Association the Woonbond has initiated litigation against the Dutch State regarding an act which aims to combat “scheefwonen” – the situation where a person with a much too high income rents a relatively cheap house. Based on this act, house owners (landlords) may increase rent dependent on the income of the tenant. For this purpose, landlords may request data about the income of tenants from the tax authorities. According to the Woonbond, the tax authorities violate(d) privacy laws by providing income data of tenants to landlords and the Woonbond aims to obtain a statement of law on the basis of the (old) WCAM that it is indeed unlawful.
On 1 April 2022, the Advocate-General gave his opinion in the case, which is pending before the Supreme Court. According to the Advocate-General:
- The Woonbond is admissible. The State argued that tenants could individually aim request the tax authorities not to provide their income data and if necessary enforce this through administrative procedures. Administrative procedures have priority over civil procedures. The Advocate-General argues however that this would be overly cumbersome. Therefore, the Woonbond may litigate in civil proceedings.
- The provision of tax data was unlawful in a certain period between 2013-2016. Tax authorities have a duty of confidentiality regarding income data and there was no legal basis to provide this income data. After 2016, this legal basis was created and therefore the provision of income data became lawful.
- No damages were claimed so there is no obligation for the state to pay damages for the unlawful provision of income data in the period 2013-2016.
The advice of the Advocate-General is mostly interesting as it shows that matters that could theoretically be litigated in individual cases before the administrative court, may sometimes be litigated in civil proceedings on the basis of the WCAM (or now WAMCA).