housing & utilities

Finding the right place to live is probably one of the most important things you’ll do this year (apart from joining ISR). Finding that perfect housing situation will ensure that you have the most comfortable stay in Rotterdam. Our list of websites and helpful tips below should help ensure you find your ideal place!

Finding the right kind of accommodation is imperative to ensuring that your stay here in Rotterdam is as comfortable as possible. If you start your search early enough finding the right place shouldn’t be a problem. This is something that you should do as soon as you find out that you have been accepted into your Educational Insitute of choice.

Apartment contracts can be “inclusive” – which means rent payment cover utilities like electricity, water and sometimes even internet. When a contract is “exclusive” – it means that rent does not cover any other utilities. In this case, you should add between 70 – 90 Euros a month for utilities. Additionally you will probably have to pay taxes as well which are garbage collection and water, we talk you through those costs below and how to get tax remissions below if needed. Ensure you ask your landlord who is paying this costs before you sign a contract.

If you find an apartment, make sure you can register yourself in the municipality (“Gemeente”). If that’s not the case, you run the risk of being a sub-renter (“onderhuur”) meaning that someone is already renting the accommodation, and you will not be renting from the owner but from a renter. Without the explicit consent of the apartment owner this is not possible as it is illegal in the Netherlands. You might find yourself and all your stuff locked out of the apartment without anyone to complain to. So make sure you do everything legitimately.

You can try to find housing through your school, through an agency, a website, an independent landlord or as the Dutch say – randomly, through friends, strangers or simply by asking around. You will be surprised how many apartment ads run in Facebook groups, on information boards, and just through a guy that knows a guy.

The renting culture in the Netherlands is very well established. Generally speaking, the law protects you as a renter extensively and if you have any issues, you can get free government help with institutions such as the “Huurcommissie”. Timing is very important, because usually there are no waiting lists for places, so if you reply to ads on time, you improve your chances. Everything is very time oriented in the Netherlands, so try not to be late.. anywhere! This time important culture also means that your entry and exit dates into your apartment are fixed, so moving those will require some negotiation. Another thing is that not all apartments come furnished. This is exactly why second hand markets (maarktplaats.nl or Comodity Market Rotterdam on facebook) will come in very useful.  And finally, if you get any discounts or special offers because you are a student, you will need to have proof otherwise you will be in breach of the contract and will be asked to leave. We know it might be overwhelming, but you will find your dream house! Just keep in mind some safety rules before you start looking for a place to rent:

Safety rules

If you’re looking for housing privately or through an agency, make sure that you ask a lot of questions about the apartment. You are easy prey for scammers, or even just for unpleasant people that will not accommodate you like they would a local. A very well known scam is an advertisement on a website with “an abroad” landlord. Once you contact the landlord, he or she tells you that they are abroad, and the only way for you to see the apartment is if they send you a key per post. But that, of course, comes at a price – you need to send a deposit so they can trust you. This sounds like a silly scam, but it works because when the apartment is cheap and the location is great. This should immediately trigger a warning sign: you should always be able to visit the apartment or room you will be renting without problems. This is also important to make sure the contract you sign matches your apartment.

Don’t be shy and try to ask as many questions about the contract that you need to ensure that all the points are clear and verified. The Netherlands is a very contract-oriented country, and it is not considered rude to do so. Be smart about your rights and options, and ask many questions such as:

  • Does the apartment come furnished or not?
  • Are utilities included in the rent? If not, approximately how much do they cost per month? Are the taxes included?
  • Can you use the address and rental agreement to register at the municipality? (This is very important since you need to register in order to receive your BSN!).
  • Are there any extra fees, such as commission or a reservation fee? How much is it?
  • How much is the deposit and what are the conditions of it being returned?
  • How long will the contract last? Can you stay longer if you’d like?
  • How long before do you need to inform your landlord if would like to extend your contract or break it earlier?
  • What are the requirements of renting (as a student)? (What documents do you need? This includes copies of passports, proof of enrollment at your university, a letter of guarantee from your parents, a work contract and/or payslip, etc.)
Finding a place through your school: Short Stay Solutions – SSH

