Housing in the Netherlands

The first reaction of many foreigners moving to the Netherlands is that the properties are smaller than expected. Especially compared to real estate in the United States or the UK, for example. The most important reason for this is the fact that the Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Almost 498 people per square kilometre  which is twice as much as in the UK and even approximately 14 times more than in the USA. Especially the area Randstad which is covering the major cities Amsterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Rotterdam is highly populated.


Properties slightly differ in layout depending on surroundings:

Cities, historical center:

  • Apartments
  • Small surface
  • Steep stairs
  • Parking is challenging
  • Sometimes with balcony or roof terrace
  • Always close to public transportation
  • Suburbs:

  • Terraced houses
  • 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom (sometimes 2)
  • Small gardens
  • Parking is usually available in front of the house or nearby
  • Always close to public transportation
  • Villages:

  • Terraced houses or (semi-) detached
  • Larger gardens
  • Some areas are still rather “authentic”
  • Not always close to public transportation
  • Ample parking possibilities
  • Standard Dutch house

    Family house
    The average Dutch house is what you may call a “terraced house” or “row house”. There are two to six houses in one block. Usually, kitchens are small with limited space for cabinets, counters, tables and chairs. Separate dining rooms are rare: the norm is to have an open kitchen with a dining area separating the kitchen from the living area. On the first floor of an average Dutch house there are three bedrooms and on the second floor there is an attic, bedroom  or work space. The bathroom, of which you will mostly only find one in a house, is used as efficiently as possible. Usually consisting of the bathtub with shower in one, toilet and often the washer and dryer.. If a property has a garage (very rare in the city centres) it is mostly used as storage space, as most often the attic is converted into a bedroom.
    King size furniture might cause a problem because the average Dutch house is not large and has narrow staircases. The floor space is approximately 130 square meters.

    Apartments can be found in the city centre. Since most of the city centres of the Netherlands are historical, the apartments you will find here tend to be small, with steep stairs and no elevator. In Amsterdam for example, the city center goes back to the middle ages, so as you can imagine the infrastructure is not suited for elevators. In the suburban areas one can find larger modern apartments in complexes with elevators and parking space.
    For the same reasons (lack of space and age of the buildings) parking your car can be a challenge.
    For most areas in the cities (centers and suburbs) you need a parking permit to park in the street. The waiting list in the Amsterdam historical center can be as long as 3 years.

    Level of furnishing

    This means renting an empty house, literally stripped clean: no curtains, floor covering, light fittings, etc. Most of these houses are offered through housing corporations and have a waiting list of at least one year. Although there are some economic strings attached, these can be a good alternative in case you are planning to stay for a longer period of time. The minimum rental period is one year and negotiations are not order

    Unfurnished (gestoffeerd)
    Which means the house has the basics such as floor covering, curtains, light fittings and some main appliances in kitchen and bathroom

    Furnished (gemeubileerd)
    All furnishings and appliances are provided in the house. Just bring your personal items and you can start living there.
    In cities you can find both furnished and unfurnished apartments and houses, small apartments tend to be furnished more often than large houses – In the more rural areas furnished houses are less likely to be found.

    Serviced apartments
    The concept of serviced, short stay accommodation is not well developed  in the Netherlands yet, although gradually more offer appears on the market. Especially in the major cities it is possible to rent this type of property.
    Serviced means that the property is fully furnished, including an internet connection and often also with a cleaning service and concierge. Some complexes even offer communal gym facilities.

    Rent or buy?

    The decision to buy or rent a house largely depends on the length of your stay in the Netherlands. In general, assignments are between one and three years in length. For this duration the costs most probably will outweigh the benefits. If you consider buying, we advise you to consult a mortgage or financial advisor.

    Renting a property

    Rental prices

    Rental prices are regulated through the so called House Value Rating System (woningwaarderingsstelsel) which protects the tenant against paying too much rent. This is a system in which properties are awarded credits, based on size and quality. For example a property receives 1 credit per m2. There are credits for double glazing, the length of the kitchen, work surface, insulation, location etcetera. If you are under the impression that the rent is too high, you can ask the Rental Committee to check and to make a binding statement about the price. This is applicable for properties up to 140 credits. Above 140 credits the rental price of a property can be established freely by lessor and lessee through the market force, and falls beyond the scoop of the Rental Committee. For a large part of these properties ( below 140 credits) you need to fulfil strict criteria to be eligible for renting. Moreover waiting lists can amount to ten years in some areas, so expatriates usually have to turn to accommodation that is liberalized.

