Housing problems and their solutions: you have rights and obligations wherever you live

Anyone who goes to live somewhere has both rights and obligations. For example, a tenant has the right to enjoy the rental, but also the obligation to pay the rent. An owner who lives in their own home has a right to peace and quiet and enjoyment of their own home without excessive disturbance from others. While the owner must maintain the building and prevent damage to neighbours or passers-by. In the densely built-up Netherlands, all those rights and obligations can sometimes cause conflict in various ways.

    two woman showing a key to from rental property

    Neighbour disputes and neighbour law

    Neighbour law is part of civil law in the Netherlands. It regulates relations between citizens, how people should behave, or what their powers and obligations are with regard to each other’s property. In practice, this is very important in settling disputes between neighbours, offering clear rules which strive for a balanced solution that focuses on consultation that nips disputes in the bud. It is always recommended that you first attempt to resolve disputes with your neighbour before seeking legal action. A mediator can be appointed if necessary.

    In practice, you should be able to listen to music or mow your lawn, and your neighbours must tolerate this, as long as you are not too loud on a consistent basis in a way that impacts on your neighbour and their quality of life. If a neighbour causes unlawful nuisance, you can then ask a court to impose an injunction or even seek compensation. There are also regulations relating to the dividing wall between two gardens, and the border between neighbouring dwellings. 

    Types of neighbour disputes

    Quarrels with a neighbour often arise because of minor irritations that grow into something intolerable. These things can cause problems over time. Here are some different types of neighbourhood disputes.

    Problems due to noise pollution

    A common source of neighbour disputes, there are different things that can cause irritation. For example, an upstairs neighbour in an apartment block making noise with how heavy they walk or stomp around their apartment, the barking of a dog all day and night, the sound of sexual intercourse from neighbours, musical noise, or persistent shouting.

    Problems concerning gardens and fencing

    Although you have your own garden, you might share a fence with your neighbour. This means sharing maintenance costs, which can cause disagreements. Gardens are often source of neighbour disputes, for such things as overhanging branches or children having a clear view of a neighbour’s living room when bouncing on the trampoline.

    Problems with neighbours and their children

    Even if you get on with your neighbours, you might not get on with their children if they misbehave regularly or even if they are just loud all the time like children can be. Always be cautious when discussing this type of matter with a neighbour, as it is difficult to talk to a parent about how their child is acting.

    Problems with parking

    In the Netherlands, the number of cars is still growing faster than the adult population. This makes it increasingly difficult to get a parking spot, causing some disputes with neighbours in certain situations. A number of these matters are regulated at municipal level, but good consultation is especially important here.

    Problems with the neighbours' animals

    A barking dog is a form of nuisance that is often cited. Now think about people who have six dogs and a crow! We haven’t made this up, with a recent neighbour dispute in Nijverdal where a man had a crow called Karel, who could even croak ‘daddy’! Neighbour disputes about animals are quite common.

    Problems due to clutter, junk, stench and other filth

    Neighbours that have a messy, unhygienic dwelling can impact on your own home, even if it is not visible through the dividing wall. Waste left to build up in the garden can cause a smell, attract vermin and cause a nuisance. These forms of unlawful nuisance can also be submitted to the civil court.

    Problems due to destruction

    Vandalism of property can often be traced back to children living next door. For example, think about a broken window from a stray football. A dog might cause damage to your side of the garden fence, or your neighbours’ tree might fall and damage your garden furniture. Insurance may offer a solution to these problems, and it doesn’t have to lead to a dispute.

    Land conflict issues

    There are sometimes points of contact between you and your neighbour’s land. For example, your neighbour might gain access to prune a hedge. In addition, people may sometimes also have certain rights to the neighbour's land. This is also sometimes referred to as easement. This can cause disputes, but some things are regulated by law.

    Problems with renovations

    Noise nuisance, vibrations, untidiness, and inconvenience can cause disputes with neighbours during renovation projects. This is why it is so important to have good communication and dialogue with your neighbours at all times, but especially if you have renovation work coming up in the near future.