There is a high chance that your educational institution will have arrangements with various housing agencies, or will even offer accommodation on campus. The Erasmus University Rotterdam, for example, has an agreement with SSH Short Stay. Short Stay Solutions – SSH – are a public housing institution, not a commercial company. This also means you cannot get a rent-allowance (huurtoeslag), though their prices are very affordable. This also means that they are trustworthy; no funny business, no small print and no extra charges (unless you break something). What you see is what you get. The Short Stay department of SSH offers furnished student rooms, located in and around the centre of Rotterdam. This accommodation is aimed at international students, which means you will have plenty of people to talk to.

You can rent these rooms for a short length of time, for example between 4-6 months, and even up to a maximum of 12 months.

Room prices vary depending on availability and circumstance, but generally you can expect to pay between €450-600 a month. The closer the room is to the city the more expensive it will be. This price is “inclusive”, which means it includes all bills and utilities like heating, waterenergy, internet, and taxes. This includes all bills and utilities such as heating, water, energy, Internet, and taxes.housing-4

Tip: You might be tempted to rent a cheaper room outside the city but consider the cost of travelling and whether you can easily get home after a night out.

You  can apply for accommodation in Rotterdam on the SSH’s website: http://sshxl.nl/shortstay/ This page has step by step instructions on how and when to apply for student housing. You can view available housing options on http://sshxl.nl/en/cities/rotterdam.

Finding a place through an agency or website

You can also choose to look for accommodation through an agency. Be aware that this means you will have to pay a fee that can be as high as one month’s rent. In addition, most agencies ask for a “Borg”, which means a deposit, usually two months rent.

The Advantage to this is that they can show you places you never even thought about looking at, and show you several apartments (usually free, you pay only upon signing a contract). In addition, they are usually fast.

The Disadvantage is that they are expensive, and sometimes they simply don’t have anything in your price range.

There are also many housing websites that act as middlemen. Most of them, however, require some sort of fee (for example a subscription fee).

The Advantage is that they are cheaper than an agency and have a very wide array of offers.

The Disadvantage is that studio apartments aren’t always available, which means that you are will have to look for rooms with roommates who already live there.

We would suggest you to check out Housing Anywhere, which is one of the aforementioned housing websites, and proposes a convenient search tool to find out the accommodation of your dreams based on criteria such as price, accommodation type, or location. Other similar websites worth checking out are ParariusRoomplazaKamernetNestpick.

Finding a place through an independent landlord

If you would like to find a private person renting out his or her place you should start looking as early as possible, as the process can take several months. This will save you agency and website fees, however it also puts you in the risk of being taken advantage of. This is not to say that everyone out there is a scammer, but please be aware that as an international student you need to be careful.  

Finding a place through Facebook

There are many Facebook groups aimed specifically at finding apartments in Rotterdam for International Students. This is a great place to look if you want to avoid agency fees or you’re looking to live in an apartment with roommates already in it. With several apartments listed daily, this should be the first place that you look. Just be aware of the safety rules previously listed.

Examples of Facebook groups that you can check out are “Find a room(mate) or house in Rotterdam” or “Rotterdam Housing“.

Hostels and Hotels

In the last few years the accommodation for students has become more luxurious with the introduction of student hotels where you can have your room cleaned for you and your bed sheets changed without having to lift a finger. The Student Hotel is the place to live, study, work and make friends for life – all under one roof. Study spaces & lounge, game area, bar / restaurant, private gym, launderette, personal bike, events all year long and a truly unique community. You just need to bring your suitcase, everything else is taken care of.’.

If you need a place to stay for a couple of nights a cheap Hostel is the best place to look, you can find plenty of these with the best deals online – http://www.booking.com.

Energy

There are many energy companies in the Netherlands: Eneco, Essent, Liander, Nuon, and about a dozen more. This means that there is a large amount of competition and consumers have the ease of switching from one provider to the other by just picking up the phone. If your rent includes energy expenditures or is ‘inclusive’ than this part is less relevant for you. Do check your rent contract carefully to see what is included and what is not- especially during the winter when you might use more heating than is in your allowance.

