"Expats only", say many of the ads. And by "expats" they mean "suckers".
So goes the Amsterdam scam. Scamsterdam. Amsterscam. Ok, I'll stop - you get the idea.
For $2000/month (1250 Euros), you will be sitting in a 65-meter-square (210 feet) one-bedroom place in a relatively central part of the city.
Cost aside, the housing system is full of interesting pitfalls for the uninitiated, along with some perks too. Here's how it works:
- Social housing, which here means something much different and more comfortable that social housing in North America, is a program by which most Nederlanders can apply for, and get on a waiting list. This is government-subsized housing, in some very nice places throughout the city.
- The waiting list, depending on who you speak to, can be anywhere from 6 months to several years.
- Once "in", you live in a sweet apartment for say 300-400 Euros, provided you don't make over a certain amount of salary.
- You pay this rent for many years, in some cases a lifetime, irrespective of the money you earn - and you've likely increased your salary since the time you applied to get on the list. Technically this is not allowed, but it is nigh unenforceable or trackable.
- You then pair up with a mate or buy another home and rent your place for some 800-1500Eur profit to a hapless and desperate expat.
- The expat does have some recourse, in the form of a committee that assesses the real value of a home; it can then reduce the amount you need to pay (and really p*** off your landlord in the process, one can imagine - but many people do this and save a lot on renting). But a number of landlords won't let you legally register, which then makes it impossible to get this commission to investigate.
- All of this is of course buyer beware - no one forces you to live in a non-registered place - but like in any foreign country, newcomers simply don't know the local rules and are thus easy prey.
- The landlords do assume a significant risk on one hand though, in that they cannot evict renters without a serious process - in some cases lasting several years. Once "in", a renter can really kind of squat and make things difficult. But who wants to do that? Bad karma.
There are more technical ins and outs, but that's it in a nutshell. Very different from the more capitalistic, less-Left-leaning West, with the only real similarity is that everyone is just playing by the rules of supply and demand. And Amsterdam, with its million things to do and laissez-faire lifestyle, is in demand.
The real tips?
- Don't rent anywhere that you cannot register and do try to haggle for a lower price, if you are an attractive tenant (professional, courteous, have excellent choice in blog-reading).
- Do look at Craigslist and then call to view a place right away - good spots go fast.
- Do join a group like "Amsterdam Apartments 4 Rent" on Facebook, where the likelihood of being scammed is diminished by the fact that you can see who's posting the ad.
- There are agency fees with some places; they provide some assurance that you are not getting jobbed, but they can also charge one month's rent as a fee. Haggle this.