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The Living Hell of Finding An Affordable Place to Rent in Amsterdam

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Finding An Affordable Place To Rent in Amsterdam

In 2004 when I moved to the Netherlands, finding an affordable place to rent in Amsterdam was easier than selling ripped jeans to a Dutch woman.  I found a 70 square meter apartment that was a bitterballens throw away from Museumplein, for which the rent was only 1055 Euros per month. It was so simple and pain-free. Finding a place to rent back then was easy like a Sunday morning.

Thirteen years later and how the Amsterdam rental market has changed. Finding an affordable place to rent in Amsterdam is hell on a bicycle! Which brings me to the subject of today’s post, for which I reached out to my readers and asked them to share some of their experiences when looking for places to rent in Amsterdam.

If you believe what you read in certain elements of the Dutch media, expats are to blame for the high rental prices in Amsterdam.

Who is to blame for the high rental prices in Amsterdam?

If you’re looking for a reason why even people that were born in Amsterdam find it difficult to afford the free market rental prices, let alone expats then look no further than some of the following:

  • 16% of all homes sold in Amsterdam last year were bought by (Dutch) investors
  • There are 20 companies and individuals who own more than 100 properties each in Amsterdam
  • These properties are purchased to be rented out to companies and individuals for the highest prices possible
  • The majority of residential property in Amsterdam is social housing with waiting lists longer than the list of excuses used to justify the blackface Zwarte Piet

As if the list above isn’t bad enough, Amsterdam city council has decided to do the equivalent of kicking a man when he’s down. Since the first of January 2017, there are new rules that effectively forbid the renting of property to three or more people without a vergunning (permit).

Flatshares that existed prior to the rule change are fine, however, if you’re now looking to share an apartment with some friends this is only allowed if the owner applies to the gemeente for a permit.  I’m reliably informed that if a group of expats goes to a rental agency and explains that their intention is to share an apartment, they are as welcome as a vampire at a blood bank.

 

Sharing apartments were one way that people on average salaries were able to find affordable apartments in Amsterdam.

expat under pressure in Amsterdam
The Amsterdam Gemeente helping people on average salaries looking for accommodation

 

The quest for an affordable place to rent in Amsterdam my readers experiences

“However hard it was to find a room, it is certainly getting harder because so often you see the sentence “not suitable for sharing”. Thanks to Amsterdam’s brilliant regulations to tackle housing shortage issues.”

The most tolerant real estate agent in the Netherlands…

“Before we moved here we were told by the relocation company that the only way we could find somewhere reasonably priced was if either we lived in a tiny apartment (family of four) or we lived somewhere there was a lot of Moroccans or Surinamese people (which they viewed as a negative, not me).”

 

The eternal optimist, 140 applications for a room…

Like most of you, I’m on that time of the year where I need to find a new place. Sunday afternoon was so cold so I decided that it was a good time to finally start this lovely activity. I took my laptop, paid Kamernet Premium + early bird, of course, you wanna go FULL SET on this. I prepared a text saying how cool and unique yet normal I am and I started sending requests.

I set my filters because I am picky too and I sent 140 requests in one sitting. Here are the results:

  • 3 (2.14%) landlords politely told me that they already found someone. Lovely, thanks!
  • 6 (4.2%) asked me if I was aware that the house was for 2 to 4 weeks max. Well, no, thanks.
  • 10 (7.1%) I was not eligible because sadly I was not a GURL. All of them said something like “You look like the perfect roommate BUT… you are a BOY”. It is like, I am not racist BUT……… Why was I born like this?
  • For 117 (83.57%) I did not receive an answer yet, or the ad was removed.
  • BUT WAIT, 4 (2.8%) cool people actually told me yes!! Here we go! 1 of these asked me to provide a copy of my passport, payslips, employment contract. Dude, invite me to your place at least. I’ll send you even my birth certificate if I am interested. The other one told me that the room I applied for was taken but he had another available.

Ok, let´s check… And 2 (1.4% out of the 140 requests) actually invited me for a viewing. YASSS! Now I only have to compete with another 20 people!! What can go wrong? Room-seekers of Amsterdam: There is hope!! 1 like = 1 prayer.

