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Dutch rental agency unlawfully charged lessees agency fees

Rental agency Duinzigt Woonservice B.V.  acted as an agent for both lessors and lessees, and charged lessees agency fees. That is not allowed. Anita Vegter, Member of the Board of the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), explains: “Lessees can no longer be confronted by unlawful agency costs.” ACM has forced Duinzigt to change its practices by imposing an order subject to periodic penalty payments on the agency.

Consumers on the hunt for apartment rentals are legally protected against any conflict of interests on the part of the rental agency. If an agency acts as an agent for both the lessor and the lessee, it is only allowed to charge the lessor any agency fees. ACM has established that Duinzigt charged lessees agency fees, while it also acted as an agent for the lessors, and also occasionally charged them agency fees. For example, Duinzigt listed the apartments on its website, and sometimes charged the lessors these costs.

Dealing with rental agencies

ACM has set its sights on the housing market for quite some time now. When renting an apartment through agencies, consumers sometimes encounter problems. That is why ACM launched an investigation into possible unfair commercial practices among rental agencies. This investigation resulted in three rental agencies adjusting their commercial practices earlier this year. ACM has also observed a positive shift in the market. And today, ACM has imposed an order subject to periodic penalty payments on an agency in order make sure it will comply with the rules.

Ruling of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands

ACM had waited imposing said order subject to periodic penalty payments, as an action regarding rental agencies had also been brought before the Supreme Court of the Netherlands. Several weeks ago, the Supreme Court handed down its ruling. The Court upholds that, if a rental agency lists an apartment on its website, it thus acts as an agent for the lessor. The Supreme Court emphasizes that, in that case, the lessee cannot be charged any agency costs.

Keeping a close watch on rental agencies

The rules protecting consumers against unlawful agency fees currently only apply to rentals of independent dwelling units. The Dutch House of Representatives recently approved new legislation, as a result of which said rules will also apply to rooms for rent. In addition, it will also become clear that rental agencies are not allowed to charge lessees any costs at all (administrative or otherwise). Where necessary, ACM will remind market participants of these rules, and will continue to keep a very close watch on the market.

If consumers have any indications about unlawful agency costs, they can submit them to consumer information portal ConsuWijzer. More information about their rights with regard to rental agencies can also be found there.