Finding housing in the Netherlands can be ridiculously hard — and there’s a minefield of scams to dodge along the way.
Even if you think you’re too smart to be taken in by a housing scammer, the Netherlands housing crisis is the perfect storm of pressure, competition, and scarcity. This means that even the most seasoned house-hunters can fall for a rental scam.
However, armed with a bit of key knowledge you can spot a con and save your cash from being swindled. Here’s what to look out for to avoid housing and rental scams in the Netherlands!
If it’s too good to be true, it probably is
You may have heard that the Netherlands has a major housing shortage — yeah, it sucks. This has bumped up competition for everyone searching for a house, and in response, landlords have bumped up their prices too.
If you’re searching in a major city in the Randstad (Amsterdam, Den Haag, Utrecht, or Rotterdam) and have found the perfect deal, proceed with extreme caution. If you think you’ve hit the jackpot with a three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment for €750 per month — we hate to break it to you, but that’s a Dutch housing scam.
Scrutinize the landlord’s social media
If you’re searching on Facebook for a room or apartment, you have a great advantage — Facebook profiles. Some scammers are clever to hide most of their personal details, but often they’ll forget to hide certain things. For example, if they have a Dutch name, but you see they’ve liked pages with names in foreign, often African, languages, that’s a red flag.
If you’re using Facebook Marketplace, always click the “See Seller’s Other Listings” button. Scammers often post on multiple groups all over the Netherlands, or all over Europe, and will often use the same pictures or similar descriptions in all their ads. It’s an easy way to see if they’re dishonest!
You can also search the seller on Facebook to see if they’re posting ads in house hunting groups in multiple locations.
Go full detective on the pictures of the house
Pictures of a house mean nothing. These are often lifted from Airbnb or other rental websites and shared between house scammers in the Netherlands and other countries. First, do a reverse image search on the images and see if they appear elsewhere on the web.
Next, take a close look at the images. Consider:
- Does the view outside the window look Dutch? (Mountains are a dead giveaway that it’s not the Netherlands)
- Are the powerpoints the Dutch/EU standard? (One circle with two circular holes)
- Is the apartment unreasonably spacious? Remember, homes in the Netherlands are generally small.
- Does anything in the image look not Dutch? E.g. shopping bags or boxes with foreign letters on them, food brands, or shoes not worn in the Netherlands (like plastic, indoor slippers).
- All tap water in the Netherlands is drinkable. It’s less common to have large bottles of filtered water in kitchens than it is in other countries. If you spot this, that could be a clue.
TIP: Reverse image search easily in Google Chrome by right-clicking on an image and select “Search Google for Image”. Then, see if the picture has been posted on other websites (like Airbnb or real estate websites) elsewhere.
Know what a scammer’s message looks like
We’ve seen so many scammers’ messages at this point that we can pick out the patterns. First, scammers provide way too much information upfront, and it’s all designed to make you think “this is the perfect house!” Spoiler: it ‘ain’t. Instead, it’s another Dutch rental scam.
Here are a few key points to look out for:
Red flag: you’re immediately referred to another person
Scammers often (but not always) work by having multiple people sending messages and posting ads on various house-hunting websites or social media. Then, to communicate they’ll send you a WhatsApp number for the “landlord” or person taking care of renting the apartment.
This is straight-up a red flag. Unless they’ve sent you a real estate agent contact that you can verify online, proceed with extreme caution.
Red flag: the apartment and lease are way too perfect
And strangely detailed. Scammers’ descriptions of the houses tend to have similar characteristics, including:
- A long list of all the great appliances and features in the house.
- No minimum or maximum rental term (you can stay as long as you like!).
- Price is always inclusive of gas, water, electricity, and internet.
- Fully furnished with everything you need.
- Perfect location and close to generic bars, restaurants, and grocery stores.
- A very specific location (sometimes with the full address, sometimes the suburb and postcode — Dutch people rarely describe their address as “Westerpark, 1013 RR,” and will instead just say “Westerpark.” Some will even include details like “Artis Zoo is 8 km from the apartment.”
- Renting out rooms separately (each room is €420 and the price for the whole apartment is €840).
Red flag: the “landlord” is in another country and can’t show you the property
If you don’t catch on, the scammer will then tell you why they can’t show you the apartment in person. Watch out for:
- Being out of the city on a business trip, visiting family, living in Spain, vaccinating children in Africa, researching coronavirus vaccines in the UK.
