THE COMPLETE GUIDE
One of the first (and arguably the most important) aspects of student life is having a place to live. Whether that is student housing or something off the private market, there are lots of options to choose from. As an international student, it can be a bit overwhelming to find the best place possible. Sometimes you can't be physically present, or you don't understand the Dutch rental process. That's why College Life wants to make the whole process a lot smoother. In this ultimate guide to student housing in the Netherlands, we are going to cover everything from finding housing and signing contracts, to figuring out utilities and furnishing your place. So, what do you say we get this show on the road?
Where to begin? Well, it’s probably a good idea to start by breaking down the student housing situation in the Netherlands… but here's an overview of the topics we are going to cover. You can either follow along as we go, or skip straight ahead to the topics that are most relevant to you.
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The Student Housing Situation in the Netherlands
Unfortunately, the housing market in the Netherlands for students is quite competitive. It's a small country and very, very densely populated, especially in the city centers of major cities where students typically live. Simply, there's not a lot of room to accommodate the popularity of the cities. But no worries! We're going to dive into details and give you some tips to get ahead.
Because of the quality of the programs here and the rapid internationalization of both undergraduate and graduate degree programs, the quantity of international and EU students studying in the Netherlands is gradually rising. Though this does mean that campuses are more international, this has also contributed to a housing crisis which is expected to last way into 2020. Not only are new internationals unable to find housing, but Dutch students and working families are also part of the steadily growing market of people affected by the housing crisis.
What this means is that it is never too early to start looking for housing. Most universities now recommend starting your search as soon as you submit your application.
The most important thing that you need to know, is that you must find your housing yourself. Unlike other universities in different countries, Dutch universities do not organize your housing for you. You need to find and apply for your own housing. Now, that doesn’t mean you won’t find any campus housing; in contrast, there’s a lot to choose from! If you want to start searching right away, go explore College Life Housing. Most universities have housing offices which do their best to provide newly arriving international students with housing. Keep in mind that university housing offices are not able to guarantee housing for you; most often they are as overwhelmed by the influx of new students as the students themselves.
Where to Find Student Housing
Despite the housing shortage, there are several ways to approach the housing market. The most important thing we can say right off the bat is that it is never too early to start. Houses can come and go very quickly, so it would be smart to make use of multiple channels and apply for multiple openings at once.
Finding student housing on campus is very possible. However, there are usually limited spaces. Campus housing is typically reserved for first-year students. So, if you are entering your freshman year of your Bachelor, your Master’s or even further education, you qualify as a first-year student. This also goes for exchange students!
When we say reserved campus housing, we mean housing that is linked to your university. Many Dutch universities have partnerships with student housing agencies. The university is not the one organizing your housing for you, but they do collaborate with student housing agencies that do. Simply search your university website for ‘housing’, and you can be sure they have recommendations for reserved accommodation or even regular housing. We're going to be talking about some of the biggest student housing agencies down below.
If you are in your second or third year, unfortunately, you can’t live in reserved campus housing. But, you can still live in unreserved student housing. There are many student accommodations for every type of student, no matter your year of study. Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. But more on that in a little bit.
One of the agencies that partners with universities is SSH. They have over 19,000 student accommodations all over the Netherlands. The thing about SSH is that they have two options: ‘reserved accommodations’ and ‘regular accommodations’.
‘Reserved accommodations’: Reserved accommodation is one that your university or college reserves for its international students. They might have buildings on campus, or near it, with a certain number of rentable spaces. The rental period is for the duration of your study period (a year or a semester), and it’s mostly fully furnished. As you might have guessed, reserving a room is on a first come, first serve basis. This is a great option if you are unsure of where to find private housing, or you are an exchange student.
‘Regular accommodations’: Then, there’s regular accommodation. This is student housing that is not reserved for students of your university. Unlike reserved housing, any student can stay here. Whether you are a freshman, a third year or everything in-between, you can rent a regular accommodation. This type of student housing is not always fully furnished.
Another popular student housing choice, DUWO offers over 32,000 rooms all over the Netherlands. At DUWO, you can find both self-contained rooms and shared. Self-contained means you’ll live alone, whereas shared means you live with housemates and share the facilities. Some universities also choose to collaborate with DUWO, so make sure you check out whether that’s an option for you. DUWO works in the same way as SSH; your college reserves a number of spaces, and you can apply through DUWO.
