Sunday 12 July 2020

Markets authority warns housing agencies about illegal fees


The Dutch competition and markets authority ACM has warned a number of housing agencies about illegally charging tenants fees for finding them a home.

Agencies are not allowed to charge tenants’ fees if they are operating on behalf of a landlord but many continue to do so, hence the ACM clampdown.

The organisation, which did not say how many housing agencies it had warned, said it will do a second round of checks after the summer. Agencies which are still charging tenants illegal costs will face fines which can mount up to €900,000.

Some 70% of rental housing agencies are still charging new tenants fees even though this is not allowed by law, the ACM told broadcaster NOS earlier this year.

In the past, agencies would often charge tenants a month’s rent, but since the change in the rules, they now present tenants with bills of around €200 for various costs, the ACM said.

‘Tenants are often required to pay these costs before they can access the home,’ the ACM said. ‘Agencies are abusing the vulnerable position facing consumers in the current overheating housing market.’

Code of conduct

Jasper de Groot, founder of online housing platform Pararius, told that it should be completely clear to every real estate agent in the Netherlands under what specific conditions tenants can be charged a fee.

‘The market is mature and professional enough to survive without these malpractices,’ he said. ‘We work with a straightforward code of conduct that every agent has to accept before being admitted to make sure they respect the law.’

The agencies breaking the rules are having an impact on the reputation of the majority of agencies which do abide by the rules, he said. ‘I think it is sad but somehow inescapable that the ACM gets involved to separate the wheat from the chaff.’

Amsterdam housing advisory group Woon can help tenants reclaim fees which they may have been wrongly charged.

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