Getting your rental deposit back in the Netherlands should be pretty straightforward. But, alas, landlords are not always the fairy-godmothers we wished they would be.
So, what can you do in the Netherlands if a landlord refuses to give your deposit back?
As an expat moving to the Netherlands, handling large sums of money in a country you’re not familiar with yet can be nerve-racking, to say the least. You may be wondering if the deposit fee your landlord is asking for is normal, or if you’re being ripped off. And if they refuse to return it — what then?
Fear not, because even as a foreigner, there are some steps you can take to make sure you get your rental deposit back.
What is a rental deposit and when do you need to pay it?
When you rent property in the Netherlands, the landlord or agency will generally require you to pay the first month of rent as well as a one-time security deposit before you move in.
This deposit is to ensure that if you damage the space during your stay, repairs can be paid for by you, rather than costing the landlord or agency.
However, if by the end of your contract you have not damaged the rented space, you are entitled to receive this money back in full.
How much is a rental security deposit in the Netherlands?
Usually, the rental deposit will be equivalent to about one month of basic rent (not including utilities).
However, in the Netherlands, there are no laws which set the maximum rental deposit amount. A deposit worth three months of rent, for example, can be seen as acceptable in a Dutch court.
How to get your rental deposit back in the Netherlands
Assuming you have maintained the place well, haven’t smashed any windows, cut through drain pipes, or caused any other damage, you are entitled to a full return of your security deposit when you vacate the property.
Regular wear and tear do not count as damage which the landlord can keep your money for. But if it is agreed upon at the beginning of your contract, the landlord may deduct money from your deposit for unpaid rent.
Ultimately, the tenant (you) are only responsible for inexpensive maintenance like painting the inside walls. However, the landlord is required to pay for larger issues like water pipes or the heating system unless they can prove you are directly responsible.
What a Dutch landlord can deduct from your rental deposit
What are those larger items? Some things a landlord can claim a portion or all of your rental deposit for include:
- excessive holes in walls from picture hangers,
- broken tiles or fixtures in bathrooms,
- stopped toilet due to misuse,
- broken walls,
- repainting walls that were painted by the tenant,
- tears, holes, or burn marks in carpets or curtains,
- animal stains in the carpet caused by domestic animals or leaking fish tanks,
- broken windows and window screens,
- broken doors and locks,
- appliances that became broken through negligence,
- excessive filth inside or on the stove or oven,
- clogged drains from misuse or negligence,
- broken or missing window blinds,
- flea and pest extermination,
- excessive mildew and mould in the bathroom,
- excessively filthy bathtub, shower, sink, mirrors or toilet.
What a Dutch landlord cannot deduct from your rental deposit
The following things would be considered general wear and tear which the landlord can generally not charge you for:
- faded paint or wallpaper due to sunlight,
- broken plumbing caused by normal use,
- dirty blinds and curtains,
- carpet wear caused by normal use,
- furniture marks in carpet,
- warped doors caused by age, temperature or moisture,
- warped windows caused by the flow of the glass,
- dents in walls from door handles,
- broken appliances (if not from misuse),
- faded curtains,
- broken light bulbs,
- replacement batteries for smoke detectors,
- picture or pin holes in walls, as long as not excessive.
Passing inspections: how to avoid your rental deposit being kept
There are three inspections which should take place when you rent in the Netherlands: one at the beginning of your contract to record the condition of the space before you move in; a pre-inspection shortly before you leave; and a final inspection.
Important note: A landlord cannot enter the property without your permission, so if an inspection is carried out without notifying you or without your presence, the landlord is in the wrong.
First inspection (before moving in): make an inspection list and take photos
At the start of your rental contract in the Netherlands, you and your landlord/agency should walk through the space together and record the condition of the property in an opnamestaat (inspection list).
Any holes in the walls, broken taps, or anything that can be listed as damaged must be noted. If your rental is furnished or partially-furnished, make sure to record the condition of any furniture too, and which items will remain for you to use.
It’s important for you to also take photos of everything at this stage. Photos and the inspection list will protect you in case the landlord later falsely accuses you of causing any damage.
Pre-inspection (before moving out): a chance to fix things
About two weeks before you leave the property, a pre-inspection should take place. Here, the landlord/agency will determine if there is any damage done in comparison to the inspection list from the beginning of your contract.
Again, both parties should be present for this. If the landlord/agency decides you need to make some repairs or complete any deep cleaning a report will be drawn up detailing what needs to be done, which both parties should sign.
Of course, if you do not agree with the report — don’t sign it. But if you do, you legally have until the end of your contract to fix any issues. If the landlord doesn’t give you enough time to make these repairs you are entitled to receive your deposit back in full.
This normally happens a few days before or after you have moved out, and is a chance for the landlord/agency to check if you have made the required repairs. Any repairs you did not make will be deducted from your deposit. The landlord cannot request new repairs at this point unless they did not see them in the pre-inspection.
But, if all goes well, after the final inspection either no damages are listed or all damages have been repaired, and you have the right to get your full security deposit back. Of course, that doesn’t always happen.
What to do if a landlord/agency in the Netherlands won’t give you your deposit back
If the landlord finds damages that you don’t agree with or comes up with some crazy excuse for keeping your deposit, things can get pretty tense pretty quick. If after a month (or a previously agreed upon deadline) you still don’t have your deposit back, you’ll need to take some action.
Send a registered letter demanding your deposit back (aangetekend)
First, you need to write a registered letter (aangetekende brief) to your landlord/agency in which you demand the rental deposit back.
In this letter, you should first explain in detail why you disagree with the landlord. Then, clearly state that you will take legal action if they do not return your deposit within five working days.
Send the letter by mail but be sure to keep a copy for yourself. If you would like to send it in Dutch (recommended) you can use a sample letter.
If you still can’t get your deposit back, get legal help
If your registered letter is ignored or the landlord still refuses to pay, this is the time to get legal help.
Keep in mind that if the landlord is accusing you of causing damage, they will need to provide photographic evidence. With the photos you (hopefully) took yourself during the first inspection, you should be able to counter this.
Normally a letter from a lawyer is enough to scare a landlord or housing agency into paying up, as going to court could cost them more. But if they’re adamant you don’t deserve your deposit back, then legal help may be the only way forward.
Need assistance, or no money for a lawyer?
We get it — lawyers are expensive! If you need help getting your security deposit back in the Netherlands you can try these free options first:
Bonus tips for before you move in
As difficult as it is finding accommodation in the Netherlands, you should check up on the agency before you commit to anything. Check the Google Review and Facebook ratings of any agency you’re interested in working with because people are sure to post about any bad experiences they’ve had.
If the agent tries to charge you one month’s rent as a fee to lease you the apartment, that’s a big red flag. This is the responsibility of the landlord to pay, not the tenant. It is illegal to charge renters.
Now that you know what precautions to take and what is in your right to ask for, we hope you won’t have any stressful situations when it comes to getting your deposit back.
Have you had any bad experiences with landlords in the Netherlands? How did you solve them? Tell us in the comments below!
Feature Image: Skitterphoto/Pexels
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in May 2021, and was fully updated in October 2021 for your reading pleasure.