Amsterdam - De Key
Groningen - Lefier
The Hague - ErasmusU
Leiden - Student Accommodation Leiden
Maastricht - Woonpunt
If you don’t feel like staying on campus or in student housing (or you were a bit too late to the game), then you can consider finding private accommodation. Private accommodation is essentially housing (such as apartments and studios) that are not considered part of a student housing scheme. So, any old apartment or room you available for rent. Okay, not old, but you know what we mean. You might consider, for example, renting an apartment with your friends, finding a room for rent, or even finding your own studio. Here’s a list of some of the most popular places for students to find housing on the private market:
Tired of searching for the perfect location & price across multiple websites? Meet Nestpick. Nestpick labels itself as the "Skyscanner for flats" allowing you to filter through thousands of listings across a wide range of housing platforms. This search engine allows you to find mid to long-term accommodation in over 50 cities. And all of that without having to open thousands of browser tabs. Woohoo!
Our last tip? Don’t forget about good old Facebook! Cast away your prejudice of it only being good for bad memes and random cat videos because Facebook can take you far. There are tons of groups dedicated to student housing. Most groups focus on a particular city, where students put out advertisements for rooms to rent. You can also put yourself out there and tell people you are on the hunt for a place to stay. Many students also sub-let their rooms when they go away for an exchange, for example. Facebook can be a great place to find rooms and possible flatmates, so don’t sleep on it! To find groups, simply search 'your city name + "student housing"' for example: "Amsterdam student housing".
A word of warning: if you are trying to find a place to stay from abroad, make sure you can really trust the website you are using or the landlord you are contacting. Not everyone can be trusted (cue the Jaws theme music...).
Types of Housing
Before you start responding to housing advertisements, it might be smart to consider what kind of a home you want. Your house should feel like a haven and should be somewhere you can comfortably go to at the end of the day. If you know you really don't want to live with roommates, then don't apply for rooms with them, because that can really become difficult for you.
Shared or private
In the Netherlands, most student housing follows the same formula. You have your own room, usually relatively small, but shared facilities. You share a kitchen, bathroom (toilet and shower) and any other sort of common room like a living room. Some rooms or apartments may have en-suite bathrooms; it depends on the place you are renting. In some student accomodation, you share a studio, which means that the bedroom, as well as common spaces, are shared. This is called a shared space.
Then, there is also the option of a studio. This is termed private accommodation. Here, you have your own facilities for yourself. A studio is basically one large space, or room, with the kitchen and bedroom in one, and a bathroom attached. Some places may require you to share a bathroom with another studio. It depends on the place and agency. Keep in mind that a studio is usually more expensive than a room. Many student housing agencies offer studios as well as rooms.
Of course, you can rent privately. On the private market, you can usually find rooms, studios, apartments, and houses. Oh, and houseboats if you really want to embrace the Dutch lifestyle. In the case of rooms, you are usually renting out a room in a shared space with other tenants. They are most likely also students. A lot of students tend to share an apartment with two or three other friends.
When you decide on what housing you want to apply for, make sure to check whether it is furnished or unfurnished. If it is furnished it already contains furniture. Most of the time, only the basics like a bed, desk, and wardrobe. If it is fully furnished, it may also have a sofa and dining table, for example. If it is partly furnished, it may only contain a few of the essentials.
An unfurnished place is, as you might have guessed, without any furniture whatsoever. It is important to consider whether you want it to be furnished or not. The pros of having it furnished are that you don’t need to buy any new furniture. When you leave, you also don’t have to think about moving all your stuff somewhere else. On the other hand, unfurnished properties are usually a bit cheaper to rent.
Then we get to the issue of utilities. Utilities include energy (electricity and gas), water, and your internet and gadgets. If you are renting a place with exclusive utilities, they are not included in your monthly bill. You will have to pay them separately from your rent. In some cases, your property may already be tied to utility providers. Then, you just have to fill in your details as the resident. In other cases, you will have to find them yourself and set up a contract for the duration of your stay. Through College Life, you can find affordable utility providers for your new home.
Inclusive utilities, on the other hand, are included in your rent. So, your monthly rent includes utility payments. You don't have to pay for anything separately. Usually, this is a fixed amount that you pay each month. So, you do not really pay for what you use. This makes your life a bit easier since you don’t have to find an energy provider when you move in and just pay everything all at once. However, as mentioned, you don’t really have control over how much you pay. You only need to transfer the existing utilities into your name, and in some cases, you might not even have to. Your landlord or agency can help you with that. Make sure to check exactly what is covered in your inclusive monthly rent.
Either option is fine, and you might not always have a decision since it’s part of the rental contract. Just make sure to keep it in the back of your mind if it’s something important to you.
Who to Find Housing With
There are multiple ways you can approach the housing market. You can look for properties yourself, or you can go through an intermediary, such as an agency or Dutch individual offering their services to help you.
