Corrupt landlords routinely swindle expats in Netherlands: report
Shady Amsterdam landlords and brokers regularly swindle expats looking for somewhere to stay in the city, the Financieele Dagblad reports based on its own research. Expatriates make easy targets, as they don't speak the language, are unfamiliar with the rules and institutions and are often under high amounts of pressure to find a home quick, according to the newspaper.
As a result, expats are often charged high administrative fees, are evicted without good reason and don't et back their deposits, Gert Jan Bakker of neighborhood support group Wonen Amsterdam said to the newspaper. "Many brokers only want to rent to expatriates. They have money and you're not stuck with them for years. If you have a new tenant every year, a landlord can try to keep the deposit each year." he explained.
Bakker's group does not register tenants backgrounds, so he does not have exact figures. But according to him, there is a definite upward trend in the number of expats complaining about landlords. "Probably proportional to the number of expatriates coming to Amsterdam", he said. According to figures from the Expat Center of Amsterdam, in 2013 there were 128 thousand international workers in Amsterdam, a 31 percent increase compared to 2009.
The overheated housing market in the Dutch capital means that it is difficult to find a home. This means that many expats end up at one of the dozens rental agencies. "There are many cowboys between them", Bakker said to the newspaper. And many of these agencies cater specifically to expatriates.
Sven Heinen, president of Real Estate Association Amsterdam, agrees with the picture Bakker is painting. "You still get shady brokerage offices. I've heard stories of expats that are dropped at the ATM and have to pay huge sums immediately because it is the only way to get the house. Terribly sad", he said to the newspaper. According to Heinen, these people aren't real brokers. "They present themselves as such, because it is a free profession. But these house intermediaries are not affiliated to a trade association. Then they would have adhered to certain rules."
FD spoke to Dominik Twardowski, a 28-year-old expat from Poland who rented an apartment on Gianenstraat in Bos en Lommer in December 2014. He and a companion together paid 1,200 euros monthly rental. "Later we found out that we were paying too much", he said to the paper. It turned out that they were paying 560 euros in rent and a massive 640 euros in service fees.
They asked for the service fees to be explained, but that did not happen. The landlord only said it was a contribution to the light in the hall and maintenance. They asked whether some of that money could be used to make improvements in their homes, but that fell on death ears. Eventually the landlord warned Twardowski not to make him angry. "It was intimidating. My landlord also has a security company. I was afraid that a few of his men would come along and throw us out of the house." After a year, Twardowski left the apartment, his roommate having left earlier. They did not get their 2,400 euros deposit back. "He said it was necessary to paint the entire wall.'