    Problems due to intimidation and bullying

    If any dispute leads to an argument and physical altercation this can cause huge problems. Sometimes, this leads to active harassment of neighbours, bullying, and the use of physical violence.

    Preventing neighbour disputes

    Prevention is still better than cure. Therefore, ensure a positive relationship with your neighbours. Welcome new neighbours, get to know them, and over time you might have made a new friend, or worst-case you at least know a bit about each other in the event of a future party, renovation, or other issue that could otherwise lead to a disagreement.

    Solutions for neighbour disputes

    You can see above how easy it is for an inconvenience or slight disagreement between neighbours can turn into a full blown dispute. There are several things you can do however, to prevent this escalation.

    Step-by-step plan for a neighbour dispute

    Always choose a solution that is accessible. If you go to court right away, you might see a quick solution, but it could cause long-term problems where you live. This step-by-step plan is most helpful:

    two neighbors in a dispute
    1. Look for a solution together

      Always attempt dialogue with your neighbour in the first instance. Start the conversation, discuss the annoyances, and listen to each other. Look for compromise and try to find a solution together.

    2. Hire a mediator

      If it is not possible to find common ground, look for a mediator. An impartial mediator will do everything to help you find a compromise, and it makes both parties feel like they are in control of the situation and have come up with a solution, rather than an imposed one.

    3. Call the police

      Calling the police is the logical step if mediation has failed and the problem persists. A community police officer is likely to first talk to neighbours, invite them to the station. If the police are called multiple times this can then escalate into confiscation of problematic goods.

    4. Take the problem to court

      If the problem has not been solved by the police, court action is the next step. A judge can order that neighbours must stop certain behaviour, or attach a penalty. The court can even oblige your neighbours to pay compensation.

    Mediation in neighbour disputes

    A mediator can be chosen by the neighbours in dispute, or proposed by the municipality. They are educated and trained to help parties in conflict to reach an amicable agreement that is a compromise and suits both parties. They will never impose solutions, rather suggest them. In practice, mediation has several advantages, such as better acceptance than an imposed solution, preventing the long-term negative impact of a court judgement on the parties, and shortening the length of the conflict. Mediation is a cheaper and faster route than calling the police and taking court action.

    Neighbour dispute lawsuit

    A lawsuit is always the last possible solution. In this case, it will be a civil procedure in which the plaintiff has the defendant appear in court to stop them from doing something. Depending on the wishes and requirements, different procedures are possible. In practice, this concerns an urgent procedure in which a quick, provisional decision is made, or a substantive procedure in which a final judgement is made.

    In practice, two types of procedures can also be initiated. The first option is a summons procedure. The neighbour is summoned to appear in court. In addition, a petition procedure is also possible. In this case, a petition is submitted to the court, which is asked to do something. This procedure is also used, for example, in divorce cases, where the judge is asked to pronounce the divorce.

    If the compensation claimed does not exceed €25.000, the urgent procedure can be initiated at the sub district court. In the other case, the civil court must be approached. There are exceptions to this rule, however. A lawyer is mandatory in proceedings before a civil court. A lawyer is not mandatory in proceedings before the sub district court, but it is recommended.

    Problems after purchasing a home

    The housing market does not allow enough inspection of the home. Often a buying decision has to be made quickly and as a result it is possible that the house will eventually have a defect that the buyer did not expect. The seller should actually have communicated this, but of course on the condition that they knew about it. On the other hand, the buyer has an obligation to investigate. If the buyer has fulfilled their obligations, could not notice the defect and did not communicate it to the seller, the seller may be liable. If the seller does not want to pay for the damage, an appeal may have to be made to the court. Keep in mind that it is mandatory to engage a lawyer for damages of more than €25.000. A good legal expenses insurance is important.

    Tenancy issues and tenancy law

    Rental agreements are strictly regulated and tenant and landlord have rights and obligations. Problems and discussions often arise though, and the solution to these has a lot to do with the type of rental agreement.

    tenancy law explained3 types of rental agreements and rules

    Within tenancy law, a distinction is made between three types of tenancy agreements. A number of specific rules have been made for each rental agreement. These rules can then be of regulatory or mandatory law. When the rules are of regulatory law, the tenant and landlord can deviate from them in the agreement. When the rules are of mandatory law, this is not allowed.