 

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Tenants with iron bladders only

“Once I rented a room where I wasn’t allowed to use the kitchen, and I couldn’t use the toilet after 22:00 until 09:00. The room was less than 3 square meters, my rent was 400 euros, without registration. I discovered time after that it was a government house and the landlord paid 600 euros per month for the apartment…”

 

Not all expats are rich

It’s funny most people think about expats as “rich” people 🙄. We moved from Italy with my husband and our cats for his new job position and the first suggestion of the person in charge of accommodation was to get rid of our cats because that way would be easier to get us a place on our budget. Of course, we didn’t and for that, we never received more help from her and took us almost three and a half months to find a place that we like, on our budget and pet-friendly.

Exiled in Haarlem

My fiancé and I tried to find a room for us in Amsterdam for months. After scams, no registration offers and people offering rooms for more than 1.000€, we gave up and start checking in Haarlem. It was crazy too and took us more than 1 month, but now we have our own apartment for the same price.

The expat squeeze

It’s difficult enough for locals to find affordable rental properties in Amsterdam, but for expats on an average income, it’s even more of a challenge. What with numerous adverts by tolerant Dutch people stating “NO INTERNATIONALS!”. Or “DUTCH ONLY”.

room to let no expats in Amsterdam

 

Greedy weirdos

Their are some apartment owners that don’t really want tenants but can’t resist the allure of easy cash. This is how you end up with adverts like this one.

Part-time unattractive tenants only

Expats are often squeezed between expectations from agencies and landlords that they’re prepared to pay higher rents or face the challenge that they are either exploited by unscrupulous landlords who use the expat’s ignorance of Dutch law and housing regulations against them. It’s no coincidence that the most common complaint I receive from expats is that they have problems getting their security deposits returned.

How some property owners view expats….

 

Some tips when looking for an affordable place to rent in Amsterdam

Of course, the term “affordable” is entirely subjective and depends on what you’re prepared to spend, however here are some tips.

1. Never move into a place where you’re not allowed to register

Registration with the local city council (gemeente) is mandatory if you plan to stay for longer than three months. If you see a room to let which says “no registration possible” this is usually because the apartment is probably social housing and is an illegal sublet. You can be fined by the authorities for not been registered while living in the Netherlands. Don’t do it, however tempting it might be.

2. If a room sounds too good to be true there’s usually a good reason for this

“I bet it is even harder for an expat but finding a room for myself, a Dutch student wasn’t great either. I had several male landlords offering me ( obviously extremely desperate and 20 y/o) to pay part of the rent in “natura” and really trying to take advantage of the desperation of people in nasty ways.”

3. Never send a copy of ID to a landlord/agency by email

Don’t fall victim to identity theft. Never send a copy of your ID by email when applying to see a room. The time to hand over your details is when signing a rental contract. Do so in person and be present when they take a photocopy of it.

4. Agencies are not allowed to charge one months rent as a fee

Here’s a link to an article that explains the changes in Dutch law. From the article..

“In October of 2015 the High Court (Hoge Raad) issued a very clear verdict: if the agency is representing the landlord (which is almost always the case) tenants are not obliged to pay commission, agency fees, contract-costs, or whatever those cost might be called. If tenants have been unjustly charged they can demand a refund.”

5. When going to view a room or apartment, make sure you arrive prepared

Nowadays, it’s normal that when going to view a room or apartment in Amsterdam, that there might twenty or more other people coming view the same place. Arrive prepared by taking the following items with you:

  • Copy of your contract of employment
  • Uitreksel from the gemeente showing that you’re registered with a Dutch municipality
  • Copy of some recent payslips

Some landlords insist on even more details, especially if you’re from an Eastern European country

  • blood sample
  • Dental x-ray of your teeth
  • Stool sample

6. Some resources for finding accommodation in Amsterdam

Facebook Groups:

There are a number of Facebook groups and pages for finding rooms and apartments in Amsterdam. However, the same warnings above apply. Be careful out there as there are plenty of scammers looking to profit from people looking for affordable places to rent in Amsterdam.

