Renting a Student Room in Amsterdam: not easy
Seemingly, half the world wants to move to Amsterdam, and if you’re reading this you’re probably contemplating doing so yourself.
Consequently, housing is at a premium. Students or interns, in particular, have a hard time finding a room — affordable or not — in Amsterdam to rent.
More than 102.000 students attend universities in Amsterdam alone. In 2017, a record 112.000 international students study in the Netherlands.1
Others in the market for a long-stay or short-stay place in the city also experience that finding a room is difficult.
Demand for student rooms (Dutch: studentenkamers) far outpaces supply.
Often, well into a semester throughout the Netherlands hundreds of international students reportedly are still without a room. They make do by staying with friends, at a camping, or at a youth hostel.
Contributors to the shortage:
- a tight housing market in which many singles, couples, and families have trouble finding affordable houses
- homeowners make more money renting by the night via Airbnb and its competitors
- more and more international students want to study at universities in Amsterdam — a development promoted by the universities themselves.2
Not surprisingly, when it comes to student accommodation Amsterdam is the most expensive place in the Netherlands.
Currently a number of real estate developers are working on housing projects specifically aimed at students and expats. Some of these units have already been built. Generally, these rooms are aimed at students with rich parents. Another drawback: these type of accommodation are subject to a similar buyer-beware as we noted for The Student Hotel.
But for the time being you still need to join the room-hunting fray.
Airbnb and similar short-stay companies
The shortage has been exacerbated by the fact that many rooms formerly available to students are now listed on Airbnb, and have thus become far too expensive for students and other short stay visitors.
This situation may change somewhat in the near future. Amsterdam is one of many cities around the world that are pushing back against ‘overtourism.” One focus of attention is on the over-supply of rooms, apartments, and even entire houses rented out via Airbnb and similar companies.
What started out as just a few locations rented out occasionally has mushroomed into a situation in which so many accommodations are occupied (often more or less permanently) by tourists that the quality of life in many neighborhoods has deteriorated rapidly.
Currently homeowners may provide vacation rentals in their homes for a maximum of 60 days a year. Starting in 2019, that number will be halved.
Some people may opt to take in students instead, as the rules for hospita rental (house sharing and lodging) are more relaxed, particularly when it comes to length of stay.
House sharing and Lodging
When looking at ads for rooms it pays to know whether or not the place on offer is rented out legally. A quick way to separate legitimate from possibly illegitimate offers is to note whether or not you will be allowed to register at that address.
At the moment when someone in Amsterdam wants to legally share a home there are two options.
In both cases it concerns occupancy by three or more adults. If a house is occupied by two adults, that is not legally viewed as house sharing. Even if those two adults do not have a relationship, the city regards two adults in one home as one household.
- Landlord/Landlady rental or lodging
(hospitakamers or hospitaverhuur: literally, ‘landlady rooms’ or ‘landlady rentals’)
A resident rents a part of his or her home to another household. It does not matter whether the resident is the owner of the house or a tenant. It is also irrelevant whether it is a home in the free sector or a social housing building.
What is important is that the landlord has his main residence in the house and occupies at least half of the house itself.
The landlord/landlady does not need to obtain a permit from the city.
(kamergewijze: literally, ‘by the room’)
We speak of room-based letting if a house is occupied by three or more adults, unless the residents form a household (for example with a family). Two adults are always seen as one household.
In the case of room-based rental, this always means a house with at least three non-independent living spaces. For this type of housing a permit is required, which is granted if a number of conditions are met.
You will not find this kind of arrangement in a social housing property.
The landlord/landlady must obtain a permit from the city.
Note: if the home in question is itself rented instead of owned, the landlord or landlady must have permission in writing from the housing corporation or home owner he or she rents from.
Foreigners are running into another problem. Nowadays many ads offering rooms for rent in student houses or other shared housing situations include the phrase, “No internationals.”
Landlords and roommates alike prefer to rent their rooms for the long term, whereas international students — or interns — usually only stay for 6-9 months.
Nevertheless, we suggest that you still respond to any and all advertisements.
And when you do, know how to sell yourself.