    1. Rental agreements for living quarters

    This includes rental agreements for houses and apartments and are quite strict in design to protect the tenant. A landlord cannot just impost crazy obligations on the tenant. There is a distinction between liberalised rental agreements and non-liberalised (social housing), where strict requirements apply, in particular with regard to the rent.

    2. Lease agreements for medium-sized business premises

    This is for retail and hospitality trade (lease agreements for renting an office do not fall under this category). There is a provision for the protection of the tenant, as they often need to invest in the building for business purposes and are dependent on the location. Strict rules protect the tenant from the landlord’s strong position of power in this regard.

    3. General Rental Agreements

    Rentals that do not fall under the above categories are fully regulated by these rules. This concerns, for example, a lease for an office, a parking space, etc. However, this does not include lease agreements (which are also not rental agreements). For example, lease agreements offering a piece of land to a farmer who cultivates it for agricultural purposes.

    Agreements and the rental contract

    broker giving the keys and rental contract to tenantIn principle, a rental agreement can also be concluded orally. This is not recommended due to miscommunication and the lack of evidence in any future dispute. The rental contract includes the following:

    • The identity of the tenant

    • The identity of the landlord

    • The rent amount

    • A description of the rented property

    • The start date of the lease

    • Possibly also the end date (or the fact that it concerns a rental agreement for an indefinite period)

    • Time and method of payment

    • Agreements about rent increases

    • Agreements on maintenance obligations

    • The condition of the rented property

    Obligations of the tenant and the landlord

    The obligations between the tenant and the landlord are more or less legally fixed (however, freedom of contract remains the rule in general tenancy agreements).

    Obligations of the tenant:

    • Pay rent on time and in correct manner

    • The tenant must provide access to carry out necessary repairs

    • Repair small defects themselves

    • The house must be returned in its original state at the end of the rental agreement

    • Must comply with agreements (e.g. agreements about removing modifications when the lease expires)

    • May not cause any nuisance

    • Additional contractual obligations may apply. If the tenant does not do what is necessary, the landlord can deduct this from the deposit.

    Obligations of the landlord:

    • Provide tenants with necessary living comfort

    • Respect the privacy of the tenant

    • Unable to enter property without consent of the tenant

    • Comply with legal obligations regarding termination of agreement

    • Carry out necessary repairs

    Maintenance and repair of the rental property

    For necessary repairs, this naturally concerns repairs that are not the responsibility of the tenant. For example, consider (rental):

    • Carrying out exterior painting

    • Replacing the roof

    • Replacing a garage door

    • Repairing faulty electrical installations

    • Restoring inheritances

    • Major repairs to the chimney

    • Fighting woodworms or longhorn beetles (no fault of the tenant)

    • Replacing worn gutters

    • Replacing a leaking septic tank

    In terms of maintenance tasks however, some are the responsibility of the tenant and others are the responsibility of the landlord. There are often discussions about this. The Small Repairs Decree provides clarity on this. In fact, the decree expresses the following general guidelines:

    • Minor repairs are at the expense of the tenant and major repairs and major maintenance are at the expense of the landlord

    • Minor repairs are repairs that the tenant can easily carry out themselves without resulting in high costs

    • Repair of broken built-in appliances is the responsibility of the landlord

    • The tenant is responsible for damage caused by the tenant

    A step-by-step plan should be followed by the tenant with regards maintenance

    1. Send a notice of default

      By means of a notice of default, the tenant specifies what is wrong, what the landlord must do and calls on the landlord to actually do so. Reference may also be made to previous correspondence on this subject.

      sending a letter/notice to the landlord
    2. Register the municipality

      When it comes to serious problems that conflict with the provisions of the municipality's Building Decree, it is possible to address the municipality. They can then write to the landlord to exert extra pressure.

      a letter and writing to the municipality
    3. Go to court

      Within the first 6 months of the first letter of complaint, the court can be asked to impose less rent or no rent paid (this is with liberalised rental agreements). An appeal must be made to the rent assessment committee for social housing.

      judge speaking on the case

    Charge service costs to the tenant

    The landlord of a rental property may pass on service costs to the tenant. This is also the case with non-liberalised leases. However, a number of rules and restrictions apply:

    • Energy and water - the costs of consumption of water, electricity, gas, and other heating costs.

