Landlords circumventing points system to charge higher rents for rooms

Landlords throughout the Netherlands are circumventing the points system for renting out rooms to charge higher rents. Instead, they use a group contract or “friends contract” to make it seem like they’re renting out the entire house, according to research by NOS op 3. Rental teams are increasingly getting reports for this practice, especially in Rotterdam and Amsterdam.

Room rentals are subject to the point system for non-self-contained accommodation, which sets a maximum rent for each room. The room receives points for the surface area and available facilities, among other things.

With a friends contract, housemates are on one contract together. Often, a “main tenant” transfers the entire rent to the landlord while the other tenants pay their share to this housemate. That makes it look like the landlord is renting out the entire house as a unit instead of individual rooms, circumventing the points system for rooms.

These types of contracts are intended for home sharers – friends or student associations wanting to rent a home together. But, according to NOS, landlords often use this contract form for individual room rentals.

NOS spoke to a student with such a group contract. He shares a living room, kitchen, and bathroom with three others for 830 euros. He did not know his housemates beforehand. Yet, according to his contract, he doesn’t rent a room but a home with a group. They pay 3,700 euros for the 103 square meter home in Amsterdam.

The student raised the issue with the Rental Committee, which ruled that he was renting a room, not a home with a group, and reduced the student’s rent to 278 euros. The landlord appealed, insisting that it concerns a group contract. But the student is optimistic. “I think we will also win the appeal. The landlord has used the word ‘room’ in email exchanges, and I transfer my rent individually to the landlord. All things that indicate that it concerns room rental.”

If the student’s housemates also got the Rental Committee, it could reduce the rent for the entire house from 3,700 euros to 1,000 euros.

Real estate lawyer Huib Hiekelma advises landlords to use this type of group contract for room rentals. “The points system for rooms is outdated, so you barely cover the mortgage, let alone the costs,” he told NOS. It also gives tenants extra freedoms, he added. “Group contracts allow tenants to choose their own roommates, often with the landlord’s approval, and to determine who takes which room at what price.”

NOS surveyed over 2,000 students about their room rentals. A quarter of them are renting under a group contract. In Amsterdam and Rotterdam, it’s half of the students. While some students did say they have more control over roommates and room allocation, most experience primarily disadvantages. Many said they are responsible for paying a roommate’s rent when they leave, even if they don’t know that person. Landlords also sometimes increase the full rent by hundreds of euros when a new tenant moves in.

Earlier this year, caretaker Housing Minister Hugo de Jonge presented a new points system in which the maximum room rent is 20 percent higher, among other things. On September 12, parliament will decide whether to leave handling this law until a new Cabinet is installed after the parliamentary elections.

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