Service costs for residential properties: What rules apply and is there a difference between the liberal sector and social housing?

As a rental agent and property manager, we often see that service charges are unjustly passed on to tenants, such as costs for elevator maintenance or an Owners' Association (VvE) contribution. Incorrect calculation of service charges can have adverse consequences for owners. Did you know that tenants can reclaim unjustly paid service charges up to 5 years later? But where is it specified which costs can be passed on, and what are the differences between liberalized (private sector) and social rental properties?

According to the service charge decision, costs may be charged for items such as:

  • Heat supply
  • Electricity, gas, and water
  • Depreciation of movable assets
  • Minor repairs, which according to the decision by the lawmaker are the responsibility of the tenant but are carried out by the landlord
  • Household waste
  • Concierge services for supervision, safety, and personal support of residents
  • Signal delivery such as internet/TV
  • Electronic equipment for video surveillance, alarms, and data networks
  • Insurances that cover the tenant's risks
  • Services and movable assets for common areas
  • Administrative costs for preparing service charge settlements

Owners' Association (VvE) costs can only be passed on, provided they fall under the mentioned categories. This can sometimes be complex if the VvE manager's settlement is not clear.

If an owner passes on costs that do not fall under the allowable service charges, such as costs for elevator or central heating maintenance or electrical inspections, then these charges are unjustified. It's important to note that tenants can object to incorrect service charge settlements up to five years later. Nowadays, there are even agencies that handle such tenant claims on a no cure, no pay basis.

Rules for social rental properties

The Rent Commission (Huurcommissie) has detailed information in their policy book about what the service charge decision means for regulated properties. This includes, for example, the depreciation period of movable assets and a maximum hourly wage for concierge services. If a tenant objects to the service charges, they can easily approach the Rent Commission, which determines whether the service charges are reasonable based on the policy book.

Service costs in the liberal sector

Service charges for properties in the private sector are normally not under the jurisdiction of the Rent Commission. Therefore, it is questionable whether the same (strict) guidelines apply as with the Rent Commission. In the past, it was sometimes assumed that agreed service charges for liberalized rental properties fell under contractual freedom. If a tenant objects to the service charges, they cannot approach the Rent Commission but must start a procedure at the district court.

Legal developments

The Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that 'reasonable' service charges also apply to properties in the liberalized sector. This means that the court may reduce the service charges to a reasonable level and that service charges must be settled reasonably. We believe that the guidance of the Rent Commission can be used to determine whether service charges are reasonable, for both social and private sector rental properties.

Tips for investors

  • Service charges are complex and require specific knowledge. Make sure you are well-informed about the regulations or seek advice from an expert. We at Perfect Rent are always ready to support you!
  • Be careful with the calculation of service charges. Incorrectly calculated costs can lead to objections from tenants, even up to five years later. Prevent future problems by making an accurate and fair calculation.

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