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Ensuring Fairness: A Deep Dive into the Good Landlord Law in the Netherlands

Could the seven rules defining a landlord as a fair player end tenants' nightmares?

Brussels, Belgium, 26 April 2024 | Published in Social, Future of the EU & Housing

In this interview, Housing Europe's Communications Director, Diana Yordanova discussed with Barbara Steenbergen the groundbreaking Dutch Good Landlordship Act, which addresses the need to protect tenants in the rental market. Enforced since July 2023, the law introduces seven essential rules aimed at fostering good landlordship and safeguarding tenant rights.


Barbara, you announced very big news that I wanted us to delve into today. The Dutch Landlord Law – what does it mean, what is the novelty and why are you very positive about it?

This law is something completely new and I am not aware of any comparable law in another European country. This is the Good Landlordship Act and it is quite interesting because it is for the first time that the cities and the regions of the Netherlands said: “we have to do something on top to protect tenants on the market” and because there is a lot of abuse, we have to find other measures really to protect those who are searching for an apartment or who have a rental contract problems and difficulties with their landlord.

The law is enforced since the 1st of July 2023 and there are basically seven big issues which are addressed by this law, seven rules to be a good landlord.

Would you like to list them, what are they?

Yes, they are like a charter for good landlordship and I think it was very well-thought. This law came also into force with the help of the Dutch Tenants Organisation. So, the seven rules…

[#1] Landlords may not discriminate at all. It sounds quite broad, but we all know that there is discrimination on the rental market. If we have ever have been searching for an apartment in another country or another town, if you don't have the classical names of this country, it can be quite tricky to find something. Also, what is also occurring is discrimination by address. If you are coming from, let's say, not the good part of the town, and you are searching for another apartment which might be in the better part of the town, perhaps the landlord would say “no, no, not this one, not this one.”

Second rule, [#2] the landlord may not threaten or scare the tenant. This sounds perhaps a little bit peculiar, but we do know cases, especially, where you have people who are very vulnerable and who depend on their landlords very much because they cannot find an apartment elsewhere, that there are threats. The tenants are also threatened to be kicked out immediately if they do not pay the higher rent or if they complain because there is a water leak in the apartment or the heating is not working anymore in winter. It is strange that in these times, this is still existing, but in very scarce rental markets especially, female tenants are threatened by their landlord. But the landlords says you can have the apartment and rule for you.

Rule number three is [#3] the landlord may only request a deposit payment which is no more than two times the basic rent. That should natural, there has been a lot of misuse with that. Many landlords say: “OK, you can only get the the apartment if you pay the rent of half a year in advance, otherwise, I will find another one. Three months deposits are starting to be really common.

[#4] You have to have your rental agreement in writing. This is also quite important because in this rental agreement, all the clauses that are in. If there is something going wrong, you must have a contract to protect you and you will not be able to protect to be protected if you only have an oral agreement.

Then we go to number five – [#5] rules and obligations. Sometimes, people do not even know what are the rules and obligations and what are my proper rights.

The landlord must provide the tenant with rights and duties and give good information about the amount of the deposit. Now we just heard it can't be only more than two months, but also when you get it back.

Getting back a deposit is always a nightmare. We are talking mainly about the private rental market because in the social rental market the rules are different. I do not have to tell it to you that you are more protected as a tenant. But in the private rental market it is more or less the the usual situation that for one or another reason, you do not get your deposit back. So, the landlord has to sign the date after the end of our rental agreement, you will get back the deposit, on the 1st of May 2025 for instance.

Another rule, [#6] good information - what is the name of my landlord, how can I reach him, where is he living? Because we have these days so many strange conglomerates renting out apartments, you sometimes write an e-mail and you do not know who is behind it. This e-mail address is also asking you to make a deposit payment, to already send your identity, and the address of your parents in the case of young people. If there are problems with the payment, they have all the details of your parents too, but you get nothing back. This is also not possible anymore. Now, the landlord has to provide you with the details of an authority and for instance, who you can address if you have problems with him. I think this is also very important. Let's say in the best of all cases, you would address the tenant union. There must be also a municipal hotline of the city, which you can directly address if there are problems with your landlord. I think this is quite interesting. It’s kind of a first step if you have problems, of course.

And last but not least, this is the rule seven: [#7] you have to have as a tenant a complete breakdown of the service costs.

Service costs includes also the utilities or utilities?