    Especially Amsterdam, being one of the most popular cities for people from all over the world and also popular amongst the Dutch themselves, always faces difficulties on a very tight housing market. Especially the lower to mid income groups are affected. The municipality of Amsterdam constantly tries to get and hold on the housing market to deal with these challenges by setting especially strict criteria

    Real estate agent

    If you are looking a property through a real estate agents (which is strongly advised) there are two possibilities when it comes to the payment of the agent’s fee:

    1. Multiple listing: The tenant involves a so-called “search” agent. This agent will search the whole market looking for suitable properties. He will make the appointments, and will represent the tenant in closing the deal. For this service, the tenant will pay the real estate commission, which is the equivalent of one month rent excluding VAT.
    2. Directly through the offering agent: The tenant contacts the real estate agent who publishes the property directly.  In this situation the real estate agent works for the landlord. The advantage is that in this case the tenant does not have to pay the commission. The possible disadvantage is that the agent will primarily serve the interest of the landlord. Please be aware that the tenant still needs to pay a fee for administration costs which are approx. between €250-€400,-

    Lease conditions

    In the Netherlands, a tenant’s rights are very well protected. The Dutch rental law makes it almost impossible for a landlord to terminate a rental contract. For the tenant it is much easier to terminate the contract. The landlord can commit the tenant to one fixed period (usually minimal a year) and after that period the rental contract should be extended for an indefinite time in which the tenant can break the lease with one month notice without giving reason.

    In practice landlords are often very reluctant to accept this indefinite period because this gives the tenant so called Tenant Protection. As soon as the rental contract has been extended to an indefinite period, the landlord has almost no possibility to end the lease anymore. At the end of a fixed period it is easier for the landlord to decide not to extend. Therefore we often see rental contracts that might not fully comply with Dutch rental law, but are the only way to convince a landlord to rent out their property. Usually these contracts consist of a one year fixed period with the possibility to extend with another one or 2 year period, but with a clear end date.

    Nevertheless it is important to make sure that the rental contract reflects your specific situation. For example, make sure that the contract contains a so-called “diplomatic clause for lessee”. With this clause, the contract can be terminated for work related reasons, without penalty, with a one or two-month notice period. It is also important that you are aware of the general conditions. Therefore you should always ask for an English translation of your contract.

    Please note that it is common for a landlord to request a one or two-month deposit fee. Before the start date of the lease you will have to make sure that the real estate agent has received the money transfer for the first month’s rent, the deposit and the commission or contract fee. You will have to transfer the subsequent month’s rent directly to the landlord before the first of each following month. You will not receive a monthly invoice.

    Responsibilities of lessee

    In general the lessee is responsible for:

        • The subscription payments of connection and consumption of electricity, gas, water and water heaters;
        • The connection and subscription of the telecom facilities;
        • Minor repairs and replacements;
        • All taxes levied by the local authorities, based on the actual usage of the property are at the expense of the lessee;
        • Some owners request a liability insurance when renting out furnished, or when the house is unfurnished it is important to arrange a household content insurance.
        • Any damage such as excessive wear, leaking pipes, etc., must be reported straight away when signing the lease contract. Such discrepancies can also be reported in writing to the owner right after moving in. Otherwise you might be liable for unreported discrepancies when moving out. When moving in, the owner and lessee should agree about the condition of the house. At that time, agreement must be reached regarding under which conditions you accept your house;
        • Costs arising through the fault of the lessee or actual occupant, his/her family or pet(s) are for the account of the lessee;
        • Maintenance and repair costs related to domestic appliances on the premises, unless the lessee reports to lessor that they are not working properly within one month of the date of occupation, are also for account of the lessee. If there is a garden, the owner and lessee should agree who maintains the garden, which is generally the responsibility of the lessee;
        • Professional cleaning of the property – dry cleaning and similar included, if necessary – should be completed on or immediately before the termination date of the lease by the tenant. The costs of repairs should be arranged at the end of the lease, if applicable;
        • Costs involved when renting a property

      One off costs:
      Housing agent commission (one month rent + 21% VAT), in case of tenant representation;
      Contract costs €250-€400, in case of dealing directly with the owners’ realtor;
      Deposit. In general: one month rent for a unfurnished property and two month’s rent for a furnished property.

