Renting expert Dafna Eccles returns with more advice on your renting-related questions.
Q. Who pays for maintenance and repairs of the house, the tenant or the landlord?
Tenants are responsible for small, inexpensive repairs that don't require specialist skills, such as replacing a shower head. Tenants are legally obliged to notify the landlord of any larger maintenance issues, and the landlord is responsible for having them repaired. If the tenant ends up paying for repairs the landlord should have done, the landlord might have to refund these costs. If any of the items included in the service costs (furniture, washing machines, etc.) need repairs or replacement due to regular wear and tear, it is the landlord’s responsibility to repair or replace them. If the drains are blocked because the tenant didn't clean out the shower drain, or poured cooking fat down the sink, it is the tenant’s responsibility to pay to have them unblocked. If the problem is with the main vertical drain connecting the apartment to the outside sewer, then the landlord has to pay.
If the landlord doesn't do the necessary maintenance and the apartment is rent controlled, tenants can ask the Huurcommissie Tenancy Tribunal to lower the rent until the maintenance has been done. Here is an extensive list (in Dutch) of repairs for which the tenant is legally responsible.
Q. My landlord keeps increasing the rent of my apartment every year. Do I have any rights to negotiation?
If your basic rent (without the service and additional charges) is €699.48 or less, your apartment is probably rent controlled. If the basic rent is higher your apartment is most likely considered "free market" and rent control doesn't apply. If you share a kitchen and/or shower and/or bathroom your housing is always rent controlled.
For free market housing, any annual increase in rent is determined by the contract. The rent can only be raised once a year. If the contract says the annual increase will be based on the price index number (around the rate of inflation), the maximum increase for 2014 is 2.5 %, and you do not have to agree to a higher percentage. If the contract states, for example, that the annual rent increase is the index number plus 5% then that's what you have to pay. If your contract says every five years the rent can be raised to market value and this is your fifth year, then you might get a bigger increase. In this case the landlord will have to prove the current market value of your apartment. For rent controlled apartments the maximum annual rent increase is set by the government. In 2014 it can be 4%, 4.5% or 6.5%, depending on the tenant’s income.
The rent increase sent by the landlord each year is a proposal. If the tenant pays the increase it becomes an agreement. But if the proposal isn't correct (e.g. if the increase is too high or too little time has passed since the previous rent increase), the tenant can object. This has to be done before the proposed rent increase will take effect. To find out if you have grounds to object your rent increase proposal, you can contact the !Woon in your area.
Q: What is the difference between a temporary and permanent contract, and how do I know which one I have?
Most rental contracts in The Netherlands are considered permanent until the tenant gives notice. Simply writing "temporary contract" at the top of a contract doesn't actually make it temporary. If a supposedly temporary contract doesn't meet the strict legal standards for such contracts, it automatically becomes permanent. A 1 year contract is for a minimum of 1 year, not a maximum. After the initial length of time has passed the contract will automatically become permanent— even if the contract says "temporary" at the top, includes an end date, and the tenant’s signature.
This means that tenants can stay as long as they like and leave when they want, provided they give 1 month notice (if they pay rent monthly). If the owners want to sell the house the tenants do not have to move out. The owners will have to sell the house with the tenants in it. The new owners will simply replace the old landlords, taking over all of their rights and obligations. One reason owners can ask the tenants to vacate is if the owners need the place for themselves, have no other options, and would otherwise be left homeless.
Examples of contracts that could be considered temporary, according to Dutch rental law, are: holiday accommodations, student housing, housing slated for demolition, house-sitting situations, and housing that is already listed for sale. Sometimes special permits are necessary, and if the landlord doesn't have the necessary permits the contract isn't temporary. Each situation needs to be assessed individually.
Dafna Eccles works in Amsterdam for the !Woon tenant support agency, an independent non-profit organization which provides free, independent, and confidential advice and support for tenants. For further information visit www.wooninfo.nl and click on your area for contact details.