Picture the scene. You traipse around viewing properties with your partner. Eventually you find “the one” and submit all the necessary paperwork – only to be told the landlord only wants tenants who are of “Dutch descent”.
In other words… not you.
This is exactly what happened to a Dutch-Moroccan couple.
The estate agent’s email explained: “The owner has chosen to only rent to people of Dutch descent. I am sorry to have to report this to you.”
One of the applicants, Ihsane Bachar, posted a screen grab of the rejection note on Facebook, accompanied by the message: “I know there is a lot of racism, but effort is done to disguise it as we often see on the labour market.
“Apparently this also applies to the housing market. I’m more shocked by the fact that it has become dead normal to discriminate. Being tactical is no longer necessary, although I appreciate the honesty of the person who typed this mail.”
Some comments urged her to press charges. Others were surprised most by the unusually overt discrimination.
The couple are Dutch citizens and hold Dutch passports.
I rang the estate agent, Goedhart Makelaars, based in the village of Rijnsaterwoude between The Hague and Amsterdam, for a response. However, the instant I told them I was from the BBC they hung up.
One of their representatives emailed the Dutch public broadcaster to explain why they delivered the blunt note.
“Of course I can tell the couple a nonsense story but the owner said this explicitly. We did not invent that ourselves. We do not have problems with people,” the representative told them.
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Goedhart Makelaars has since expressed regret about the wording of the rejection note, saying: “In the past the owner had bad experiences with migrant workers from the Eastern bloc, she would rather rent to a Dutch family in the broadest sense of the word.”
They say they plan to apologise to the couple and, if the house is still available, they would like to offer it to them, or an alternative home “perhaps with priority”.
One estate agent, based in The Hague, said allegations of racial discrimination in the housing market were “very explosive” but that the fault lies with the owner of the property, not the people responsible for renting it out.
“I’m anti-discrimination but don’t shoot the messenger,” said the agent, who preferred not to be named. “The ultimate decision is the owners. I would raise my eyebrows but the estate agent is just the broker. Of course raise it, it’s the decent thing to do.”
Hans van den Heuvel from the VBO trader association described it as an example of how things shouldn’t be done.
The couple shared their response with the Netherlands based news site Marokko.nl (in Dutch). They said: “Stay positive, we may have to try harder, but where there is a will is a way, and always report these things!”
Earlier this year similar discussions arose in Amsterdam when an estate agent told prospective tenants the apartments they were interested in could only be rented to people who cooked “the Western way”.
The internet responded with a mixture of horror and humour. Some said it simply served to highlight the notoriously bland Dutch cuisine.