ACM sees positive developments in rental agency market
The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has observed that more and more rental agencies no longer charge lessees any agency fees when acting as an agent for both lessors and lessees. The rental agencies that had previously made a commitment to ACM to adjust their practices have done so by now. However, ACM continues to see agencies that still unlawfully charge lessees agency fees when acting as an agent for both lessors and lessees. Anita Vegter, Member of the Board of ACM, says: “Consumers are able to play an important role in bringing about the desired changes. By choosing, where possible, rental agencies that do not charge any agency fees or by challenging the costs that had been unlawfully charged, they stimulate rental agencies to adjust their practices.”
Compliance with commitments
In 2014, Dutch rental agencies NederWoon Verhuurmakelaars and Rots Vast made commitments to ACM that, from January 2015, they would no longer charge lessees agency fees when acting as an agent for both lessors and lessees. This concerns renting out independent dwelling units to consumer lessees. By now, they have aligned their practices with the commitment. In 2014, Direct Wonen suspended its agency activities. NederWoon and Rots-Vast now charge lessees agency fees, and not the lessor. However, they do charge lessees administrative costs of, on average, EUR 250 to EUR 350. This is considerably less than the one month’s rent that, until January 1, had been charged as agency costs. With regard to administrative costs, ACM sets the condition that these cannot be a veiled form of agency costs, and that the level thereof must be reasonable. ACM and the Dutch Ministry of the Interior are consulting with each other about what the legislature can explain more about what costs lessees can still be reasonably charged.
In addition, ACM looked into the rental agency industry as a whole. At this point, not all rental agencies comply with the rules. Therefore, ACM has launched an enforcement procedure. At the same time, preliminary questions have been submitted to the Supreme Court of the Netherlands in a civil-law proceeding, relating to the violation that ACM had established. ACM will take into account the answers of the Supreme Court in the enforcement procedure. ACM welcomes any indications about rental agencies charging agency costs (either veiled or explicit). Such indications can be submitted to ACM’s consumer information portal ConsuWijzer.
New legislation is currently being drafted that also protects lodgers, in addition to consumer lessees of independent dwelling units, against unlawful agency costs. ACM is closely involved in this process.