Renting a room

4 maart 2019, Groningen | leestijd ongeveer 7 minuten

Being an exchange/international student in Groningen, you know that you are in for a treat: you have arrived in the best student city of the Netherlands! Groningen with its many pubs, picturesque streets and lovely shops has a lot (more) to offer, obviously. Oh, and of course you shouldn’t forget to study as well.

Probably the only downside to Groningen is that it can be quite difficult to find (suitable) student housing. Therefore, you might be tempted to settle for less (well-off housing), or just simply agree to everything. Afterall, that estate agent seemed very nice and with the best of intentions. Right?

What you might not have known is that, as a tenant, you have certain rights, which are binding. Departures therefrom may not occur without any valid reason. That is why we will provide you with a convenient checklist, since you will probably want to spend your money on more important things. So if you want to save some money, then keep on reading, and use the following checklist:

Checklist

To Do: Agency costs/Commission. (Dutch: “bemiddelingskosten/courtage”).
When: At the very start of the contract/tenancy

Agency costs, or commission, are the costs made by the agency/estate agent to find a (new) tenant. When you are suddenly confronted with these costs, then this does not automatically mean that you are (legally) required to pay them. It is impossible for a landlord to charge you these costs, since finding a new tenant is one of his ‘normal (business) activities’. When your landlord is the client of, or employs, an (estate) agency, these costs are to be paid for by those that use them: your landlord.

You can therefore think of it as ‘wages’ for the (estate) agent. So, if you have not explicitly employed an (estate) agency, then you do not - in principle - have to pay its ‘wages’: the agency costs/commission. When the (estate) agency acts on behalf of both the landlord, and - you being - the tenant in the realisation of the tenancy agreement, then the tenant is not required to pay the agency costs/commission. It is not possible to derogate to the disadvantage of the tenant from this provision, regardless of whether or not the landlord owes any agency costs/commission to the (estate) agency. Additionally, agency costs/commission do not apply if the (estate) agency’s website acts as an ‘electronic bulletin board’. Meaning that the website administrator does not shield you - your landlord and you as his future tenant - from each other. It should therefore not be made impossible to - without the intervention of the (estate) agency - be able to contact each other, to negotiate the tenancy agreement.

Summarised: Have you unduly been paying agency costs, or commission? You can get your money back! Always check for ‘extra costs’ before signing the agreement.

To Do: Caution money. (Dutch: “Waarborgsom”, or “borg”).
When: At the start and the end of the contract/tenancy.

Caution money is the sum that you have to pay to the landlord at the start of the tenancy. This amount serves as a guarantee for the landlord, or security, of a/your proper fulfilment of the (tenancy) agreement. The amount usually concerns a month’s rent, and may not exceed an amount equal to three month’s rent. After the termination of the tenancy the landlord has to pay back the caution money, provided that you leave ‘your’ room properly. Meaning, just like you have ‘found it’ at the start of the tenancy. Caution money is therefore an assurance for the landlord, that you will leave ‘your’ room properly as a ‘good tenant’, and in compliance with its designated purpose.

Summarised: Have you left ‘your’ room as a ‘good tenant’, and you are not behind on your rent? Then your landlord has to pay back the caution money to you. Have you been paying an amount that exceeds a three month’s rent for ‘caution money’? Then the landlord has to refund the overpaid amount!

To do: Service charges or service costs (Dutch: “servicekosten”).
When: June

The monthly rent consists of two parts: the cost of using the residence - the so-called ‘basic’ rent - and the service costs. Service costs are to be paid monthly as an ‘advance payment’ and concern the compensation for provided goods and services in connection with the occupation of the residential space, for example: gas, electricity and water supply for the common rooms/areas, concierge or house manager costs, the cleaning of the common rooms/areas, etc.

Costs that do not have any connection with the usage of the residence, cannot be included in the service costs. Such as meals supplied by the landlord, healthcare provisions or medical care provided and charged by the landlord. Even built-in appliances cannot be included, since they are already included in the basic rent.

The landlord may not make any profit from the service costs. This means that you - as a tenant - only have to pay for the actual costs incurred. At the end of every calendar year the bills concerning the services is settled, the landlord should therefore send (before the 1st of June) a final calculation. This bill/final calculation should include a clear and specific list of the items on the bill, and balance the tenants’ advance payments with the actual costs. Since it is an ‘advance payment’ the overpaid amount has to be refunded by the landlord. If landlords have not provided the annual balance, they cannot raise the monthly advance payments.

Summarised: Always ask for a final calculation or bill of the service costs (before the 1st of June) - in Dutch: “jaarrekening servicekosten” -, since usually landlords will tend to ‘forget’ to send it, and therefore will not send this on their own initiative. Secondly, you should also check if you pay for the correct services and goods. You might be getting some money back!

To do: The rent (Dutch: “de huurprijs”).
When: At the start, the end and during duration of the contract/tenancy.

The rent, which you are monthly paying, depends on all sorts of conditions and circumstances. Click on the link bellow, to find out if you are paying the right amount for your room. (It is in Dutch so look for a roomie, friend or someone who might be able to help you with it).
It might be possible that you are paying a so-called ‘all-in’ rent. Such a rent, which only mentions the amount and without clear distinction, is illegal and might be significantly lowered by the rent assessment committee (Dutch: “Huurcommissie”). The rent assessment committee will redefine the rent, by first lowering the rent to 55% of the agreed sum. This amount is then tested on fairness.
Summarised: Probably paying too much, but not totally sure? Use this link to find out if you do: wooninfo.nl/vraagbaak/huurprijzen/puntentelling-kamers/3

(Source: Hoofdlijnen in het huurrecht, mr A.M. Kloosterman, Mr. H.J. Rossel, Mr. M.H. Rozeboom, p. 148)

Foto op IJburg Diemerpark © DOKK advocaten