Some Facebook groups for apartments and rooms

 

7. Agencies and rental sites

The Nestpick site is a portal that features both rooms to hire as well as apartments. Perfect Housing offers a large selection of apartments in Amsterdam and other cities in the Netherlands. There are also a number of reputable Makelaars out there that also are involved in apartment rentals such as Ramon Mossel. 

Be aware that rental agencies are not your friends. It a seller’s market at the moment as demand massively outstrips the availability of rental apartments. Sadly, people looking to rent apartments in Amsterdam are like battery hens, plentiful and easily replaced. Real estate agents represent the interests of landlords, not tenants.

If you run into the common problem of landlords refusing to refund most of your security deposit, don’t expect the agent to be helpful or take your side. You’re just plofkip (battery hen) so my advice is to ALWAYS make an inventory of any place that you move into, and have the landlord/agent sign it. Comment on any issues such as the walls being stained, or wardrobe door loose etc. This will prevent the landlords attempting to keep your money when you move out. They’ll probably try it on anyway.  Tenants in Amsterdam have lots of rights. Make sure that you know what these are. The wooninfo site has lots of useful information about your legal rights as a tenant.

landlord sharks make finding an affordable place to rent in Amsterdam difficult
“Hello, I’m your landlord, nice to have your deposit, I mean, nice to meet you”

There’s more to life than Amsterdam

The other thing you should consider is looking further afield. Yes, it’s great to live in Amsterdam, but there are places nearby such as Utrecht, Haarlem, or even the Ijburg area of the city (where I live) that have better quality property for a lower price than you’ll find in most of the central parts of the city.

I apologize for the length of this post but I hope that it contains information that some of you will find useful.

Best of luck with finding an affordable place to live in Amsterdam.

No house hunters were hurt during the writing of this post.

 

 

 

About Simon Woolcot

Infamous blogger, annoyance and self confessed Shallow Man . Simon is a British expat who has lived in Amsterdam for over 11 years, and due to Brexit may soon be applying for asylum. As well as writing this blog, Simon also has a YouTube channel of the same name, writes and directs videos, and hosts seminars about life in the Netherlands

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  • Real Estate Dude

    Let’s break down your arguments:
    1) 16% of all homes sold in Amsterdam last year were bought by (Dutch) investors.
    – This is irrelevant. We’re talking about rental prices. If anything, this should actually lower the rent price as it creates more supply in the market.

    2) There are 20 companies and individuals who own more than 100 properties each in Amsterdam.
    – Great! What do they do with them? They let them out to people who seek accommodation.
    Once again, we increased supply and gave renters more options to choose out of.
    3) These properties are purchased to be rented out to companies and individuals for the highest prices possible.
    – Of course, I wouldn’t think they’d give charity by investing their money and ask friendly prices. The same way Apple doesn’t charge iPhoneX a friendly price. This is a market where all participants try to make money. The very same reason we all go to work.

    4) The majority of residential property in Amsterdam is social housing with waiting lists longer than the list of excuses used to justify the blackface Zwarte Piet.
    – Spot on! Here we go. Amsterdam tries to repeat the same mistake over and over again but for some reason it expects to get different results. You know what Albert Einstein said about that…

    Due to so many regulations, investors (who are the only potential landlords for expats as expats aren’t qualified for social housing) historically kept away from Amsterdam and Dutch rental market in general. This(!) and mostly this, created a huge shortage in the city where over 50% of dwellings still belong to the government.
    I know owners who want to let out their properties but are afraid of the tough anti-landlords rules in NL and prefer to keep them empty. This is insanity at its worst.

    Yes, many expats (people!) flock into the city because it offers freedom and business opportunities. Unfortunately there is no room for everyone and therefore a tough competition can be expected where price is the only measurement owners care about.
    Same thing like in London, Manhattan and other desirable cities.

    TL;DR:
    Fewer regulations, reducing the social housing sector and more construction would ease the market and do well to renters. Same like in any other market.
    Next time you vote, make sure (to vote! and) choose for more freedom.

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