Housing law

Tenants: right to select a new housemate

Wouldn’t it be perfect if you rented a room and got to choose your own housemates? Just like in the TV series Friends, where Joey, Ross and the other tenants have their own room, while sharing the kitchen and bathroom.

But what happens in terms of the law when Ross moves out because he wants more room for his palaeontology-books, or Rachel moves out because she’s about to have a baby? In situations like these it is important that the friends who stay behind have the right to select a new housemate. This way, they avoid risking the possibility of  having to live with a goofy new tenant the landlord might choose.

Dutch civil law

Under Dutch civil law there are no special rules regarding the rights of tenants to choose a new housemate, rather than that the landlord makes this decision. Therefore, it is important for landlord and tenant to clearly describe the agreement in the tenancy contract.

An example

In the law case of sub-district court Amsterdam, six tenants rented rooms in a house in 2007. They jointly signed one contract with the landlord. In the contract, the right of the tenants to select a new housemate was stipulated as follows:

Article 10. The tenants have the right to select new tenants, as long as there are no more than six tenants, and as long as the landlord is informed about a change in tenants.

 

The landlord’s point of view

During the years after, the tenants changed several times. None of the new tenants signed a new tenancy contract. However, in (nearly) all cases the landlord (and later his successor) was up to date  sooner or later.

In 2012, the successor of the landlord wanted to evict the current tenants, because in his opinion they did not have a tenancy contract. He did not feel bound by the agreement stated in the contract with the original landlord that the tenants had the right to decide upon new tenants. Also, he stipulated that he was not or not immediately informed about some of the new tenants. He felt like it was unreasonable to maintain the present situation.

The verdict

The sub-district court rejected all of the landlord’s complaints. It found that the present situation was entirely in line with the agreement as described in the original contract. The current tenants were the successors of the original tenants, so the original tenancy contract still applied to them.

The right of current tenant to decide upon the next tenant is one of the key elements in the contract with which the successor of the landlord has to comply. Even if the tenant(s) did not (immediately) inform the landlord, this did not justify the termination of the contract. There are no known circumstances that conclude to an unreasonable situation.

Tips and tricks for the landlord

The Higher Court The Hague decided that the right of tenants to decide upon the follow up tenant does not imply that tenants have the right to decide whether a vacant room can be rented out again or not. This right remains solely that of the landlord. If he decides he does not want to rent out a vacant room again, the other tenants have to respect this decision.

Conclusion

If clearly stipulated in the contract, the right of tenants to decide on the follow up tenant can be a strong right with obvious benefits.

Would you like to negotiate this with your landlord? Or do you have any further questions? Please do not hesitate to contact us. We are here to help.

This article was updated November 2017. 

Marie-Christine Veltkamp - Expat lawyer (housing law)

Marie-Christine studied law at the University of Leiden and has an extensive experience in real estate law. She joined GMW lawyers in 2012, after she and her family returned from a four year stay in the Sultanate of Oman. Because of her experience abroad, she is well aware of the problems that expats can encounter while living outside their homeland.

Marie-Christine is specialised in tenancy law and is a member of the Specialist Association of Tenancy Law Lawyers. She advises on complicated matters of tenancy law regarding both residential and business accommodation. Her clients include housing corporations, local authorities, food service industries, enterprises of all sizes and national and private individuals from the international community. She advises and litigates on issues such as commencement and expiration of the lease, general terms and conditions, defects on delivery, concurrence of tenancy regimes, joint tenancy, hemp plantations, disturbances by neighbours, etc. Marie-Christine gives lectures on tenancy law to several real estate companies.

In addition to tenancy law, Marie-Christine also has broad experience in the purchase and sale of real estate, apartment rights, construction law, administrative law, law of obligations and debt-collection. She is well-known for her analytical skills combined with a vigorous approach.