How to find rooms for rent
Regardless of why you want to move here, you need to start your search as early as possible. Don’t wait till the last minute. [Details about the Academic Year in Amsterdam]
Far too many students have had to forego their study in Amsterdam because they were unable to find suitable accommodation. Others have been known to camp out — quite literally.
Where to Rent a Room in Amsterdam
Kamernet.nl (Anyone – Best Option)
[Note that even in the English version, dates are written in this format: dd–mm–yyyy]
The best-organized, and largest room rental site in the Netherlands. The link leads to the Amsterdam listings, but you can use Kamernet to find rooms for rent anywhere in the Netherlands.
Listings include full details, photos and location on a Google map (so Street View is available).
Advertisers pay a fee to be listed, but renters can search for free.
There are no mediation- or agency fees, but you have to buy a premium subscription in order to respond to any of the ads:
- €19 for 15 days during which you can react to an unlimited number of offers.
- €30 per month during which you can react to an unlimited number of offers.
You can also select the Early Bird service. An advertisement with the label ‘Early Bird’ is a newly added room, which is only accessible by users who have Early Bird access. That means you can respond up to 48 hours before other people can.
Early Bird rates are as follows:
- €21 for 15 days during which you can react to an unlimited number of regular and Early Bird offers.
- €34 per month during which you can react to an unlimited number of regular and Early Bird offers.
You will have direct contact with the owners or roommates. Incidentally, a link to information about the owners of the room is available in each listing, and renters can provide feedback (e.g. spam, scam, agency, inappropriate behavior, et cetera) for Kamernet to handle.
Signing up allows you to create a profile that potential landlords can view. It pays to customize your profile (especially the description and photos) so that you stand out from the rest.
You can also create a free call-up which allows owners to find you, instead of the other way around.
Another option is to receive alerts when new rooms that match your needs become available.
Another Tip: If you cannot find the ‘place of your dreams,’ take what you can get. You can always look for a more ideal room or location when you are here. Short Stay Rooms become available throughout the year.
Craigslist is a classified ads service that provides free listings. You’ll find:
- overnight stays
- short-term rentals (from a week to a few months)
- long-term housing (ideal for students, interns, or anyone else who wants to stay in Amsterdam for a longer period of time)
It’s somewhat of a ‘last resort,’ really. Listings have not been vetted, and there is no feedback system through which you could learn from other people’s experiences. Good rooms can be found — if you manage to avoid scams, bait-and-switch commercial operations, and possibly illegal rentals. Just make sure your BS-meter is working overtime.
DUWO (Students only)
The biggest and oldest student housing agency in the Netherlands. Lists 31,000 rooms and houses in Amsterdam, Amstelveen, Delft, Deventer, The Hague, Haarlem, Hoofddorp, Leiden and Wageningen.
Totally legitimate, but not everyone can apply.
A last-ditch option, really only meant for very short-term stays (often literally on someone’s couch).
The Student Hotel (Anyone willing to pay a bit extra)
If you want to bypass all the hassle, inconvenience and insecurity of finding a suitable room in Amsterdam — and you can afford a bit more than rock-bottom rental rates — you owe it to yourself to check out (and check in to) The Student Hotel . There are two locations, both about 10-15 minutes by bike from the city center. You can stay a few nights, a few weeks, or 1 or 2 semesters.
Dutch national student union LSVb says The Student Hotel is taking advantage of the shortage of affordable housing for students by charging high rental rates.
Hotels do not have to abide by Dutch rental laws that limit what home owners can charge in rental fees.
Consequently, people who stay at a Student Hotel do not have the same legal rights as those who stay in a student room or apartment.
For instance, The Student Hotel can charge rates higher than you would pay for similar accommodation elsewhere.
Also, if you want to cancel a long-term contract (e.g. for ten months), The Student Hotel charges a €350 ‘administration fee’ — plus 70% of the remaining rent (unless you find someone to take your place).
That said, both The Student Hotel City (4 stars) and West (3 stars) garner consistently good reviews.
This is student housing at its best. Every room is fully-furnished with a comfortable bed, desk, and chair, and flat screen TV and amenities including free high speed Internet and Wi-Fi as well as access to a gym, lounge, study area and game area. Plus the use of a custom city bike during your stay. Gas, water and electricity are included as well.