When it comes to finding accommodation on the private market, you can choose to go through a rental agency or directly through the landlord. Many students choose the landlord route. Most of the time, it's easier and faster to get a place through a landlord than going through an agency. Also, many landlords are more open to sub-letting. On many of the websites we listed above, you are directly connected to the landlord. Both have their pros and cons, and both (arguably) get you to the same destination. Take a look…
Battle of the landlords and agencies:
Pros and cons of using an agency
- Most agencies are regulated and have a code of conduct they need to follow.
- Agencies are 100% familiar with rental laws.
- Agencies are easier to contact.
- Agents can be more expensive. If you reach out to the agency, you might pay a commission fee.
- The agency acts as a middle-man between you and your landlord, so things might not always be communicated fast enough.
Pros and cons of contacting a landlord directly
- Usually no additional fees like there might be with agencies.
- Faster and more direct communication with the landlord.
- Some landlords do things their 'own way', not according to landlord-tenant law.
- Landlords are infamous for being difficult to contact.
Avoid agency commissions...
Okay, here’s where it gets a bit more serious. Many internationals use rental agencies, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if they are asking for a fee, like a month’s rent plus tax, then alarms should be going off. This is actually not allowed, in most cases. There's a difference between paying your first and last month's rent or a deposit, which is quite common, and just flat-out asking for an additional fee. So, you need to avoid paying such an illegal agency fee. Some also call it agency commission.
To get into the details of it, an agency can only represent one party: the landlord or you, the tenant. That also means they can only charge the party they represent. A rule of thumb is that if an agency is advertising a landlord’s property on their website, then they represent the landlord. If this is the case, you should not be charged for any kind of strange additional fee.
Good news is though, you can reclaim the amount you've paid if you do. Contact a local legal support agency or even a lawyer. See our Key Resources page for recommendations. You can also search for a local tenant support agency, like Onterecht Betaald.
Don’t fall for scams, we beg you! We know it’s not always easy because you want to trust the landlord and you want to find a place fast. However, there are a few signs you should pick up on that might suggest you are getting scammed.
For example, never agree to send a deposit overseas. If you find a place in The Hague, but the landlord is in the UK and wants you to transfer money via Western Union, don’t do it. Oftentimes, they are frauds and are looking to scam. Students, sadly, are easier to trick because they might not speak Dutch or understand the renting process. Always use platforms that you trust and you know are legitimate. It’s also a great idea to ask someone who speaks Dutch to read over your housing contract before you sign it.
Congratulations, you have found a home! Now the exciting and most important part: the contract! It is very important to read all of the fine print in your contract and make sure you know exactly what you're entitled to under the contract. Here are some hints and tips for what you should look out for.
Anatomy of a housing contract
If you are living in student housing, your rental contract will probably include the dates of the semester you are staying there for. Also, it probably includes some sort of liability agreement, in case you damage something in your room.
In general, all rental contracts should include:
- Your name and signature, as well as those of your landlord
- An agreed monthly rent and method of payment
- The address and possibly a description of the space
- Start and end dates
- Information about how you can prolong the rental agreement
- House rules (smoking, pets, etc.)
- Utilities (inclusive or exclusive and what is included in them, i.e. energy, water, internet and so on)
- Landlord’s duties when it comes to repairs and maintenance
- How long before you want to move out you must tell your landlord. Or, if you can move out before the rental period ends.
- Inventory list for furnished apartments
Like most contracts, housing contracts are on paper. However, if you do somehow create an oral agreement (which is legal), make sure you have a witness to prove the agreement. It is always, always recommended that you have a paper copy of your contract! This is because of legal reasons and to have it as proof.
You have either a fixed rental period or an indefinite rental period. A fixed contract is when you are living in your housing for a specific period, or from a start to an end date. You cannot move out before the end date unless you and your landlord agree to it. An indefinite contract is when there is no specific end date to your stay. You can move out whenever you want, but your landlord can also end your contract if there are legal reasons to do so.
Sub-letting means you temporarily let someone else live in your room or apartment. They pay the rent through you (they pay you, you pay the landlord). This is very popular among students that go abroad for a semester or so, but want to keep their apartment. In that case, they sub-let their space to someone else, and take it back when they come home.
Whether or not you can sub-let depends on your contract and where you are staying. For example, in SSH student housing, you are allowed to sub-let. They have specific rules, like the period they can stay and the agreement has to be approved by SSH. A lot of other student housing agencies are completely fine with sub-letting. Make sure to check first!
If you want to sub-let a private apartment or room, you must ask your landlord first. Otherwise, it is illegal to sub-let. Ask your landlord for permission before you do anything! In any case, you should always sign a contract with the person you are sub-letting to or with.
