Renting an apartment in Amsterdam ¿what to look for in your lease?

When renting an apartment in the city of Amsterdam, the rental lease or the tenancy agreement will provide the tenant with a list of what is expected from them during the rental period and what they can in turn expect from their landlord. If the tenant has made use of the services of a rental agency, the agreement will be explained in full and they will have a better understanding of what to expect. It is critically important that prospective tenants read through the lease carefully and that they understand each clause and term perfectly. A lease or a tenancy agreement is a legally binding document and signing a lease that’s not understood completely could have negative consequences.
The basics
Since the apartment is located in the Dutch city of Amsterdam, most leases will be in Dutch. In theory a tenancy agreement can be for any length of time, but it is quite common in the Netherlands to have a lease for an indefinite period of time. In the event that a set notice period is not stipulated on the lease, the tenant may then assume that the notice period is the standard one month. This period tends to be the norm in most countries.

The agreement will also contain the following information:

The duration of lease – how long will the property be available to the tenant. In most cases, when a lease has expired, the tenant and landlord can renegotiate the duration (if both parties are in agreement).

Is the apartment furnished or unfurnished.

Does the apartment offer parking and is the parking included in the rental?

Are the utilities included in the rental?

Should the tenant be aware of any additional service charges (for instance, will the tenant need to contribute for the cleaning of communal areas within the apartment complex)

The notice period – unless otherwise stated the accepted notice period is one month.

Will the tenant bear the cost for standard wear and tear or will the tenant and landlord spilt the costs?

In reality, the purpose of the lease is to offer protection to both the tenant and to the landlord, and additional clauses may be inserted if required, to achieve this purpose. Some leases may contain a detailed inventory which details all the electrical appliances which are installed in the apartment and the inventory will note if they are in working order. Having such an inventory on hand before taking occupation of the apartment, both the tenant and the landlord will be protected as there will be no blame or shrugging of responsibilities should the appliances stop working.

Costs and deposits
This is probably the most important part of the lease as it will contain explicit details of what the tenant will be expected to pay to rent the Amsterdam apartment.

It is an accepted practice to pay the first month’s rent in advance. Added to the first month’s rental, the tenant will be required to pay a deposit or Borg, as it is known in the Netherlands. This amount is generally calculated at either one or two month’s rental. For instance if the agreed rental is €1500, before taking occupation of the apartment, they will need to come up with the €1500 for rental, plus an additional deposit amount of either (€1500 or €3,000). In addition, a fee will also need to be paid to the rental agent (if an agency has helped to locate and secure the apartment. Expats will often find that the services of an agent will help them in finding an apartment that is best able to serve their accommodation needs and what’s more any problems which arise during the negotiation phase will be best handled by the agent, who will effectively serve as a go-between for both parties.

It is a common practice for the rental agent to hold the deposit on behalf of the landlord. In some instance, the rental agent may also be able to negotiate that the paid deposit be used to cover either the last month’s rental or the last two of rental (depending on the original deposit amount).

When making a deposit payment to either an agent or directly to the landlord, the tenant must make certain that all deposit slips or transaction evident are kept secure. Paying rental via a bank transfer is one of the safest methods and if online banking is done, the tenant will have the necessary receipts for any deposits and fees which have been paid over.

Apart from the deposit, the lease will also specify that the tenant needs to cover various other costs, and these costs include:

Service charges, if these charges become the responsibility of the lessee or tenant they need to be explained in detailed in the lease

Insurance could also be included in the rental cost and once again all insurance costs must be detailed in full in the tenancy agreement.

A real estate tax, onroerende-zaakbelastingen or OZB, is payable yearly to the local authorities. A lease which is for less than 12 months (usually in accommodation for students) will need to include a reduced rate of this tax and this should be stated and calculated on the contract. The municipality will send out a yearly assessment which shows the tax based on the market value or square footage of the property. The tax is made up of two segments, the first being for the occupier’s account and the second part is for the apartment owner’s account. If the owner is the occupier of the apartment, they will be responsible for both segments. The rates vary from each municipality.

The OZB tax bill for property owners is made up of municipal taxes; the Sewer Tax (rioolrecht) and the charge if for the connection to the municipal sewer system and Waste/Cleaning Tax or afvalstoffenheffing / reinigingsrechte) which is for the collection of domestic waste

Tenancy Obligations
In Amsterdam, both the landlord and the tenant have responsibilities or obligations and in essence the lease will provide a clear deification of the obligations and give both parties an indication of what is expected of them.

A detailed lease will state the landlord’s agreement to replace or repair worn or faulty items (such as electrical appliances) in the apartment however at the same time a tenant who has been responsible for the defects due to negligence, will have an obligation to repair or replace the appliances.

Conflict resolution
Should a dispute arise, the agent must be contacted.

The local bureaux for legal assistance (Bureau voor Rechtshulp) can also extend legal assistance to those who are unable to cover the costs for legal expenses.

In extreme case, a tenant is also free to contact their own Embassy for advice and assistance. However, in most cases the agent will be able to help both parties come to a solution.