You’ll also have access to a shared kitchen (or a private kitchen if you have a suite).
Recently a lot Airbnb-style websites have popped up, with some clones claiming to be ‘the largest room rental site…’ and so on.
Many of them have few listings, and on some sites a number of listing appear to have been cloned from other websites.
Until these sites have established a verifiable track record we will not list or recommend them here.
As always, be careful when it comes to providing your personal details and banking information. Better safe than sorry.
Caution! Room Rental Scams
Be extremely cautious when using Craigslist or similar services when finding a room in Amsterdam. While most advertisers are legitimate, lots of scam artists use such websites as well.
- Be particularly weary with any responses to ads you place yourself. It is always better to react to ads for rooms on offer, than to place an ad saying you want to rent a room. The latter will often attract fantastic offers designed to take you for a ride.
- Do not agree to pay any money before you see the room. You need to see the room in person — not, for instance, on a print-out of a Google map.
- Do not sign any contracts without seeing the room.
- If you like to room, but want to check one or more other possibilities as well, do not pay a deposit.
- Look for signs that the house is occupied and that the person showing you the room knows his way around.
In a popular scam a crook rents out a room multiple times — in a house that does not belong to him or her. The house may have been recently vacated, or the actual owners are on vacation. Regardless, you’ll be one of several people holding a key to a room that won’t be yours to use.
- Do not deal with people who claim to act on behalf of the owner (who just happens to be ‘abroad’). If you are familiar with so-called ‘Advanced Fee‘ scams, be aware that Amsterdam is a hotbed of such activities — and that you wouldn’t be the first or last victim to fall for such a scam in person.
- Do not provide personal banking details.
- Take basic precautions. That is, get as much information as you can. Ask for references. Get things in writing (what is included, how is the deposit handled, are there any special rules or considerations).
- Be safe. If you can, bring a friend along when you go to view rooms. Trust your instinct and intuitions in dealing with people.
- Have photocopies of your identity papers with you, rather than agree to let the renter photocopy them. To deter misuse, mark your photocopies, for instance with a diagonal line or cross through the copy.
In addition, it is risky — if not outright foolish — to pay a deposit from abroad. You’re much better off arranging to arrive in Amsterdam one or two months before your target date than to wait till the last minute.
Is your room legal or illegal?
Something else you should be aware of: There are strict rules regarding the legality of renting out a room in Amsterdam — and indeed throughout the Netherlands.
Many people here live in rented homes. A large percentage of these homes are in rent-controlled buildings owned by housing corporations. These renters qualify for such homes based on their income.
Others rent so-called ‘free sector’ houses, at steep rates.
In either case, people who wish to rent out a room need permission to do so from their landlords.
Failure to obtain such permission is considered a serious breach of the rental contract, in which case the home renters can be evicted.
This also applies to rooms rented out via Airbnb.
It is not your responsibility to find out if an advertised room is rented out with permission from the landlord, but it doesn’t hurt to ask about it.
Find out whether or not it is possible for you to register at the address where you may rent a room.
Usually students and interns alike need a registered address in order to receive subsidies, legal documents, open a bank account, et cetera.
There are various reasons why people would want to prevent someone from registering at their address. For instance, it may potentially raise the amount of municipal taxes the main renter has to pay. It may also affect someone’s social security income, or have other financial consequences.
Those who live in rent-controlled houses based on their income may no longer qualify if money derived from renting out rooms pushes them across the limit.
If you are not allowed to register at a certain address, you are most likely dealing with someone who is renting out a room without permission from his or her landlord.
What is the average rent?
The average rent students pay for a room in the Netherlands is €342/month, and €448/month in Amsterdam — record amounts, according to a May 2017 report by Dutch national student union LSVb.
The Netherlands employs a point system that determines the maximum amount of rent someone is legally allowed to charge for a house, apartment or room. Points are assigned based on square footage, facilities, and other features.
According to the union, nationally 73 percent of students who do not live with their parents pay an amount that is too high by €55/month on average.
The situation is worst in Amsterdam, LSVb says, as 80 percent of students here pay far too much rent — an average of €161/month over the legal limit.
