If you’ve looked for rental accommodation in the Netherlands, you’ve probably seen a lot of property descriptions. These property descriptions may tell you how large the apartment or e.g. has good lighting. However, sometimes the landlord of the property wants to ban certain groups from applying (“Not suitable for students”), or encourage other groups (“Perfect for expats”). But, is this allowed?
This post was reviewed and updated on 28 August 2020
Direct and indirect discrimination
The Netherlands doesn’t allow direct or indirect discrimination on the grounds of religion, personal beliefs, political opinion, race, sex, nationality, sexual orientation or civil status. An example of direct discrimination would be if a landlord placed a rental ad saying, “No Belgians allowed”. Indirect discrimination can be more difficult to prove.
The sentence, “Only Dutch speakers allowed”, would be a good example of indirect discrimination in rental ads, since most people who speak Dutch are Dutch, thus this indirectly discriminates on the basis of nationality. Expats, defined under Dutch law as people who are temporarily living abroad for work, are not included in this group.
The flow of the rental market law 2015
Last year, a new law went into effect governing rental properties. The Wet Doorstroming Huurmarkt 2015 (the Flow of the Rental Market law) covers a variety of topics concerning rental properties.
The Dutch government was concerned about complaints that the previous laws were too strict and that this inflexibility led to housing shortages and higher rents. Amongst other changes, the options for temporary rental contracts were expanded and the opportunities for renting buildings that were for sale were extended.
Prior to this new legislation, landlords and rental agencies could only end the leases of a few groups: the disabled, the elderly and students. As age is not a group that is protected under discrimination law (for service providers, it is for employers), landlords could impose age restrictions on properties.
As of July 1, 2016, when the new law went into effect, more groups were added. Now there are six categories of people who can have their leases terminated if they no longer fall under one of the categories: the disabled, the elderly, students, PhD students, young people and those with large families. This is why, for example, a student can be forced to move out of a student accommodation after graduation.
For expats only?
Since many expats are looking for short-stay accommodation, the changes to the law have impacted the housing options available to them as well.
In 2010, a tenant association in Amsterdam requested that a judge determine if a real estate agent had broken the law when advertising an apartment in the building as, “For expats only”. The judge ruled that this distinction constituted indirect discrimination. So, our advice is to always make sure to carefully word your ads, if you are renting out a property.
Have you experienced discrimination? Or are you a landlord who is not sure what to include in your rental ad? Please do not hesitate to contact one of our specialised lawyers.
Update article: December 2017
Godelijn experienced an international upbringing and education as an expat child living in Africa and England. Back in The Netherlands, she studied law at the University of Utrecht (1990). She then embarked on her legal career as a lawyer by working 10 years for the well-known law firm of ‘Wladimiroff en Spong Advocaten’. In 2000 she joined GMW lawyers as a partner and is the head of the Labour law and Pension section.
Godelijn specialises in international employment law and has extensive experience in dealing with both non-contentious and contentious international employment matters including (collective) redundancy packages and dismissal. She works for both companies and individual employees, enabling her to keep an open mind to both sides of a case. Naturally she helps her clients when a problem has arisen, but prefers to act before an escalation has taken place. Advice on a fair Human Resource policy is an essential part of her work.
Godelijn Boonman is considered to be the undoubted employment specialist for the expat community because she is bilingual, has a large international clientele and a wealth of experience in international employment law matters. She is therefore frequently asked to be the key note speaker at international seminars.
Godelijn has a keen interest in the international community and is a member of the advisory board of ACCESS .