Legal problems are always on the lure: for example, your rental agreement could be canceled, you could be fired, or your landlord could refuse to make important repairs. You could have problems with the tax authorities or with receiving your benefits. Repairs to your washing machine were not done properly. Your divorce is pending or, following an accident, your damages have not been reimbursed. In other words, since there are many kinds of legal problems, chances are that you might have one or two of your own.

LEGAL PROCEEDINGS

Civil Law

There is no obligation to have legal representation before the subdistrict sector of the District Court. Cases involving amounts lower than € 25,000, employment law cases, and cases involving rent law, light misdemeanors and consumer credit are to be brought before the subdistrict sector of the District Court and therefore do not require representation by a lawyer. You can choose between representing yourself, or letting yourself be represented by a person with legal training, such as a process-server.

In all other situations, legal representation is mandatory before the District Court (with the exception of administrative law cases), the Court of Appeals and the Netherlands Supreme Court. If you have not arranged it, the magistrates will not accept the case.

Administrative Law

Administrative law applies to governmental decisions, for example relating to building permits or benefit payments. A lawyer is not required for administrative law issues. Also here, you may represent yourself. For more complex matters, however, it would be wise to consult an expert – for example, a lawyer.

Criminal Law

In principle, criminal law does not require legal representation. You, as a defendant, may defend yourself. If you are taken into custody, you are automatically assigned a lawyer. However, you are free to change lawyers if you wish. If you face criminal charges but are not in custody, you can consult a lawyer.

Summary Proceeding

If you initiate a summary proceeding, you will need to use the services of a lawyer. If you are a defendant in such a proceeding, you are not obligated to employ the services of a lawyer.

Fees

There are no flat rates for the services of lawyers. The rates vary not only from one law office to the other but also according to the type of case. Therefore, it is worth the trouble to inquire at several law offices about their (hourly) rates for the type of case, and about the amount of time the lawyer expects to dedicate to the case.

No cure, no pay is not allowed by the code of conduct all lawyers have to abide by

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE

For many people, legal fees can be a problem. If you wish to start or are facing legal proceedings but cannot pay for them (entirely), you can ask your lawyer to request government-financed legal aid (toevoeging). If it is granted – and this depends, among others, on your income and financial means – the government will pay part of your legal fees. Toevoeging is only granted to pay your lawyer’s fees – and not related expenses, such as court registry fees, extract fees, process server expenses, etc. (it therefore usually does not cover what is normally charged). It can also be used to help cover the costs of mediation. The income limits in question are fixed and are regularly adjusted (visit www.st-ab.nl)

If your income is high or you have sufficient financial means and do not qualify for government-financed legal aid, you must pay the legal fees yourself. You can, however, take out legal aid insurance to help pay for lawyers’ fees. There may be a first risk clause.

INTERPRETERS

The Dutch courts make use of interpreters in the case of (criminal) law proceedings, police hearings and for asylum seekers – but you can also request the assistance of an interpreter if you feel you need one in any other type of case. If the court requests the assistance of an interpreter, the costs are in principle carried either by the state or by the party who is ordered to pay the costs in a civil case. If you need the use of a translator/interpreter, ask your legal aid agency where you can find one and what the costs will be. Beware that price and quality are not always consistent.

WHERE TO OBTAIN LEGAL AID ASSISTANCE

Juridisch Loket – Legal Counter

The Juridisch Loket has been created to provide you with free legal information and advice on matters regarding employment issues, family issues, social security (benefits), rent and housing law, alien affairs, problems regarding products bought or services rendered (consumer issues), criminal law, neighbor problems, permits and driver’s licenses. If you require actual legal assistance, the Juridisch Loket can recommend a lawyer or mediator and can inform you of whether you qualify for subsidized legal aid from either one of these. To find a Juridisch Loket near you, visit www.juridischloket.nl and click on bezoek een vestiging.

Legal Aid Bureaus

For more information on organizations providing subsidized legal aid, and to find one close to you, visit www.rvr.org (Raad voor Rechtsbijstand), or www.rechtsbijstand.nl.

