written by Global Mobility Specialist and all round Netherlands expert; Rhiannon Magor
Congratulations - you’re moving to The Netherlands! I first moved here back in 2008 and have been in Amsterdam permanently since 2010 – once you get the bug it’s definitely hard to go back. I’m sure that you're looking forward to your new life here, and to help I wanted to pull together some important points for you to know before you make the move…
The Netherlands not Holland
The correct name for the country where you will shortly be living is The Netherlands and not Holland. North Holland and South Holland are both provinces within The Netherlands. So check a map, and see if you really are moving to Holland and not somewhere else!
Finding a Home to rent
If you are moving to any of the main Dutch cities, then the housing market is very competitive. This is true whether you decide to rent or buy, but even internationals wanting to buy in the longer term, usually end up renting at least for their first year.
In most cities, there is more demand for housing than supply and the market moves quickly. This is especially true for lower cost properties where students, recent graduates and young professionals are all looking for the same type of home. There is only a limited number of suitable properties and the authorities reserve a proportion of these for social housing. If a property is below an agreed size or does not meet certain other standards then Landlords are not allowed to rent the property privately. There is a long waiting list for social housing and newly arrived expats do not meet the criteria to rent these homes.
The remaining smaller properties which are available for private tenants often get rented out as soon as they come available. In many cases this can be the same day they come on the market and often before they go online. Set your expectations accordingly. If you’re searching by yourself, you need to react quickly and it’s unlikely you'll be living in a prime canal-side location with roof terrace, parking-space and garden!
Sharing apartments can be an option but there are also restrictions in place. The owner needs to apply for a permit allowing a property to be shared by people not of the same family. This takes time and money and since the property can usually be rented to non-sharers in the meantime, there is very little incentive to apply. Some properties do of course get rented out to share illegally, usually with a comment that registration at the address is not possible. Note for couples: two people living together as partners are considered as a family unit not sharers.
Unless you’re looking for a new-build property without floors and fittings, the easiest and fastest way to find a rental home in The Netherlands is to work with a broker. You pay the broker a commission, usually one month’s rent plus VAT, which is due when you move into the property. The broker acts on your behalf and searches the whole market for properties which match your requirements, helps you place the offer, negotiates the lease agreement and generally coordinates the whole moving in process. The broker is not allowed to represent both you and the Landlord so they are genuinely working in your interests - if you rent a property where he or she represents the Landlord then they won’t charge you a fee.
Be aware that in The Netherlands, a verbal agreement to rent a property is considered legally binding. If your rental offer is accepted then you should not change your mind. Even if you have nothing in writing, you are still committed to the terms agreed and may be liable for costs if the rental does not go through. This also works the other way, and a Landlord is unlikely to change his mind once your offer is accepted.
Everyone who lives in The Netherlands is required to register with the local authorities. If you’re not registered, this impacts many parts of daily life. If you don’t register then you may get in trouble with the tax authorities. Without a residential address you will struggle with any type of credit agreement such as a mobile phone contract, gym membership or buying a public transport season ticket. Your registration is tied to your health insurance, and you cannot easily register with or visit a doctor without an address. If you move to The Netherlands on a work or residence permit, these can be withdrawn if you fail to keep your registration up to date.
Some properties are listed as available to rent without the possibility to register. This is illegal. If you take a property on these terms then you may be breaking the law. You and your Landlord could incur a fine, and your rights as a tenant are greatly reduced. Many Dutch authorities are actively targeting the illegal rental market especially those listed through AirBnB. The rules have become even stricter around AirBnB rentals since the arrival of Covid-19 and so you need to think very carefully if you are considering this type of rental even for the short term. Is it worth the risk?
Although it is possible to live in The Netherlands without a Dutch bank account, it’s not very convenient and given how easy it is to open an account, we’d recommend going ahead with a new bank account.
Dutch businesses love payment by plastic. For many years it has not been unusual to only be able to pay even small amounts by bank-card, known locally as paying by PIN. Unfortunately, that can often mean the machine will only accept a Dutch bank-card. It’s not unusual to have your foreign bank-card rejected, especially if that card happens to be VISA. The Dutch banking system runs off Maestro and whilst Dutch credit cards use Mastercard, some places also reject them! This can be the case in supermarkets, bars, restaurant, when buying train tickets, shopping online or paying for parking meters. The only places that you can be sure your non-Dutch card will be accepted is in international chains like Starbucks or H&M!
You also need a Dutch account to connect your utilities, set up phone contracts, pay bills and buy monthly or weekly travel passes. Thankfully, it’s super easy to get set up with a bank account digitally, with Digital Banks N26, Revolut & Bunq all offering Dutch specific options that can be set up from your home country.
30% Tax Ruling
The famous 30% tax ruling attracts many to The Netherlands. Who doesn’t want to receive the first 30% of their income tax-free!
The 30% tax ruling does have conditions and it is important to check these in advance. The ruling is only applicable if you move to The Netherlands for a specific role and your salary is above a set amount. Other conditions include that the employer and employee must agree in writing that the 30% ruling is applicable. The employee needs to have been recruited from outside The Netherlands and have skills or expertise not widely available in the Dutch market.
The employer applies for the ruling. But this can only be done once the employee has arrived in The Netherlands, has a Dutch tax number, is registered and has started working for the company. It should be noted that the 30% tax ruling only applies for your first five years of living in the Netherlands - pretty good though!
Because of language constraints, most newly arrived international children attend one of the many international schools, found in all parts of The Netherlands This also allows them to continue a curriculum started elsewhere, or to follow a study program they can transfer to their next country of residence.
International schools are in high demand and it is important to apply for places as early as possible. Most year groups have waiting lists, and because they don't know how many families will be leaving it is impossible for school administrators to predict how quickly the list will move. Schools offering either a very specific curriculum or lower fees are in especially high demand. The schools close down completely for holidays especially over the summer. It is not usually possible to arrange appointments or have an application processed during the school holidays. This can cause issues for families arriving over the summer who feel unable or unwilling to commit to a home without first securing a spot at a school.
Health insurance is obligatory and all residents of The Netherlands are required to have some form of cover.You cannot arrange Dutch health insurance until you have physically arrived in The Netherlands and have obtained your Dutch tax number. If you do not arrange it within the first weeks after registration however, you may be subject to a fine – try to sort it out as soon as possible!
Many companies have discounted rates with one or more health insurers. It can save you a significant amount to sign up using this discount. Another point to consider is what you actually want to cover. If you plan to travel overseas where vaccinations are needed, then make sure you pick an insurance package which covers these. If you have an injury that requires physiotherapy make sure to choose one where enough visits will be reimbursed. Also be aware that dental cover is extra, so if you want to be able to get dentist visits reimbursed be sure to include this.
The health insurance you choose will be valid until the end of the year. In December and January, you have the chance to change or cancel your policy. If you miss the deadline then you cannot usually make changes until the same date the following year.Very good information about health insurance and other medical matters can be found on the website of Access. There are comparison sites showing the differences and similarity between the different companies’ basic cover.
Conclusion: The Netherlands is an absolutely fantastic place to live and I’m jealous of you getting to start your journey here. This article has been very much focused on the functional aspects of relocating to the Netherlands – fear not, there are loads of fun aspects as well! If you’re interested in learning more about the culture of the Netherlands and why it’s awesome, look out for the next blog…
author Global Mobility Specialist and all around Netherlands expert; Rhiannon Magor
Stunning image of Netherlands via @Chaitgoli
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