The ground rules when terminating the rental contract

We regularly get questions at the Rent Support Centre about what you can do if the landlord has terminated the rental contract. Or about how to terminate the rental contract yourself. Are you or will you have to deal with this? Then read on quickly. In this article, we will discuss the legal rules on termination of the rental agreement.
Photo: Scott Graham.
Photo: Scott Graham.
Photo: Scott Graham.
Photo: Scott Graham.

We often see that tenants do not exactly know their own rights, in case the landlord terminates the tenancy. Unfortunately, we also often see that the landlord himself is not well informed about the legal rules where termination of the rent is concerned. Roughly speaking, the law has two different regimes. In fact, the regulation regarding termination for temporary contracts differs considerably from the regulation for indefinite contracts. In this article, we will take a closer look at the legal rules concerning termination of the lease.

TEMPORARY CONTRACT OR INDEFINITE?

In order to determine how to terminate the rent yourself, or to check whether the landlord is complying with the rules regarding termination, it is important to first check whether your rental contract is temporary in nature, or indefinite. This is because different rules apply in the case of a temporary contract than in the case of an open-ended contract.

TEMPORARY CONTRACT

Cancelling the contract yourself

In case you have signed a temporary rental contract, unfortunately, it is usually not possible to terminate it mid-term. This is because the lease will then end automatically, on the agreed date.

Incidentally, from 1 July 2024 it will be a lot less easy for landlords to offer a temporary contract, as that is when the Fixed Contracts Act will come into force. However, there are still exceptions. Unfortunately, even after this law comes into force, students may still be offered a temporary contract (2 years).

Termination by the landlord

The same then applies to the landlord. It too cannot usually terminate the lease in the interim.

As mentioned, the landlord does not have to give notice in case of a temporary contract, as it will automatically end on the mutually agreed date. Note, however, that the landlord does have a legal duty to ‘give notice’ of the rent. The difference with giving notice is that when giving notice, the landlord only has to inform you in time that the lease will end soon. The landlord does not have to substantiate this further.

He only has to indicate, as a reminder, that the lease will end soon. This must be done up to 3 months in advance and at least 1 month in advance. It is therefore sufficient that the landlord gives you a timely reminder that the lease will end soon, in short.

If the landlord does not do this, he does not fulfil his legal obligation. The consequence will then be that the temporary rental agreement will be converted into a permanent one. In case of a temporary contract, make sure the landlord has given timely notice.

INDEFINITE CONTRACT

Giving notice yourself

In case you have signed a lease for an indefinite period, different rules apply. Legally, as a tenant, you then only have to observe one month’s notice. If you have an open-ended contract and it states that you have to give at least two months’ notice, for instance, this provision is not legally valid. So don’t be fooled by the landlord. You only have to observe one month’s notice. In addition, you do not have to give a reason.

It used to be that you had to do this by registered letter, but case law shows that nowadays you can also do it by e-mail. Whether this is also allowed via Whatsapp is unfortunately not yet entirely clear from case law, but we do not see why it could be done by e-mail but not via Whatsapp. Incidentally, the burden of proof – whether the message has arrived – then lies with you as the tenant, so it is still wise to do it via registered letter. Dun you can always prove that you sent the letter and you also get proof that the letter was delivered to the right person.

Termination by the landlord

The legislator wanted to protect the tenant with an open-ended contract to a great extent. This means that in practice it is quite difficult for the landlord to be able to terminate the tenancy, in case of an indefinite contract.

First of all, about the notice period the landlord has to observe. This is, in fact, set by law at three months. So a landlord, when you have a permanent contract without an end date, must observe three months’ notice. On top of that, another month is added for every year you have rented as a tenant. This with a maximum of six months in total. So if you have been living in the same house or renting the same room for two years, two months are added to the minimum notice period of three months. So in that case, the landlord must give 5 months’ notice.

In addition, the landlord is legally obliged to give reasons for the termination based on one of the legal grounds for termination listed by law. He must do this at all times. If this is not done, the termination is not legally valid and will therefore have no effect. In fact, there are only six grounds on which the landlord can terminate the lease. One ground could be that you are not behaving as a good tenant, but in practice, the main ground will be ‘own use’.

In short, he must then make it plausible that he urgently needs the rented property for his own use. A reason could be, for example, that a family member is seriously ill, and by occupying the rented property himself, it will be possible to live closer to this family member, with a view to care. Sale of a property, on the other hand, for example, will not easily be considered a valid ground for termination by the subdistrict court. The landlord must therefore be able to come up with a very strong story in order for the district court to dissolve the lease.

Finally, very important: when the landlord terminates the lease (on whatever grounds), the lease remains in force until the subdistrict court has ruled on the termination. So it is not the case that the lease agreement actually ends, with that termination by the landlord. Therefore, this must first be reviewed by the subdistrict court at all times.

Until then, you are and remain a tenant of the accommodation and cannot be evicted just like that. In other words: if the landlord terminates the rental agreement and the tenant objects, the landlord will always have to have the termination reviewed by a subdistrict court judge. So as a tenant with an open-ended contract, you fortunately have a very strong legal position.

CONCLUSION

In case you have a temporary contract, neither you nor the landlord can usually terminate early. Furthermore, the landlord does not have to actually give notice, but he does have to give a notice. This is nothing more and nothing more than a ‘reminder’ to you that the lease is about to end. He must do this up to 3 months in advance, and at least 1 month in advance.

In the case of an open-ended contract, you as the tenant may always give notice as long as you give one month’s notice. Preferably do this by registered letter, but e-mail is also allowed.

For the landlord, this is more complicated. He must give at least three months’ notice to terminate the rent. And for every year you rent, another month is added to that. In addition, the termination must always be based on one of the legal grounds. In practice, the most common one is ‘own use’. For example, if the landlord wants to move into the property himself. Finally, it is important when the landlord gives notice of termination that if you object to this termination, he will always have to go to the subdistrict court to have it rule on the termination. Until then, the tenancy agreement will remain in force and you can continue to live there and you cannot simply be evicted.

NEED HELP? LET US KNOW!

Do you have doubts about your landlord’s termination? Would you like to know whether it was done according to the rules? Or would you like to know the legal status of a certain ground for termination? Then don’t hesitate to contact us. Just fill in the contact form and feel free to ask us. Or drop in during our walk-in consultancy on Wednesdays from 13:00 to 15:00. We are happy to help!

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