Saturday 19 June 2021

Amsterdam hands out €6.4million in fines for ‘perverse’ housing fraud


Amsterdam city handed out €6.4 million in fines for housing fraud last year, a record sum.

The 500 fines, mostly given out for illegal holiday rentals and breaking letting rules, were a third higher than in 2018, according to a city press release. The city council claims that a tough approach also freed up 1,307 homes to be lived in by dissolving ‘illegal’ contracts.

‘The results of this approach to housing fraud shows that homes are all too often used to make a profit rather than to live in,’ head of housing Laurens Ivens said. ‘This is the reason we will continue to use our full force to crack down on illegal rental to tourists, illegal room hire, illegal subletting and other types of housing fraud in the coming period.’

In terms of social housing, the most common type of ‘fraud’ is subletting, while in the private housing market, it is mostly holiday lets or illegal rentals. Although more fines were levied last year, there were fewer public reports of suspected fraud: the report line Zoeklicht had 2459 reports, around 400 fewer than in 2018, and around half of these were about illegal holiday lets. The city reports that around one in 15 Amsterdam homes has been let to tourists and that around 25,000 are used for this purpose each month: it is the most expensive in Europe in terms of holiday rental with an average price of €253 per night in the central area.


However, the fines are far from in the coffers. At the end of last year, the city told the Parool that up to €7 million in historic fines had not been paid – sometimes due to businesses going bust and sometimes due to appeals.

A high court ruling in January 2020 meant that all holiday lets in the Netherlands have been ruled illegal without a license – a license that does not exist – but this also meant that Amsterdam has been levying most holiday rental fines on the wrong basis.

Amsterdam has said that all holiday housing fines that were being protested or appealed would be cancelled as a result – including some of this total from 2019. It announced it would carry on enforcing fines against people running holiday lets for more than 30 nights a year or for more than four people at a time.

Ivens, who has taken a combative approach to Airbnb-type letting, told NOS Radio 1 Journaal that he believes housing fraud increases prices and pressure on the capital’s housing market. ‘If people do this, the prices will just drift even higher,’ he said. ‘Right now, you can only find a home in Amsterdam if you have a very fat wallet, but if you’ve a low or average income, you are really in trouble…We are really trying to tackle the enormous, perverse incentive to rent out your home for as much as €3000 or €4000 a month to tourists.’


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