    • Caretaker - costs of a caretaker including salary and accommodation. Only the costs that the caretaker carries for the benefit of the tenant, such as cleaning and minor repairs.

    • Administration costs - costs related to the services provided within agreement, a maximum of 5% of the total service costs.

    • Furniture and furnishings - costs for use of furniture and upholstery up to 20% of sales value per year

    • Other service charges - cost for common areas, cleaning costs, repairs, but only for the actual cost.

    Consequences of rent arrears

    In the event of rent arrears, the tenant does not meet their obligations. After about two months of rent arrears, the landlord can take action. The costs can then be high. That is why it is better for the tenant to act proactively. The step-by-step plan helps a tenant:

    1. Discuss the situation with the landlord

      If it is not possible to pay the rent for a while, speak to the landlord immediately and be clear about your situation. Indicate when the payment can be made.

    2. Propose a payment arrangement

      If the payment problem cannot be resolved immediately, it is a good idea to present the landlord with a payment arrangement. It is important to put everything on paper.

    3. Pay on time

      After two months of rent arrears, the landlord can terminate the lease. Pay according to any agreed payment arrangement to prevent further problems.

    4. Court action

      If payment arrears increase, the landlord can go to court, where a judge will decide. If that is the case, it is important that the tenant explains their personal situation.

    5. Appeal

      The judge will decide when a tenant must leave the property if they side with the landlord. This can be appealed, and a lawyer can assist with this process.

    Increase and decrease of the rent

    Tennants calling the landlord after an increase of rentThere are rules about the increase and decrease of rent included in the Civil Code. A distinction must be made here on the basis of the tripartite division that is also included in the Civil Code. The following are protocols for rent adjustment within different types of agreements.

    Adjust rental price in general rental agreements

    Freedom of contract is the starting point here. The parties can make agreements themselves about the increase and reduction of rent.

    Adjust rental price for medium-sized business premises

    For medium-sized business premises, there is a possibility to have the rent adjusted by the court. However, this is not possible at all times and varies per type of rental agreement:

    • Rental agreement for a definite period: after the first rental period has expired

    • Rental agreement for an indefinite period: at least 5 years after the moment the current rent became applicable

    A tenant and landlord must jointly appoint an expert to draw up a report on rental value before taking the situation to court.

    Adjust rental price in liberalised rental agreements

    There are two possibilities to increase the rent. Initially, an indexation clause may be included in the rental agreement, with a change in rent once every twelve or more months (the landlord must inform the tenant of this).

    No indexation clause means a landlord must propose a reasonable new rent with indexation clause to the tenant. If the tenant refuses, the landlord has the right to terminate the lease. If taken to court, the proposed agreement will be checked to see if the rent increase is reasonable.

    A tenant can also request a rent reduction. If the landlord disagrees the reduction will not go through and the Rental Committee will not intervene.

    Adjust rental price for non-liberalised rental agreements

    With non-liberalized rental agreements, things are slightly more complicated. The landlord can increase the rent on the basis of an indexation clause. In addition, it is possible to increase the rent based on the law. In any case, the rent increase is limited in various ways.

    Maximum increase percentage - determined by the government annually, based on tenant’s income, number of family members and age of tenant

    Maximum rental price - after the increase, basic rent may not exceed an absolute maximum

    Strict rent change dates - a rent increase can only take place once every twelve months, apart from a few exceptions:

    • A first rent increase may be proposed within twelve months. The next rent increase must then take place at least twelve months later

    • If the previous rent increase occurred later than twelve months after the previous rent increase, that same date may again be used for the next rent increase

    • In the case of interim housing improvements, an additional rent increase may also take place in addition to the annual rent increase

    Strict notice periods - a landlord must notify the tenant of the rent increase at least two months in advance.

