you need is your suitcase.
Dutch Housing Vocabulary
If you are looking for unfurnished property on the Dutch rental websites, you should look for gestoffeerd (meaning soft-furnished) instead of ongemeubileerd, and if you are looking for furnished property, for gemeubileerd. If you fail to keep this in mind, you might get the wrong impression of the rental prices, as real unfurnished properties are (much) cheaper.
Social Housing Limit
Rents under € 700 are considered social housing prices, but the housing corporations have waiting lists of several years, and only accept those with a maximum annual income of € 34,678. Most expats will earn more than this.
This also means that expats can’t expect to find a property below € 700 a month.
Rental Expenses Before Handover of Keys
Once you have found a rental property and signed a lease (as there are different leases, make sure you understand what type of lease you are signing), keep in mind that the first month of rent, the deposit (one or two months’ rent), and, if applicable, the realtor fees (equal to one month’s rent plus 21% VAT) will have to be paid, before you can move into your new apartment or house. Payment can be made from a foreign bank account using the IBAN and BIC codes.
Before renting, be sure to have a check-in report (in English) drawn up, with pictures. Be sure to check if anything is broken or damaged when you move in and to have this put in the report. After moving in, you will have about one month to change or add things to it.
This report will be used when you move out (whenever this is) and except for normal wear and tear, the property should look the same as when you moved in. Remember, the owner holds your deposit and you want it back (the money is in his bank account). There is a common joke amongst expats that you don’t really know whether your landlord is nice until you move out…
For fully furnished serviced apartments, all costs are included. For other rental housing, the rent is ‘cold’, meaning that heating, water, electricity, Internet, TV, phone, and communal taxes are not included and that you need to arrange your own utilities.
The communal taxes (waste water, garbage collection) are linked to your address; registration at the local municipality is mandatory!
In 2003, a law was introduced in the Netherlands (Wet Besluit Kleine Herstellingen) that (roughly) states that repairs not in connection with the furnace, water system, outside painting, and electricity system are the (financial) responsibility of the tenant. As some expats come from a country where the owner takes care of allissues related to the rental accommodation, they might also expect the owner in the Netherlands to take care of everything too. However, matters such as changing broken light bulbs, fixing loose doorknobs or broken doorbells, descaling faucets, or cleaning gutters for instance, are the responsibility of the tenant. Depending on the owner, the rental price, his willingness and/or his ability to communicate in English, he may or may not take care of repairs beyond his responsibility.
Keeping all this in mind, once a suitable property has been found, you will be able to enjoy your new home away from home…
Esmée Mos is Managing Director at NOVA Relocation Group in the Netherlands and can be contacted at email@example.com