Who pays the higher energy bill: the student or the landlord?
The Dutch are massively concerned about rising energy and gas bills. The energy crisis and often poorly maintained and insulated properties are causing rising costs. Despite the announced price cap, many students have to pay substantially more. Can landlords raise the rent just like that? Univers found out.
To address the growing concerns of Dutch citizens and high gas and energy prices, the government announced a temporary price ceiling on Prinjesdag (budget day). This will give consumers more certainty, and they will pay a reasonable price for their energy consumption. The government sets a consumption limit (ceiling) derived from the average consumption of a Dutch household. Thanks to this price ceiling, a household pays maximum set prices when it consumes within these limits. Does a household nevertheless consume more? Then it has to pay the market price on the extra energy used.
Not all students can stop worrying with these measures. After all, many students live in poorly maintained buildings. In addition, sometimes, as many as twenty roommates live in one building. Many student houses will therefore consume substantially more than an average Dutch household and see their rent rise as a result. But is the landlord allowed to raise the rent just like that?
Different rental costs
Basic rent, service charges, and utilities; you almost can’t see the wood for the trees. But it is important to distinguish between these rental costs. Only then can you determine whether the rent increase of your house is legally correct. First of all, there is such a thing as the basic rent. This is the monthly cost you pay for renting a house. Just a fixed amount, in other words.
In addition to the basic rent, the tenant also pays service charges, administrative costs, and charges for gas, water, and light. The latter costs —often referred to as G/W/L in the rental contract—are utilities. The landlord may pass these costs on to the tenant. Because the costs for gas, water, and light depend on consumption (and the tenant often pays an advance), the tenant may receive a refund or have to pay extra at the end of the year. But the landlord is not allowed to “simply” increase these costs. After all, the costs passed on must have been incurred.
But what about student housing? After all, most students pay an all-in rent for their room. That’s the basic rent of a room plus all other costs, such as service charges and utilities. If you pay an all-in rent, the landlord must show a statement of expenses every year. This so-called “annual final statement” breaks down the various cost items—such as service charges and basic rent. It also indicates which costs you and your housemates incur together (the allocation key). This makes it clear to you exactly how the all-in rent is structured.
1300-euro energy surcharge for students
Are you a student living in self-contained housing (your own address with your own facilities such as a toilet and kitchen)? Do you pay your own energy bills and meet the income threshold? Then you are entitled to an energy allowance. In the resolution of the municipal executive of September 13, Tilburg Municipality decided that students living independently are entitled to an allowance amount of 1,300 euros. You can apply (in Dutch) for this until December 31.
The landlord is within his rights to increase service charges and utilities when gas prices rise, or the tenant consumes a lot. Still, the tenant must stay sharp. In fact, many landlords have a fixed contract with an energy company. This means that for them, energy costs remain the same. In that case, of course, they are not allowed to raise the rent. Therefore, always ask the landlord for invoices from the energy company. As a tenant, you are entitled to this. This is because the landlord has to prove that the costs have increased. If the landlord does not provide the final statement and invoices to the tenant, the landlord is not authorized to increase the rent. Without these documents, the tenant can successfully refuse the rent increase.
There are also rules for increasing the basic rent. Every year, the maximum increase in the basic rent is set in the Netherlands. This maximum allowable increase applies to both social rental housing and rental housing in the free sector. In many cases, students pay too high a basic rent for their room or apartment. This too requires alertness: after all, a correct rent depends on the conditions of a property. With the help of a rent check—a point score—you can check (in Dutch) this. The more points a property receives, the higher the rent is allowed to be. Are you paying too much rent according to the point system? Then contact your landlord in writing and ask for a rent reduction.
Should you disagree with the rent increase but do not live alone? Then it is important that you and your housemates point their noses in the same direction. Because if seventy percent (or more) of the housemates in your building agree to the increase in service charges or utilities, you too must accept the rent increase. Note that this only applies to services that everyone uses, such as gas, water, and light.
Are you paying a correct amount in rent, but it is still very high? Then point out to your landlord the subsidy scheme for preservation and maintenance of rental properties. With this scheme, landlords can apply for a subsidy (maximum 6,000 euros per house) for energy advice, energy-saving measures, and maintenance. This can ultimately save a lot of money.
Are you paying too much rent? Contact the landlord in writing first. Nothing happens or you can’t work things out together? Then get legal help. You can contact the Legal Help Desk at 0900-8020 or drop in during a free walk-in clinic. You can also contact the Rent Committee (in Dutch) or visit the Rechtswinkel in Tilburg (in Dutch).
Translated by Language Center, Riet Bettonviel