A year ago I started a room renting contract, where landlord asked me to stay there for 1 year maximum and I agreed. This was only accepted by my words and in written email but not signed. The written contract itself states that it lasts for 3 years, so legally I can live there for 2 more years I think.

Now landlord is asking me to leave the room because we agreed on 1 year length (the reason being, every year he is legally allowed to increase a price by little bit). I actually kind of like the room and would love to stay for at least half more year, but I think it's unethical from my point of view, but again he gave me 3 year written contract, so that's what matters, or is it possible that my email confirmation on 1 year is more important? Would it be ethical/fine to keep living there?

I know this isn't really finance related question, but I think it's fits this board most.

It's in The Netherlands by the way.

  • 1
    Which came first? The signed contract or the email exchange?
    – ChrisInEdmonton
    Sep 27, 2016 at 13:15
  • 1
    What is notice period? Did he respect it? Sep 27, 2016 at 13:16
  • @ChrisInEdmonton yes, he said in the email that "rent is for 1 year but i will give you an indefinite contract with 1 month notic" and then he proceeded to give me a 3 year contract in fact. Eugen Martynov, yes it's 1 month notice and he respected it.
    – Maria
    Sep 27, 2016 at 13:26
  • FWIW, in U.S. law an email is equivalent to a signed writing.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 8, 2022 at 17:09

4 Answers 4


There appears to be an ambiguity here in exactly which terms apply. Under Dutch law, the Contra proferentem principle can be applied. As the rental agreement is typically drafted by the landlord, the duty to avoid ambiguity lies on his side. Any remaining ambiguity will be resolved in favor of the other party, i.e. the renter.

A secondary and related principle is that a landlord typically acts in a professional capability, and therefore is held to higher standards.

  • Thank you. What would be your overall conclusion on situation? Here you mention that tenant has somewhat more power in case of ambiguous contract, but in another comment you mention that 'parole evidence rule' does not exist in Dutch law, which makes emails as evidence. Sep 28, 2016 at 12:46
  • @Maria: Dutch civil law (as opposed to criminal law) does not have strict limits on the forms of communication that are allowable as evidence. You could probably get Whatsapp messages admitted as evidence. Different media will carry weight, with verbal agreements ranking near the bottom and written +signed
    – MSalters
    Sep 28, 2016 at 14:03
  • Do you know much about landlord/tenant law? There seem to be all kinds of ruses in use by Dutch landlords to get around the very strict rules in place, and these are understandably viewed very dimly by the courts, from what little I know. There could be specific law requiring the contract begoverned by its explicit terms, to the exclusion of other agreements made separate from the written contract.
    – phoog
    Sep 28, 2016 at 16:45
  • @phoog: Dutch landlords don't have a good reputation. Courts indeed do tend to take a dim view towards dubious "workarounds", and generally tenant claims can be filed up to 5 years after the event. But yes, there are at least 6 main exceptions to the normal rules specifically to limit the terms, and rental to non-residents is one of them (for somewhat obvious reasons; landlords may have a reasonable expectation that such renters leave)
    – MSalters
    Sep 29, 2016 at 0:04

If it were me, I would leave. Who wants to rent a room in a home where you are not wanted? However, there should be concessions. I would ask for 1.5 months rent refunded, but would happily settle for one month.

I am sure there are many nice rooms, close by, where you are welcomed.

Given additional information commented by the OP, the landlord is looking to increase his rents. Evidentially this municipality has strict rent controls.

In this case, I would enter negotiations with the landlord. I would offer him a percentage of his anticipated rent increase and probably start at 50%. If the OP has been a good tenant (always paid on time, and low maintenance) the landlord might see this as a bargain. No need to find a new tenant and no need to vet one that might pay poorly. The better the tenant has been, and the more strict the renter protection laws the more appeal this offer will have to the landlord.

The benefit for the OP is they don't have to move, or find a new place with its associated costs and inconvenience.

If the landlord is just a mindless corporate drone with no decision making power, this will not work.

  • Well for him it's just business. He is not living there, and the only reason he wants me out, is because each year he is able to legally increase the price little bit.
    – Maria
    Sep 27, 2016 at 13:29
  • 2
    In this case I would consult a lawyer. Failing that you may want to offer him half or so of the increase. Provided you have been a good tenant he might consider this a bargain.
    – Pete B.
    Sep 27, 2016 at 13:31
  • that's a good idea indeed! Also curious why did he sign a 3 year contract in the first place, seems little bit dubious from his position.
    – Maria
    Sep 27, 2016 at 13:38
  • 1
    @PeteB. - with the new info of why the landlord wants OP to leave, I think your suggestion of offering to take a smaller increase should be added to your answer.
    – TTT
    Sep 27, 2016 at 13:53

You have a contract with ambiguous terms: a signed lease with a 3 year term and correspondence and a verbal agreement with a 1 year term.

None of these documents/verbal discussions is the contract; they are only evidence of the contract. The contract itself is what was agreed between the parties.

Based on your question, you are clear that what was agreed was a 1 year term: legally that is the term. For the term to legally be 3 years then, at the time the contract was formed, that would have to have been what you believed.

If you were to enter a dispute based on the written lease knowing that it was incorrect then you are wrong both legally and ethically. You could win such a dispute, particularly if the lease contained a term that said it was definitive or if it post-dates the correspondence. The question is: are you willing to behave illegally and unethically to do so? Certainly, if you were to give a statement you would have a choice between losing the case or perjuring yourself.

  • 2
    Dutch law is rather different from common law and, while I do not know, I strongly suspect that the written contract takes precedence over any oral agreement.
    – phoog
    Sep 28, 2016 at 6:01
  • @phoog it does in common law too but here there are two conflicting written records - the parole evidence rule then applies
    – Dale M
    Sep 28, 2016 at 6:37
  • @DaleM thanks for insight! But you are saying "contract is what was agreed", but agreement is proven by signature, and not by his email stating how long I need to stay, or? There is a an email from my landlord, stating that room is for 1 year but we will sign indefinite contract. So I signed this 3 year contract (maybe it's called indefinite) and it nowhere even mentions 1 year time span. It says that contract will stop working after 2019 and if landlord wants me to leave, he must provide a real reason supported by law. Sep 28, 2016 at 7:28
  • 1
    @DaleM: The parole evidence rule is common law as well, and simply does not exist in Dutch law. I can't even think of a comparable rule.
    – MSalters
    Sep 28, 2016 at 11:25

I am writing as an American, using American law as an "example" for your question, and I am not a lawyer.

In an American contract of this sort, you would be entitled to a lease of up to three years, but the landlord would be entitled to a rent increase of say, 5% in each of the second and third years. That is, the rent would be X in year 1, X+5% in year 2, x+10% in year 3.

From the sound of it, your landlord wants the rent escalation for year 2. So offer him the escalated year 2 rent for six months. If you and the landlord both testified truthfully as to your oral conversations (which can be binding if the judge or jury believes them), that would be the likely result. Moreover, if you went to court in the Netherlands, the judge would look more favorably on you if you offered the escalated rent than if you tried to hold onto the lower year 1 rent.

This is a reasonable offer. If the landlord refused, he'd probably look "Unreasonable" in court.

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