Yes, maintenance, utilities and service. This is always the big nightmare for the tenants. First of all, most of the time they cannot read it and because it's quite complicated, this is a breakdown of all the costs that can be passed on to you. So, also insurances, if you have housekeeping, also the price for collecting the garbage, heating, hot water, cold water, municipal taxes. Usually, this is something very complicated where we have 10 unit specialists who read that and but the classical tenant is not used to read all those papers. So, now you get it, you must get it. And if you have it in your hands and you have doubts, this service and utility costs are not correct, we can help you directly.

Great. I'm a particular fan of number six, knowing the name of your landlord. Many readers now might think, this is common sense, this is nothing extraordinary. Why did we have this law only in 2023?

I think it was quite a big step for the municipalities and the Dutch state to do this because this is quite a regulation, especially, for the private rental market. But obviously, they were not in the position anymore to do this regulation on the basis of the laws they had before. They were appealing to have good landlordship, but it was not enough. It was misused by the landlords. The tenants unions, as well the services at the municipalities, heard so many complaints about bad landlordship that they said: “OK, enough is enough and we have to do something about it”. I think it is of course also connected to the general housing shortage that we have. We have it everywhere, especially also in the Netherlands which is the country with the highest density of population per square metre.

There is another issue, I think, and it is that the private landlords in the Netherlands, they have never been regulated at all. That's a problem. We do a lot of regulation for the social housing sector, but the private housing market was a little bit the Wild West. It was a Wild West. And you know, in the Wild West, if there are no rules, you will have bad developments. There was also a second aspect of that - we are not talking about young people and do not forget the migrants and also the working migrants were in an extremely fragile situation too. Migrant workers in the Netherlands, where there is a big agricultural system, had to supply themselves on the private rental market because they do not stay for long in the Netherlands. So they did not have access to social housing and short-term contracts. Something very important now is that If you are renting out to a foreign employee, a migrant worker, you must provide a rental agreement which is separated from the employment contract.

I'm wondering… we have a lot of laws that are good on paper, but then, a question always comes about the enforcement. How are we going to make sure that everybody plays by the rule, especially actors who have been used to carry on their activities quite freely?

All of a sudden there is a change, but who has the capacity to follow up, what are the charges? Do you have any information on the Psalms or if you, if, if you have, I don't know repeated misbehaviour, what does it follow? I'm just curious on how this has been going since last July.

The Dutch, they are very clever in that. As a landlord you have to have a rental permit. Otherwise, you are not allowed to rent out anymore. To get this rental permit, you have to sign with the municipality this good landlordship rules. This is the compliance and I think this is a very good solution.

Is this something that you would need to do also if you are already renting your apartment but then mid-way, the law comes into force. Do landlords need to go to the municipality?

Correct. It is a national law but the responsibility to put this rental permit requirement into force is lying in the responsibility of the cities. I made a quick research before this interview. Today, we have it in the Hague, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Leiden, Delft, and Arnhem - all university towns, all big towns. I think this is really breaking news.

Do you have an indication of the of the fines? Even if you have signed the law, what happens if you don't sign it?

Yes, the municipalities are working with this rental permits and this is quite recent. I think it took quite some time to put this into force and you need also to have the City Council with you and all the necessary legal decisions. But we already do have a first fine from the City of Arnhem. So, we had this obligation to have this rental permit for landlords in Arnhem and the tenant complaint was that his apartment was completely full with mould and it was not possible to heat it properly. So the City of Arnhem, they just issued the first file. So it is not let's say a law without uh any consequence. Its is not just on paper. There is definitely also scrutiny, let’s see how it works.

I also have to ask about political demands and what follows after? We know that there were quite turbulent results from the elections in the Netherlands. In less than two months, we are having EU elections and the IUT has been calling for several things. Are you going to give this landlordship law as a good example and something that other countries might be inspired by? What else would you like to see happening when it comes to better landlordship?

First of all, I do think that this law can be also a precedent which is interesting also for other countries at European level to put into force. Basically, I think it is interesting for every country with housing shortage, and then tell me which country does not have affordable housing shortage. IUT and Housing Europe have been working together on the European Responsible Housing Initiative and the Code of Conduct. Our organisations have an agreement on that. It is part of the corporate social responsibility and I'm happy that we have this common sense, how we want to work together and how tenants should be treated. And to get this with the social housing landlords, it wasn't easy, but we got this agreement.

With the private landlords it will be, I think very complicated. So, I think it is necessary to have proper law on that, not a voluntary agreement, no corporate social responsibility, code of conducts. No, there, you need a hard law.
I think this will be something interesting for the future.