Expats cheated by NL landlords unjustly keeping rental deposits
Commercial landlords in the Netherlands regularly refuse to repay the deposit at the end of the rental contract, even if nothing is wrong with a home, various tenants' organizations said to NOS. Expats in particular seem to be targeted.
"There are landlords who see it as an extra revenue model," Marcel Trip of the Woonbond said to the broadcaster. "We get a lot of complaints about this. Landlords often try to find some reason why they shouldn't have to pay back the deposit and then hope that tenants don't let it come to legal proceedings."
In Amsterdam alone, this happens hundreds of time a year, said Gert Jan Bakker of !Woon, an Amsterdam foundation that helps tenants with conflicts with their landlord. "It often involves shocking amounts. What is striking is that many expats are faced with it. They often have to pay two or three times the rent as a deposit. And an apartment in Amsterdam can quickly cost 2,000 per month."
Bakker believes that expats face this problem because they often move back abroad after a year or two. "Such a landlord knows this and thinks: why should I repay the deposit? But even if a tenant is now in Tokyo, we try to get that deposit back, with letters, collections and subpoenas."
Landlords often use damage as an excuse to keep the deposit, Bakker said. "But then they must prove that it is really new damage caused by the tenant." He advised tenants to do an inspection with the landlord before and after their lease, taking photos of any damages. "But a new scratch on the floor does not mean that the landlord can withhold the deposit," Bakker said. "Something like that falls under normal wear and tear. It must be real damage, for example if you kicked down a door."
These complaints are also common in other Dutch cities. "We are seeing an increase in the number of reports, which may be partly because we are more focused on it," Fleur van Leeuwen of Urbannerdam, an agency that assists tenants on behalf of 10 municipalities including Utrecht and Rotterdam, said to NOS. "We support victims by summoning the landlord to repay the deposit, sometimes successfully. People can also start legal proceedings. They then have to consider whether the costs outweigh the profit."
An expat from Spain told NOS that she had to fight for her deposit on an Amsterdam apartment she rented with her partner. "The home was in perfect condition. The landlord also said there was no problem at the end of the lease. We would get the deposit back within three months. We asked: why does it take three months if nothing is wrong? That was for tax reasons, they claimed at the time. I didn't believe any of that."
After three months of unanswered calls and messages left with secretaries, the deposit was still not repaid, she said. "Then we threatened to take legal action. Then we finally got our money [3,300 euros] back. I spoke to someone who had also rented from them and they said they do this often. They just try and hope that tenants will just leave it."