When moving to a new place, you will most likely already have utilities, and the only thing you will have to do is transfer them to your name.

Prices per month including gas should not exceed €80  for each person. You can pay for energy bills online with your bank account or allow automatic payments (direct debit) in which the correct amount is immediately deducted from your bank account. Energy contracts are just like phone contracts – so dont be scared of comparing prices, talking to customer service and asking around.

You can always check out what you should pay via the comparison website below: https://www.energievergelijken.nl/en

Tip: Energy prices are not that different between each of the providers. If you really want to save it is best to switch provider every year because of the large “switching” bonuses they give to new customers.

Internet & TV

There are a few providers in the market, and you can compare them all on the website : http://www.aanbiedercheck.nl/en/

It is generally true to say that the Dutch consumer has a lot of power and protection, however, it comes with the price of testing your patience as, from experience we can tell you it takes a while to install internet and TV.

Most companies offer a combination of internet, TV and a landline. The company you choose is dependant on which infrastructures already exist in your apartment, and your agreement with the landlord. It is very frustrating but sometimes if you have company X’s infrastructure in the whole building, it will be very difficult to change to company Y, and in any case it will definitely be time consuming. Any subscription of Internet and TV can take up to two months. So be patient – very, very patient. In some apartments you will already have a company that provides cable, so it will usually make sense to add an internet subscription to the package.

On a positive note, most offers are very similar in quality and price, so even if you can’t change providers, you will still get a good deal. The average price for an all in one package is about €50 however if you only want an Internet and TV the price is reduced to €30-40.

Water

Tap water is safe to drink in the Netherlands, and it tastes pretty nice, too. The water company that provides water to Rotterdam is Evides: http://www.evides.nl/.  The expenditure on water is what you actually use per month, and a yearly tax paid for maintenance and municipality costs. Your monthly costs will be below 10 Euros (unless you take 6 hour showers each morning), but the yearly tax payment (see below) will hurt your pocket. You will be able to pay this online with the code given in the payment form.

There are several taxes that you need to bare in mind when planning your budget for  the year the main ones are listed below.

Income Tax

Income tax in the Netherlands works progressively and therefore depends on the tax bracket that you fall into. As a student you are not likely to earn much than €19,000 a year and therefore will only pay 8% tax on your earnings.

However there are exemptions, if you’re a foreign student in the Netherlands, an exemption will be applied if you fulfill the following criteria:

  • You will be staying in the Netherlands for a maximum of 6 months
  • You are doing an internship (work placement) for educational purposes only
  • Your allowance is intended to compensate only your expenses.
Domestic Waste Tax (Afvalstoffenheffing)

Afvalstoffenheffing is the dutch term for domestic waste tax and is paid to cover the costs of collection and processing of domestic waste. This tax is issued by Rotterdam Gemeente and is issued per household, every 12 months. If you live by yourself it will cost you €346.80 (2015) and €359.70 if you live with others.

Water Tax (Waterschapsbelasting)

Waterschapsbelasting is best translated as water tax. The tax is paid to create and maintain strong dikes and ensure the populous has clean water. The tax is charged by the Regionale Belasting Groep.The current rate for 2015 is € 143.05 if you live alone, and € 255.59 if you live with other people.

Applying for Tax Remissions ‘Kwijtschelding’

There are 2 situations in which you are likely to find yourself in:

  1. You rent through an agency, private landlord or you sublet – In this case your landlord should be responsible for the taxes, however you may have to pay your Domestic Waste taxes (Afvalstoffenheffingdepending on your contract. However this means that you cannot apply for tax remissions because its your landlords responsibility and will have to pay your taxes as per the agreement of your contract.
  2. You rent an entire apartment through an estate agent – You may be eligible for remission depending on a number of factors including income. It is possible to apply for your remission online using your mijn toeslagen account and your DigiD.

You can find more information regarding the procedure here.

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