      Recurring costs:
      Rent ; to be paid in advance on a monthly basis. A yearly a rent inflation rent may be calculated by the landlord;
      Utilities; gas, water and electricity;
      Telephone, television and internet subscriptions;
      City taxes, invoiced yearly by the municipality;
      Service costs if renting property in a building (costs differ per property);
      Maintenance costs;
      Minor repairs;

      Move in inspection

      As soon as you have found a house and the rental contract has been screened and signed, it is time to schedule the move in inspection for your new home. During the move in inspection, the inventory will be inspected, an inspection report will be drawn up and the keys will be handed over to you. It is important to take clear pictures of any damages which are already evident in the property. The meter readings will be written down on the move in inspection report, and must be forwarded to the utility companies. If for any reason, the transfer of the money is delayed and therefore not in time, in principal the landlord will not hand over the keys to you.

      Move out inspection

      At the end of the lease term a move out will be organized. The golden rule is that the property needs to be returned to the landlord in the same condition it was in during the move in (except for normal wear and tear). Officially the move out consists of a pre-inspection and a final inspection. At the pre-inspection the landlord needs to check together with the tenant what preparations are necessary to deliver the property back to its original condition.
      After the pre-inspection the tenant has the opportunity to carry out the necessary work. If at the final inspection it is evident that the property is not in the appropriate condition, the landlord can carry out the remaining work at the tenant’s expense. Usually the costs will be withdrawn from the security deposit.

      Practicalities around the house

      Telephone, television and/or Internet connection
      Telephone subscriptions come without a telephone, so if there is not one present in your apartment, you need to purchase one.  It takes a maximum of 5 working days from the date of application before the phone connection is activated, provided there is not a problem with the line (otherwise a mechanic will need to come by). Internet access may take up to 3 weeks before the modem arrives and can be connected to the computer. Some providers have a shop where you can subscribe and bring home the plug and play version right away. Usually internet/digital TV is a do-it-yourself package. Installation by the provider is possible but you will be charged for this. Also, a deposit for the modem will be charged to you.
      Providers also offer total packages for television, telephone and Internet.
      Most providers will require your bank account number and a copy of your residence permit.

      In the Netherlands the energy market is liberalized. This means you are free to choose your energy supplier. You can subscribe by passing on the details of the property and the meter readings to the company of your choice.  The easiest way to register yourself is by phone or through the internet.
      Please take into account that your registration via an energy supplier’s website is like a contract. You will receive a payment slip directly after your registration. You will not receive a contract at home.

      In the Netherlands utility meters are not read every month, as they are in some other countries. The monthly bills are advance payments and are based on the usage of previous months, with a refund or additional charge issued at the end of the year. In some municipalities all utility charges will be included in one bill. If you think your estimated advance payment is too low or too high, you can call the utility company for an estimate or correction to the regular fixed amount.
      The area where you live, determines the water provider. There is no free choice.

      Household refuse
      Depending on the municipality there are two ways for garbage collection.
      Your household refuse will be collected in front of your door. In most areas you need to obtain two containers from the local refuse collection service. One for the general refuse and one for the compost material. The general refuse is collected once a week and the compost material bi-weekly or monthly. In some areas the refuse collection service still collects garbage bags. In this case you don’t need to separate the compost from the general refuse.
      More and more towns place large, subterranean containers in residential areas. You can dispose of your refuse at your convenience in the specific container for your neighbourhood. You might need to obtain a special card to open the specific container at the municipality.

      Oversized refuse
      Larger items (grof vuil) can be disposed of at the local collection point of the garbage collection service (Millieuplein). You can also call the council to ask them to collect it separately. In most towns this is free of charge once a year, and for the next time you will be charged a fee.

      Bottles, jars and other glassware should not be put into the dustbin. You will see large glass containers (glasbak) at various locations in your neighbourhood, usually near a supermarket or shopping centre.

      Unused medicines and batteries
      Unused medicines should be returned to your local pharmacy. Throw empty batteries in the small battery slit, which you can find within some glass containers or take them to stores that collect old batteries for elimination.

      Paper can be disposed of at separate paper containers at various locations in your neighbourhood (next to these containers you can also often find containers to dispose your old clothes, which are given to charities). In some areas local clubs and churches collect waste paper once or twice a month, which they sell for recycling.

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