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I have been searching for apartments in Rotterdam and I recently decided for one. I contacted the real estate agency and we agreed on the rental conditions, but they are asking me 350€ + VAT for Contract Costs. They said that the owner is already paying them a fee, but that I always have to pay them this.

I know that this is illegal, but I also don't want to lose this house.

What can I do to avoid paying this (illegal) costs without taking the risk of letting losing the opportunity to get this house?

Update: I rented a house through an agency. At first, I saw the house and agreed with the price. Before they sent me the contract, I signed a document saying that I was committed to accept the house and pay one month in advance, plus one month for deposit, plus the fee for them. I signed that document because I really wanted the house.

Then, they sent me the contract. But at that point they are already committed with the owner that they were representing. That means they know the owner has agreed to rent the house to me and pay the agency the fee.

I think this is the key point. The agency doesn't want to lose the opportunity to rent the house. Therefore, you can press them. So I called them saying that a legal adviser told me that the fee is illegal. He argued otherwise and this discussion lasted for almost 10 minutes. At the end, he stand up to his position. So I asked for him to speak with his manager to not charge me the fee, and then give me a call. Next day he sent me an email saying that they would not charge me the fee, despite the document I signed said otherwise.

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First of all, get some evidence: A signed written requirement is best; a voice recording is good (and make a transcript); a clear email exchange is not so great, but might do.

And now for some actual suggestions:
(Note that some are complementary while some are contradictory)

  • Find a Dutch person to help you with this. Preferably a personal friend or co-worker, preferably an assertive person and/or one with a background in social activism / legal action. Any of the activities below would probably work better if you can bring another person with you (and even better the larger a group you are).
  • Get in touch with the "I Am-sterdam" people (who put up that website you linked to); maybe they can help you with directions of some sort.
  • Contact the police. Complain about the rental agency trying to scam you.
  • Tell the rental agency you want the apartment, and when they demand the fee, threaten the rental agent with the police: tell them that you're not paying, and if they don't skip the fee, you will report them to the police as having committed an offense. It's better if you've managed to figure out exactly which law they are breaking.
  • Talk to a (Dutch) lawyer - just once, to ask for what you can do. Perhaps a threatening letter from a lawyer will do the trick.
  • Try to get the real-estate agency to put you in contact with the owner - whether it's just the two of you or whether it's with the real estate agent present. Complain to the apartment owner that the agency is trying to demand the illegal fee; maybe he'll get upset. If he doesn't care, perhaps threaten to report him to the police or to sue him (even if you don't intend to do it).

Finally, the page you linked to, explaining the illegality of the charge, has a link to a page entitled How to reclaim unjust agency fees; and if you don't manage to avoid paying that fee, there might still be easier ways than an arduous legal procedure to get your money back.

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  • Just an update: I said to them, by email, that I accepted the rent price so they could make a contract for me to sign. Today, they sent me the contract and the value to make the transfer but I decided to not rent the house after all. I didn't signed or accept the contract but now they sent me an email saying that the dutch law says that I have to stay with this house, because we had a verbal agreement. I call this bullsh#t, but I would like to know what you think. – cinico Apr 12 '17 at 21:08
  • @cinico: This should be a separate question; post it as such, and link to this question to describe what has happened so far. Other people may have some input on such a situation as well. Anyway, I agree with your call. Even though I don't know Dutch law - contract negotiations are certainly not required to succeed and conclude with an actual contract. – einpoklum Apr 12 '17 at 21:27
  • I created a new question, linked to this one. Thanks for all the feedback. – cinico Apr 12 '17 at 22:25
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I experienced a similar issue in Rotterdam where an agency (Domica, MaxRentals) charged me € 350 in advance in order to secure the house. I complied and paid in order to get the house. After that I requested for refund as the practice is illegal. Agency chose not to comply and did not respond.

I used the questionnaire from woonbond.nl (a Dutch national association for tenants) to determine my options. In the end, I had to start a lawsuit. Woonbond recommends procedeerwinkel.nl. If you have legal insurance, please check with them first.

I started a lawsuit. Their fee is 20% of your dispute or €100 minimum. Fees to start a lawsuit is € 104 which is refunded if you win. My case was strong and court rules in our favor. In the end I lost 28% of the deposit I made. But it is good to know I found justice and the agency had a lesson.

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