Finding a place to live in the Netherlands
Most students in the Netherlands live in shared student housing, just as they do in the United Kingdom. The size of such houses varies but most are shared by four of five students. The rent in shared houses typically costs between €200 and €400 a month, depending on size, location and furnishing. Some cities have real shortages of student accommodation, for example Utrecht is often seen as quite difficult to find accommodation, particularly at short notice. In Amsterdam there are approximately 75,000 students meaning that there is a lot more competition for accommodation than in smaller cities.
Dutch universities will often help you find a room. However, the provision of university accommodation varies dramatically from institution to institution so it may not always be possible to spend all of your first year in a hall of residence. The more time you allow to arrange your accommodation, the more likely it is you will find something that suits your requirements.
Many Dutch universities negotiate with private landlords on behalf of students. In effect they rent a block of rooms and then sub-let them to students, meaning that you only have to deal with the university housing office. Dutch universities usually decide how many rooms they will need for the forthcoming academic year in June. If you apply for housing after this time you may not be able to find anything through this channel.
The housing office at a Dutch university will often charge for its services (in the case of Groningen this is currently €300) but this does guarantee you will receive the offer of a room. Once you have been living in the Netherlands for a while you will probably have no need of such a service but in our experience, British students who have moved to the Netherlands are usually glad that they took advantage of this service. Those students who didn't use the Housing Office have often had difficulties with accommodation but nothing too serious.
There are two main ways to find a room in the Netherlands:
- You look for adverts for empty rooms in existing student houses. These can often be found on the internet or on campus at your university. Often it is possible to find a room without knowing any Dutch at all but knowing a little of the language undoubtedly makes things easier. Once you reply to an advert you may well be invited to a “Kijkavond” (“viewing evening”) where you and other interested students will get to view the room and be “interviewed” by the existing housemates. You will probably be asked questions about what you would bring to the house and why you want to live there, so be prepared to answer these kinds of questions.
- You rent your own house or apartment on your own or together with fellow students. You will need to be officially registered in the Netherlands with your own Social Security Number in order to do this. If you are working while you are a student you will already have this.
Once you have found a place to live you will need to register with the local authorities in order that your address can be used as your official address. This is important for a number of reasons, not least of which is that you will be able to receive exemptions from council tax and other municipal charges.
It is also extremely important to have an address in the Netherlands by 1st October. If you are not a registered resident by that date you will be treated as a foreigner meaning that you might have to pay international tuition fees (closer to €7,000 a year) and you will not be able to access financial support as an EU student. This is never a problem for British students but it does mean that landlords can push up the rent for really bad rooms as students start to get desperate.
As with universities anywhere on the planet, once you have decided where to go, take steps to get your accommodation sorted out as soon as you can and you will be fine. Leave it to the last minute and you might be in for a bumpy ride.
Helpful links for finding a room or an apartment
Here are a few links that might help you find accommodation in the Netherlands. Some of these sites will charge you a small fee if you use them to put you in contact with a particular vacancy but they are usually free to browse.
Huurtoeslag (housing benefit)
Huurtoeslag is Dutch government financial support that assists residents on minimal incomes. In contrast to the UK students may very well be eligible for this benefit. In order to obtain housing benefit you must meet the following criteria:
- You must have a contract in your name for the rental of a house or apartment in the Netherlands
- You must be at least 18 years old
- Your income must be lower than the minimum income determined by the Dutch government
- The rental costs of your house/apartment must not exceed a certain level set by the Dutch government
- You must be registered with the IND (Immigratie- und Naturalisatiedienst), the Dutch immigration and naturalisation service. As an EU citizen there is no requirement for you to be registered with the IND unless you intend to claim housing benefit.
For more information about Huurtoeslag please visit www.toeslagen.nl.