Rent allowance (sometimes also referred to as housing allowance) is a monthly payment by the Dutch government to help people with a low income (such as students) with paying their rent. Internationals can also be eligible to apply for this, but only if they live in their own apartment. As the procedure is largely in Dutch, it might however not be worth the trouble. If you do want to give it a try, the information provided below might help you out.
Rent allowance is paid up front, of which notice is sent through a provisional assessment (voorlopige aanslag). When the Belastingdienst (tax authority) confirms the rent allowance you get, you receive a final tax assessment (definitieve aanslag). This can take a few months up to a year.
In order to be considered for rent allowance, you first and foremost have to live in your own apartment (no shared kitchen or bathroom), and also have to satisfy a number of financial conditions:
- The amount of rent you pay (excluding most of the service costs, see below) cannot be higher or larger than a predetermined amount.
- Your income cannot be too high.
- Your wealth / possessions cannot be too high / valuable.
In the sections below, these conditions are further explained. The exact limits to rent, income and wealth can be found at the Belastingdienst-website (aged between 18 and 23, aged 23 and above). Unfortunately, no direct translation of the web page exists. However, the bullet points used on the pages linked are in the exact same order as the bullets shown above. Otherwise, Google Translate might be able to help you out.
The rent that is used to check if you are eligible for rent allowance is not the entire amount of rent you pay, but only a portion of it. In Dutch, this is called the rekenhuur. It excludes all individual service costs, but includes some of the common ones. The items below are included in the rekenhuur:
- basic rent;
- costs for common energy;
- costs for cleaning of common spaces;
- caretaker and social management.
The amount you currently pay for these items can be found on your current lease contract, the latest ‘proposal to adjust the rental price’ or on the My DUWO-webpage (Financial Matters > Rent Composition). The lower table on that page shows all costs that have to be taken into account when applying for rent allowance.
In order to be able to apply for rent allowance, your income cannot be too high. ‘Income’ is defined as payroll income (toetsingsinkomen in Dutch). This is the same definition as the Belastingdienst uses in their assessment of income tax. If government grants used to (help) pay for your studies are a loan, these do not count towards your income. If they are donations, so to speak, they probably are. There is an online tool that helps computing your income issued by the tax authority, but unfortunately, this is only available in Dutch.
Wealth / possessions
In order to be able to apply for rent allowance, your wealth cannot be too high. This webpage shows the maximum amount. In most cases, the sum listed in the first row will be applicable.
You can apply for rent allowance online using Mijn Toeslagen. You have to login with our DigiD-account. Unfortunately, the entire process is in Dutch. You can maybe ask a neighbour for help, or use this guide. It is a somewhat outdated (it was made in 2011) and is based on software that has been renewed, but as the outline of the process is largely the same, it might be of help.
Changing the data the Belastingdienst uses to compute the amount of rent allownace you get, can be done using Mijn Toeslagen. Even though DUWO says it informs the tax authorities of changes in basic rent, this does not always seem to work. Luckily, if you have not received a final tax assessment from a particular year, it is possible to change your information retroactively.