    Tenant request for rent reduction - there are certain steps a tenant must follow to request rent reduction in a non-liberalised rental property:

    1. Calculate the maximum rental price through an estimate made via the Rent Assessment Committee website

    2. Propose rent reduction to the landlord based on the estimate. If agreed, the rent reduction comes into effect two months later.

    3. Find an agreement if the landlord does not agree with the initial request. Find a compromise.

    4. Go to the rent assessment committee if you cannot find agreement. This must be within six weeks of the proposed effective date.

    Rent protection

    Man is stressed about his rentRent protection means that landlords are not entirely free to terminate the lease. Rent protection applies both to tenants with liberalised and non-liberalised leases and to tenants of self-contained and non-self-contained homes. Tenancy protection also extends to co-tenants, subtenants and co-residents. However, sometimes special rules apply.

    General rent protection rules

    The general rule is that a landlord may only terminate the tenancy agreement if:

    • They want to erect a building on the site of the house that fits within the zoning plan (the landlord must then determine a relocation allowance)

    • The tenant does not agree with a reasonable proposal to change the rental contract (this proposal does not concern the adjustment of the service costs or the rent)

    • The landlord urgently needs the property and their interests outweigh those of the tenant

    • There is a breach of contract (e.g. nuisance or rising payment arrears)

    The notice period for the landlord is at least three months. For every two years that the tenant lives in the house, two months are added. However, the notice period is limited to a maximum of six months (after four years in the home).

    Rent protection for temporary rent

    In the case of temporary rent, the question is whether or not the lease was concluded after 1 July 2016. On that day, the legislation changed, but only for new leases.

    1. The temporary lease was concluded before July 1, 2016

      The rental agreement does not end automatically. As long as the tenant fulfils obligations, the landlord cannot terminate the lease, unless there is an eviction clause.

    2. The temporary lease agreement was concluded after 1 July 2016

      The tenancy agreement does end automatically, but the landlord cannot terminate it prematurely. The landlord must give notice at least three months before the end of the lease.

    3. Rent based on the Vacancy Act

      Rent protection can be invoked here, but the contract must state it concerns a temporary lease on the basis of the Vacancy Act, which the landlord will have a permit for.

    4. Rent a room from a landlord

      Rent protection starts after nine months if the landlord lives in the same building. During this ‘trial’ period, the landlord can decide to terminate the agreement with three months notice.

    Evacuation of the house

    If a tenant does not fulfil their obligations a landlord may terminate the contract and evict the tenant. First, they need to terminate the tenancy agreement, and then seek an eviction judgement from a sub-district court if the tenant refuses to leave.


    Co-tenancy is a form of protection. Registered partners and spouses automatically become joint tenants, even if the registered partnership or marriage was concluded after the tenancy agreement came into effect. Other housemates do not automatically become co-tenants.

    A request can be submitted to the landlord to become a co-tenant. If the landlord does not agree, this can be taken to court and will always be granted if three conditions are met:

    1. The scheme is not abused (submitting a request to make someone a tenant quickly without there being a sustainable joint household)

    2. The housemates have been living together for at least two years

    3. The financial situation of the prospective co-tenant is sufficient to pay the rent alone when the tenant leaves

    Do not agree with the termination of the rental agreement

    If the tenant does not agree with the landlord terminating the rental agreement, there are steps they can follow:

    1. Protest the cancellation by the landlord

      This must be sent by registered letter, indicating why the termination should not go ahead.

    2. Discuss with the landlord

      Contact the landlord once the letter has been sent, to discuss a potential deal.

    3. Go to court

      If an agreement cannot be reached, the next step is court, where a judge will decide.

    Refund deposit

    The landlord is legally obliged to repay the deposit if the lease is terminated lawfully. The law does not state how long the landlord has to repay the deposit, but this is often stated within the rental agreement. If a tenant has caused damage they may not receive all or any of the deposit. If a landlord fails to repay the deposit, a tenant has rights to contact a collection agency.

    Special situations and agreements

    Specialist is explaining the special situations in the agreement

    In addition to the above rental agreements, there are also a number of special situations:

    Room rental

    There is a maximum price for rooms that can be determined on the basis of a special points system, just as with non-liberalised rental agreements. The higher the quality of a room, the higher the rent may be. Because an all-in price makes it difficult to assess the maximum price, a split is preferably made between the rent and the service costs. If the tenant and the landlord cannot resolve this, the Rent Assessment Committee can be approached.