Lawyers

It is usually wise to seek advice or legal representation, especially if the other party already has. If you do not qualify for subsidized legal aid, then you will likely turn to a lawyer. Most lawyers specialize in certain types of cases or legal areas. You can approach the Netherlands Bar Association – an organization to which all lawyers in the Netherlands belong – for a recommendation. As mentioned earlier, a Juridisch Loket can sometimes recommend a particular lawyer, depending on your case. Another useful source of legal advisors and/or lawyers, as well as basic legal information, is www.jurofoon.nl.

Tip
Many lawyers offer free introductory consultations. The first consultation lasts about thirty minutes, during which the lawyer will examine your case and recommend any steps you should take. Be sure to ask in advance whether – and what – the lawyer charges for the first consultation.

Mediators

The option of mediation first noticeably entered the ‘conflict scene’ in divorce cases, but is now rapidly gaining popularity in other legal areas as well, such as commercial law (including ‘business mediation’), family law, labor law, inheritance law and administrative law. It is, of course, an attractive approach that can save you both time and money – as it is more likely to result in a solution that is a viable compromise reached by the parties involved, rather than one that is chosen for you by an emotionally distant judge.

Also once a case has gone to court it is not too late to enlist the help of a mediator: either you and the other party together can decide to go to a mediator or, either before or during the court hearings, the judge can evaluate with you whether employing the services of a mediator might be preferable.

For more information, visit www.gecertificeerdemediators.nl.

Fees

No cure, no pay does also not apply if you enlist the help of a mediator: you will owe his or her fees and the reimbursement of any expenses he/she may have incurred. In some cases, the first 2.5 hours of consultation are free. Rest assured, the total costs will almost always be considerably less than what you would end up paying in legal fees if you went to court. In principle, both parties carry an equal share in the expenses, but you may choose to allocate the costs differently. In many cases, a mediator can also request a toevoeging for you, allowing your mediation expenses to be subsidized.

Municipal Counselors

Many municipalities have municipal counselors (Sociaal Raadslieden) – ask at your municipality whether this is the case where you live. These councilors can answer many questions regarding social security, taxes, legislation, regulations and (semi)governmental institutions. They can also help you write letters, draw up notices of objection as well as mediate on your behalf, free of charge.

Process-Servers

Also process-servers offer legal aid, particularly, of course, when it comes to collecting your debts (up to € 25,000), but also with financial questions. As mentioned earlier, there where you are not required to have yourself represented by a lawyer in civil cases, you can request the assistance of a process-server.

Unions

All unions have a legal department that you can consult for information and advice if you are a member. They offer assistance in employment law cases and social security cases – all free of charge, if you are a member.

Side Note

Other Organizations

There are a number of organizations you can turn to for advice and aid as well, if you are a member. Some of the more useful ones are:

  • The Consumers Association (Consumentenbond): this association offers advice on consumer issues, such as the renting or buying of products and/or services. Though they do not offer legal-procedural aid, they can mediate in conflicts with manufacturers or those who provide services.
  • ANWB: members of the ANWB are given free legal advice on issues regarding transportation, recreation and tourism. You do not have to be a member if you call in for legal advice following a traffic accident. The ANWB offers its members full legal aid in the case of accidents abroad.
  • Vereniging Eigen Huis (Homeowners’ Association): Vereniging Eigen Huis offers its members advice on issues involving home ownership, such as financing, building and legal matters.

Share this article
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Dutch Insurance

The following insurances can be arranged, either through private insurance companies, banks, or your employer ...

Dutch Taxes

For purposes of application of the tax laws, it is very important to know whether ...

Dutch 30%-ruling Tax Facility

You can make use of the 30%-ruling tax facility if you have been posted ...

Money Matters in the Netherlands

The most common place to exchange money is a bank (such as ABN Amro, ING ...

‘Double’ Social Insurances

An employee who starts working in the Netherlands is, in principle, subject to the Dutch ...