ACM takes action against illegal agency fees


As rental agencies continue to charge lessees agency fees, which is prohibited, the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has taken action. Rental agencies are not allowed to charge lessees any fees if they work by order of the lessor. ACM has imposed orders subject to periodic penalty payments on several rental agencies. With these orders, ACM seeks to compel these businesses to stop charging lessees agency fees. ACM will conduct a follow-up check after the summer. Any rental agencies that still charge lessees unlawful fees by then can expect fines from ACM. ACM can impose fines of up to 900,000 euros per violation.

Illegal agency fees

Rental agencies act as brokers between lessors and lessees. Lessors wish to rent out homes or rooms, and the agencies match these with lessees. The law stipulates that, if the rental agency acts as an agent for the lessor, it cannot charge the lessee any agency fees. Charging one month’s rent used to be commonplace, but now it is more common to charge, on average, 200 euros. It is prohibited to charge lessees any fees, no matter what the rental agency calls these (agency fees, administrative fees, contracting fees, etc.). Lessees are often required to pay such fees before being able to move into their homes. Rental agencies thus abuse the vulnerable positions of consumers in the overheated Dutch housing market.

As ACM continues to receive reports about agency fees through its consumer information portal ConsuWijzer, ACM earlier this year announced it would take action against these practices. ACM has now done so against several rental agencies. ACM will disclose the results of these actions at a later time.

Reports are valuable sources of information

ACM would like to see an end to the practice of illegally charging agency fees. As part of this effort, ACM has sat down with Dutch real estate agent’s associations NVM, VBO, and Vastgoedpro, and asked them to inform their members (the rental agencies at least) again, and to call on them to comply with the rules.

Over the next few months, ACM will assess the effects of this action, and determine whether any additional actions are needed. In that context, it is important that consumers share their recent experiences with ConsuWijzer. If ACM continues to receive reports about rental agencies still charging illegal agency fees (no matter what they are called), ACM will take firm action.

On ConsuWijzer’s website, consumers can also find information about their rights concerning rental agencies, as well as a sample letter, which helps them claim back any unlawfully paid fees.