    Temporarily renting out an owner-occupied home

    Different rules may apply when temporarily renting out an owner-occupied home. These rules have been created to prevent vacancy.

    Sublease agreement

    Subletting occurs when a tenant rents from someone who is a tenant himself. We distinguish three situations here (independent living space, non-self-contained living space and a medium-sized business space).

    Subletting when renting an independent living space

    Subletting of an entire self-contained accommodation is only permitted with the permission of the landlord. You can rent out part of the living space (a single room), but this can also be prohibited in the contract. In the case of the main tenant terminating the lease, the subtenant enjoys security and the agreement continues with the landlord, even if they did not agree.

    Subletting when renting a non-self-contained living space or room

    Subletting is only permitted if the landlord gives permission for this. In addition, the subtenant only has security of tenure against the main tenant and not against the landlord. This means that the subtenant must also leave the room if the main tenant terminates the contract, but that they can subsequently hold the main tenant liable for the damage.

    Subletting at medium-sized business premises

    A form of rent protection is provided. Here it is the main tenant who must watch over the interests of the subtenant during the termination procedure. For example, they must inform the subtenant. In this case, the subtenant can be the main tenant liable, just as is the case when subletting a room.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Does neighbour law also apply to tenants?

    Yes. In many cases, neighbour law also applies to leaseholders and tenants.

    Who should pay the costs of the lawsuit?

    In principle, the costs are to be paid yourself, unless the court decides that the losing party should pay the costs. This is also sometimes referred to as a cost order. This rule does not apply to criminal cases that in principle do not cost money, although in practice a lawyer is often called upon. If you have legal expenses insurance, the legal expenses insurer may reimburse the costs.

    I have a fight with my neighbours. Can I address my landlord?

    In principle, this is only possible if both neighbours rent from the same landlord. In the other case it is a little more difficult. Sometimes the landlord can be asked to make adjustments to the homes in order to guarantee the enjoyment of the rental. This concerns, for example, better insulation of the house.

    As a tenant of a house, I want to terminate my rental contract. How do I do that?

    The tenant must send a registered letter to the landlord in which they indicate that they wish to terminate the lease. In principle, this is also possible with a writ from the bailiff, but that is certainly not an obligation. However, a notice period must still be respected. This only applies to a rental agreement for an indefinite period. In the case of temporary rental agreements, it is the rule that the agreed rental period can be observed. Also keep in mind that the termination will have consequences for any subtenants. Sometimes they can claim compensation when the main tenant terminates the lease. If necessary, make arrangements in advance with the landlord and the subtenants to avoid problems.

    When can the landlord terminate a rental agreement?

    The landlord has several options to terminate the lease. In the first place, the landlord can terminate a temporary lease on the expiry date. In addition, the landlord can terminate the lease. The landlord must base this on one of the legal grounds for this. The tenant does not behave as a good tenant should behave (e.g. rising arrears, noise nuisance, damage to the property, etc.). The landlord urgently needs the space. The landlord has proposed a reasonable new rental agreement and the tenant does not agree. The landlord wants to implement a valid zoning plan at the location where the property is located. Any compelling interests can also justify termination of the rental agreement. This may be the case in particular if the landlord has his main residence there and also rents out rooms.

    My landlord is cancelling the lease and I don't agree! What can I do?

    Always protest the cancellation by registered letter. The landlord is then obliged to first submit the case to court and cannot terminate the rental agreement in the meantime. This can only be deviated from in exceptional cases. Does the tenant also disagree with the judge's decision? Then it is possible to appeal. Even then, the landlord must wait until he can definitively terminate the tenancy agreement.

    I'm having problems with my landlord. What can I do about it?

    First of all, do what is necessary to prevent the problem from getting worse. Don't swear and always stay correct. Disregard emotions and try to simply discuss the problem to find a solution. If that does not work, it is recommended to seek legal advice. Do not inform the landlord about this in advance. When it is appropriate to take action, the step can be taken to court.