In the Netherlands, rented housing is provided by the social housing sector and the private (or non-subsidised) sector. Social housing has a limited rent – the rent may never exceed a certain amount, called the maximum rent limit of the house (in Dutch: maximale huurgrens van de woning or liberalisatiegrens). Social housing is cheaper because it is subsidised by the state. The government also sets the rules for the allocation of social housing, and overall, the accommodations (and the contracts under which they are rented) are more regulated. As a general rule, those who rent from housing corporations have more rights than those who rent from the private sector.
Whether a property falls under the social or private sector depends on its characteristics. These characteristics are used to calculate the rental value of the accommodation in question, and based on this rental value, said accommodation is classified as either social or private. The rental value is determined by the woningwaarderingsstelsel (WWS, or housing valuation system), a national points system for assessing residential housing quality. It takes into account things like the size, location, insulation, kitchen and bathroom set-up of the accommodation, among other things.
So, overall, if the rental price of an accommodation falls under a certain value (which changes every year), it is considered sociale huurwoningen (social housing). Such housing is regulated, and the rent charged may never exceed this value. Furthermore, while rental increases are possible, this is also carefully controlled on a national level. Lastly, whether you are eligible for social housing can depend on your income (it shouldn’t be too high).
The housing valuation system not only determines whether a residence falls under the social or private sector, it also determines the highest possible rent for dwellings falling under the social sector. Thus, it’s possible for you to check whether you are overpaying for your accommodation, and if this is the case, to claim the excess rent back through the Huurcommissie (Rent Tribunal). You can access the housing valuation system here for independent dwellings and here for non-independent dwellings.
The housing valuation system does not apply to properties in the private sector – already, this sector is less regulated, and there are less rights you can rely on as a tenant. For example, there is not a maximum limit placed on rental prices – this is freely determined by the person renting out the accommodation, without any threshold being established by the government. Furthermore, it is less likely that you will be eligible for huurtoeslag if you rent from the private sector, although you should always check just in case.
However, under both social and private sector housing, tenants benefit from rent protection – this means that your landlord cannot just terminate your lease without a valid legal reason. In this sense, the law favours the tenant, so that whether you actually have a home does not depend merely on the whim of your landlord. The only exception to this if you’re renting temporary accommodation – how this works and what temporary accommodation is can be found at the link above.