- A promise that as soon as you sign the lease and make the full deposit and first month’s payment, they’ll send you the keys via registered post/DHL.
Be wary of supplied ID from the landlord
The landlord may send you passport copies to prove they are who they say. Don’t take these at face value: scammers will request passport copies from people they are trying to scam and then steal their identity later — either for more scams like this one, to open new Facebook accounts, or for more insidious identity fraud.
This leads us to…
NEVER send your ID until you’re 100% sure
Yep — unless you want to find extra profiles of yourself online (or have loans taken out in your name) don’t send copies of your ID. If you absolutely have to, make sure you’re completely certain you’re not working with a scammer, have met the landlord, and have seen the apartment.
Check who officially owns the house
For €2.95 you can find out exactly who owns a house in the Netherlands (and make sure it matches up with your potential landlord). Head to the Kadaster property register and click “Nu bestellen” (Order Now).
If there isn’t a match, request a written explanation from the person you’re in contact with. Tell them you need written authorisation that the landlord or agency is acting on the owner’s behalf.
Avoid renting an apartment that you haven’t seen
We get it — the Dutch housing market sucks. If you know you’re moving here and have been given the advice “start looking for a house before you arrive,” we understand. But you should be very careful.
If you can’t see an apartment yourself, try to find someone who you can ask to view the apartment on your behalf: a friend, colleague, or classmate may be willing to lend a hand.
And remember, if the landlord can’t show you the apartment (because they’re out of the country or something along those lines), that’s a big red flag. Avoid, avoid, or you may just fall for a housing scam in the Netherlands.
Resist the pressure to sign immediately
Scammers will often pressure you to sign on the dotted line to secure the apartment. They may say that they have a lot of interest but that they will give it to you if you sign (and send money) now.
Beware of these pushy sales tactics, take a deep breath, and make sure you’re convinced you’re not working with a scammer first.
Be smart with how you pay
Scammers want one thing: money. Be extremely careful when working with a landlord about how you will make the payments.
When paying cash
Try to avoid cash where possible: this leaves zero paper trail. If you trust the landlord but they ask for cash, try to get them to sign a receipt and record the conversation on your phone while you do it. Make sure to say key information out loud like “Here is €1200 cash to pay rent for the month of January for the apartment at 1234 Oudestraat.”
When paying via bank transfer
If you’re paying for your rent via bank transfer, be critical of the account details.
- Does the account name match who you’re speaking with?
- Is it a Dutch bank account? If not, why?
- Is it an IBAN that you’re paying into?
- Does the bank name look legitimate? Is it a bank you recognize or can verify online?
Other methods of payment
We’re yet to see a legitimate landlord in the Netherlands who wants payment for their rental property via money transfer services like Western Union. Do not do it.
Never, ever pay through Airbnb
A common scam is that, once you’ve found the perfect apartment, the “landlord” will request that you pay via Airbnb. They’ll tell you to reserve the apartment for one month upfront, and then you’ll be able to extend indefinitely.
The landlord will then send you a link to their property on the Airbnb website that looks completely legit. Do not fall for it. It will be a fake link to a scam website that will take your money and give you no apartment in return.
A true landlord will never do this. Why? Airbnb takes an average of 14-16% of every reservation from a landlord. If your rent is €1000, why would a landlord turn around and give €150 to Airbnb?
Beware of illegal sublets
If you’re not able to register at an address, you may be dealing with an illegal sublet. This occurs when someone who is renting an apartment wants to sub-rent it to another person.
While you won’t be in trouble if you sub-rent an apartment if the landlord finds out you may be kicked out — even if you’ve paid. You’ll also likely not be able to register with the local municipality, which is mandatory in the Netherlands.
Know where to ask for help
If you’re not sure, ask people around you for help. Sometimes a critical eye that’s not emotionally involved can save you from a scam.
Of course, if you do end up falling for a scam, take action straight away! Contact the police and press charges. Gather as much evidence as possible and screenshot any conversations that you’ve had with the scammer.
Have you had experience with a rental housing scam in the Netherlands? Share your story in the comments below so other people know what to look for!
READ MORE | 9 kooky things about renting in the Netherlands
Feature Image: Karolina Grabowska/Pexels\
Editors note: This articles was originally published in August 2019, and was fully updated in June 2021 for your reading pleasure.