The Dutch government provides a monthly contribution for rent if you are a low-income student. Sounds great, right? If you meet all the requirements for housing allowance, you can apply for this contribution. The amount you can receive depends on where on the spectrum of income you are, as well as if you have a toeslagpartner or not. A toeslagpartner is basically the person you apply for any sort of allowances with. This could be a housemate, for instance.
Many, if not all, agencies and landlords ask for a deposit when you rent a place. Sometimes, it’s your first and last month’s rent. It’s usually justified as a guarantee that you will stay there for the duration of the contract. Another type of deposit might be around 1 month’s rent. This is used as a guarantee for the landlord should you not meet the obligations of your tenancy. Unless your landlord has a valid claim to it after your tenancy, you are 100% entitled to get it back after your contract ends.
Under what circumstances can you not get it back?
- You have not paid all your rent or payments.
- You give the property back damaged in some way, and you haven’t let the landlord know beforehand. This doesn’t count for something that you were allowed to change, or other wear that comes with time and age.
- If you don’t give back the property, or give it back in a totally unacceptable state.
You should schedule an inspection a few weeks before you move out. This means you both can assess the state of the space, and come to agreements if necessary. You should also try to get an inspection report signed, as legal evidence.
In the event that you do damage something, your landlord calculates the damage costs and deducts it from the deposit. You will get the rest of the deposit back, minus the cost of your damages. Make sure to find out how much the damage is really worth. You don't want to have to pay more than you should! If there are any issues, you can always consult a legal adviser.
Once You're Moving In
The time has come -- you're moving to the Netherlands and get to move into your own place! This is super exciting and a chance for you to really make it your own home. Fill it with pictures, furniture you like, and a comfy bed. Make it yours!
Furnishing your place
Now the fun part: furnishing your space! If you’ve chosen an apartment or room that is furnished, then you might not need all the things on this list. Of course, you can always add to what is there. If you are renting an unfurnished place, however, then this is just for you. Keep in mind that this is a very basic list. What you pack with you or buy on your arrival is totally up to you. Check out this article for a more in-depth checklist.
Let’s start with the kitchen. In most kitchens, even in unfurnished apartments, you should find the basics. That includes a stovetop, fridge, and freezer. Many Dutch student apartments are notorious for not having any ovens (strange, right?). You can, however, buy a small oven. Then, there are things like microwaves, toasters, and kettles. Moving on from the kitchen, there are the usual suspects. A bed, a desk and a place to store your clothes in the bedroom. A sofa, bookcase and maybe a TV in the living room. Your bathroom should already come with a shower, sink, and toilet (hopefully). A place to store your toiletries is also a good idea. And if you have a balcony, use it!
IKEA is well-loved by students. There, you can find all sorts of affordable furniture, as well as pots, pans, and anything else you'll need. Even decorations like plants or pillows. You can search online for the nearest branch to you. Many IKEA stores also have shuttle buses, which is helpful if you are going to be carrying heavy items!
HEMA is a Dutch store that also sells a lot of household items. Here, you can find kitchenware, stationery, bedding and things for your bathroom.
Blokker follows a similar thread. Here, you can also find cheap necessities for your space. You can also find a large selection of furniture here.
Facebook groups! Again, don't sleep on it people. You can find some great Facebook groups, like Commodity Market (insert your city here). Lots of students put things up for sale, like furniture, kitchenware, and even bikes. So, search around on Facebook to find some bargain furniture.
Depending on where you live or what kind of housing contract you have, you might have to pay a few extra taxes. This includes most of the time, trash and water tax. How much you pay might depend on how many people you are and where you live. Each municipality or city is different, so you can check the websites of your local municipality to find out whether you have to pay these taxes or not.
In some cases, you can be exempt from paying these kinds of taxes. Essentially, if you meet certain criteria you don’t have to pay these taxes. If you have an income below the threshold, for example, you might qualify. If you think you qualify, go to your local municipality website and search for tax exemption.
Finally, the end! Before you go, we want to make sure you are 100% informed on everything housing and home. There are a few key resources you can visit to find out more about student housing, and living in Holland in general. These resources are also helpful for later in case you run into any hiccups.
Firstly, have a look at the rest of the College Life website. We have loads of helpful pages and articles when it comes to living in the Netherlands. For example, you can visit Finance to read more about Housing Allowance. Then, in the Housing Deals, you can find housing portals and a utility company to make your search a little easier. Finally, in the College Life Magazine you can always find something relating to housing. Whether it is kitchen essentials you need in your life, apartment budgeting, or advice for living with roommates. Check out the Housing category here.
We also have some helpful key resources, like lawyer recommendations. If you ever need legal advice, you can check them out here.