Note that LSVb’s research is based on a poll of nearly 6000 students who completed a Dutch-language rent check on the organization’s website.3
In reality you will often run into much higher rental rates in Amsterdam. For instance, one 11²m room was advertised for 620 euro, and a 9²m room was for rent at 580 euro.
What To Do If You Think Your Rent Is Too High
If you are already renting a room, and you suspect that you are being charged too much rent, you should contact Wijksteunpunt Wonen — a tenant support agency. Funded by the Amsterdam City Council, this non-profit agency provides independent and confidential advice and support for tenants, free of charge.
The agency will check your lease or rental contract to determine whether or not your landlord, housing agency or housing corporation has observed the rules regarding rent control, furnishing and service charges.
If the support agency finds that you are paying too much, it can point you in the right direction to get your rent lowered to an amount that is within the legal limits. In that case, you may be due a refund as well.
We often hear from desperate people who — usually having started their search for a room far too late — say they have responded to 30, 40, even 60 or more ads before they find a place.
As mentioned, demand for rooms far outpaces supply. That is why you must ‘sell yourself.’ Why should potential landlords or housemates invite you instead of someone else?
Simply responding to ads with a brief “I’m interested” email is not enough.
Here are some tips on how to present yourself:
- Introduce yourself. Share information about your character, your interests, and your background.
- Don’t write a book, but mention where and what you are going to study — and for how long. “I’m studying to become a brain surgeon,” or “I am doing this internship as part of my course in international law” will provide some insight into how serious you are.
- Be up-front about any ‘must haves’ — such as ‘a quiet environment,’ ‘a pet-free home,’ or ‘vegan friendly roommates.’
- Religion and politics may be important to you, but your preferences may not necessarily match those of your future landlord or roommates. Consider leaving your beliefs and opinions private for now.
- Ask questions: Is there place to park your bicycle? Can you have guests over for a visit? What is the cost of public transport between the house and your college or the place where you’re doing your internship? How many other people live in the house?
- Mention your ability to pay on time and in full, and ask whether there are any other fees above those already mentioned in the ad. (This information is handy to have should any issues arise at a later date).
- Realize that people may Google your name or check your social accounts. If you describe yourself as a preacher’s kid but your Facebook page shows you to be a party animal, the latter will be believed.
- Include a recent, representative photo — or, indeed, a link to a presentable social account.
- Offer to provide references.
Cannot Find a Room in Amsterdam?
If you cannot find a room in Amsterdam through the services listed above, you may want to stay at a hostel instead, and use that as a base from which to continue looking for another place. Also: don’t forget to check nearby communities.
This information may be useful in deciding when to start looking for accomodation:
Amsterdam: Academic Year
- First Semester (Autumn Semester): September – January
A good time to start looking for a room is at the beginning of June.
The Vrije Universiteit (VU) offers second semester students electives during the February – June period, as an alternative to following courses in June. Hence some students vacate their rooms in June, whereas the majority of students leave for home in July.
Generally, there is a mad rush for rooms during the months of July and August.
- Second Semester (Spring Semester): February – June
There is no gap between the end of the first semester and the start of the second semester, which can make it more difficult to find a room.
Most people start searching at the beginning of January. But note: some rooms may be listed by the middle or end of December.
That is because students at the Vrije Universiteit (VU) can follow electives during the September – December period, as an alternative to the January period — thus leaving rooms behind a month earlier.
Always double-check the dates.
This information was first published on August 16, 2013. It is updated when necessary. Most recent update: Wednesday, September 6, 2017.
- According to a study by Nuffic: the Dutch organisation for internationalisation in education, this includes 81,392 were degree students — students who enrolled for a full bachelor- or master- degree. The number of international degree students is both the highest total, and the highest annual growth (6,163) ever. This group of incoming degree students had a total number of 164 different nationalities. ↩
- In January 2018 the University of Amsterdam (UvA) announced that it want to stem the rising flow of international students. During the past ten years the number of international students has quadrupled. Currently nearly 15% of students at the UvA come from abroad — 25% if you take only first year students into account. It is not just the lack of affordable housing the university is concerned about. The popularity of English-language courses and the influx of internationals also make it more difficult for students from the Netherlands to enroll or participate. ↩
- Student union LSVb operates a website that allows students to determine whether the amount of rent they pay is within legal limits. ↩