Finding a place to rent is hard enough wherever you are, but looking for somewhere to live in a foreign country can feel like an especially daunting task.
When it comes to renting in the Netherlands there are many types of accommodation to choose from, despite the ongoing housing shortage. Whether you want to rent a studio, live in a cosy shared flat, or join in the fun of a big student house, there is something for almost everyone in the Netherlands.
However, there are some truly odd Dutch traditions, and unexpected admin unique to the Dutch renting culture.
Whether you are signed up to 20 Facebook groups or are regularly refreshing Kamernet, here’s how to prepare for the culture shock when trying to find the perfect rental in the Netherlands.
Hospiteeravond: speed dating for housemates
Want to feel insecure about how well you make a first impression? Then a hospiteeravond is for you! Many cultures are used to the concept of an open house, but the Dutch take this to a whole new level — just for finding a new roommate! At a hospiteeravond, everyone interested in the room turns up with a stash of alcohol and tries to impress the current housemates — invitation only, of course.
If you’re brave enough to show up, the hosts aren’t afraid to ask you some, um, interesting questions. Don’t be surprised if you get asked ‘What kind of road sign are you?’ or ‘If you had to be a fruit, which one would you be?’. Yep, it’s just as awkward as it sounds.
No internationals/Dutch speaking only
So you’ve found a great room in a beautiful flat within your price range through a Facebook group. Great! But a quick scroll down reveals the dreaded words: “No internationals” or “Dutch speaking only.”
Let’s be honest: labelling a post with ‘No internationals’ is exclusive and can be perceived as a little xenophobic. After all, what if you’re an international that is fluent in Dutch? The Dutch are officially the best non-native English speakers in the world, so you’d think they wouldn’t mind switching languages over lunch.
On the other hand. it’s understandable that Dutch natives want to speak their mother tongue in their own home. Additionally, the Dutch already fear the loss of their language in the wake of globalisation.
Maybe this is another example of Dutch directness coming into practice. At least you won’t waste your time responding to people that will only end up ghosting you. 👻 💁
Ongemeubileerd and kaal: bare as a baby’s bottom
When the Dutch say unfurnished, they mean unfurnished! Don’t be surprised if you walk into your new Dutch rental to find that it doesn’t have any curtains, floorboards, or even kitchen appliances.
Even if you view the property with all these items, the current tenants may strip it back to its original state when they leave. Often you can come to an agreement and buy any necessary furnishing from the previous tenant, but you will have to arrange this between yourselves. So if the rent sounds cheap, check the small print!
Quick Dutch language guide for renting bald
|Dutch||English||What it means|
|Gemeubileerd||Furnished||Basic furniture is included, and perhaps some other amenities (plates, pots, glasses, etc.)|
|Ongemeubileerd||Unfurnished||Just the apartment, generally with flooring, curtains, lights present (but not always, so double-check!)|
|Gestoffeerd||Upholstered||Curtains, lights, and flooring, but no furniture.|
|Kaal||Bald||No flooring, curtains, lights, or furniture. Walls may be painted.|
Antikraak: keeping squatters out
Looking to rent for the short term and wouldn’t mind living in a former bank or theatre? Antikraak could be the answer. It translates to ‘anti-squatting’ and pretty much does what it says on the tin — stops people from illegally squatting. The idea is you are basically a legal, tidy squatter, paying a reduced rent to keep the water running, and preventing the property from being vandalised.
It isn’t the best option if you’re looking to rent for the long term — as they can boot you out with as little as two weeks notice. But there’s a wide range of spaces available, from churches to office blocks and even unused schools. 🏢
Strict rules on occupancy
If you and your partner want to rent a two-bed house, don’t bank on using it as a side hustle. In the Netherlands, all residents are required to register at an address — and municipalities place strict limits on how many people can register at each property.
That means that even if you rent a house that’s bigger than you need, you can’t (legally) rent out a room to another student. Yep, there goes that holiday fund.
Huurtoeslag: the Dutch government helping to pay your rent
Sometimes it feels like there are a lot of costs involved in moving to the Netherlands. From health insurance, registration fees, to having to pay for a bank account (it’s only €0.01 a month, but I’m still bitter). But, thanks to the Dutch social care system, there is help out there for those on a tight budget — even with your rent.
Huurtoeslag is a Dutch housing benefit and is available to anyone on a low income. There are some specific criteria but even expats are eligible for the allowance! Good to know the Dutch government’s got your back! You can find out if you are eligible on the government tax website: Belastingdienst.
Agency fees: what am I paying for?
There are pros and cons to using real estate agencies to find a place to stay in the Netherlands. To start, you are less likely to be vetted by the current housemates in a dreaded hospiteeravond. However, you often have to pay an agency fee — before you find a house that you want to apply for.
These fees are required for you to view the property and can range from less than €50 for a whole year to a few hundred. The legality of this is a grey area, but that doesn’t stop agencies from charging whatever they like.
The only exception to crazy Dutch real estate agency fees is a sleutelgeld. This is a payment separate from the deposit also known as a “key fee.” It may be worded in the contract as a fee to “release your key” or as a “takeover fee”. This is illegal. If you have been asked to pay this by an agent, landlord or tenant, you can get free legal advice from agencies such as !Woon or Juridisch Loket. Question any charges that aren’t clearly explained. Know your rights!
In an ideal world, everyone would be honest, decent, and not try to scam you. Unfortunately, there are those out there who try to take advantage of your desperate need for a Dutch house (thanks housing crisis). Rental scammers are especially common in the Netherlands. There are scammers hiding in every nook and cranny of Facebook rental listings, but paid websites like Kamernet and Pararius also aren’t immune.
- Don’t sign a contract before you have viewed the property, in person or virtually.
- NEVER give over a deposit before signing a contract and (preferably) receiving the keys.
- Be suspicious of everyone — but especially those who refuse to give you a tour of the property.
|In normal times I would say “don’t sign a contract before you’ve viewed the house,” but some agencies or landlords may have stopped in-person tours due to coronavirus. Try and push for a viewing in person. Most agencies will still do these but may ask you to stick to certain social distancing guidelines while you are there.|
Rental deposits (and landlords keeping them)
Deposits are the bane of a renter’s life. Sometimes it feels like a chunk of money you will never see as it bounces from one landlord to the next. But deposits can come at a particularly hefty price in the Netherlands. There isn’t a cap on how much a landlord or rental agency can ask for. It can be a lot of money, sometimes as much as three months’ rent. You sure as hell want that back!
The Dutch are known for being frugal, which means landlords in the Netherlands can be exceptionally stingy when it comes to returning your extortionate deposit. In theory, it shouldn’t be hard to get your deposit back, but some landlords like to drag their feet. They cannot keep your deposit for general wear and tear, but don’t expect to get it back if you’ve punched a hole in the wall.
Have you experienced any of these Dutch oddities when renting? Or got any tips about finding a house in the Netherlands? Tell us in the comments below!
Feature Image: Karolina Grabows/Pexels
Editor’s Note: This article was originally written in February 2021, and was fully updated in August 2021 for your reading pleasure.