Finding housing in and around major cities
It is very difficult to find rental apartments in and around major cities. Some parts of the city are extremely popular places to live and it is often even more difficult to find apartments to rent in these. Many recent immigrants choose to live in the major cities. There are also many other people in these cities who need housing, which creates major competition. It is common to rent a room in someone else's home or sublet an apartment. It can be easier to find an apartment outside of the major cities. There are usually bus or rail connections for those who want to travel into larger cities.
Different types of housing
You can rent an apartment from a landlord, and the contract you enter into with your landlord is then known as a lease. If you buy an apartment instead, you become tenant-owner of it. If you buy a house, you become the freeholder of that property, which means you have full ownership rights to it. Another option is to rent an apartment or house from a person who has a lease on or owns it. This is known as a sublet. You can also rent a room in someone's apartment or house, in which case you become a lodger. Remember to draw up a contract with the person you are renting from. If you are a lodger you should also get your own home insurance policy, otherwise you have no financial protection if an accident happens in your home.
If you live in a rental apartment, you rent the apartment from a landlord. The landlord that owns the building is usually a company. The company may be owned by people or by a municipality. If you or someone who is visiting you breaks something in the apartment, you have to pay to fix it. However, if something breaks due to normal wear and tear, the landlord will fix or replace it. An example of normal wear and tear is when a cooker has got so old that it no longer works.
Apartment building - Building containing rental apartments or cooperative apartments known collectively as apartment buildings.
If you have a lease on an apartment, you have the right to live in the apartment as long as you want to and behave yourself. This means, for example, that you have to pay the rent on time each month and not disturb the neighbours. When you want to move, you usually have to continue paying rent for three months. This is called a notice period. If you have a lease on an apartment, you can swap your apartment with another one. However, your landlord must first approve the swap. The landlord also decides whether the apartment or building is to be renovated. If you want to renovate the apartment you live in, the landlord must first give their permission.
The regional rent tribunal
The regional rent tribunal is a type of court that can provide assistance when there is a conflict between a tenant and a landlord. There are eight regional rent tribunals in Sweden. These are located in Stockholm, Västerås, Linköping, Malmö, Gothenburg, Sundsvall and Umeå. The regional rent tribunal makes a decision in cases where agreement cannot be reached, for example whether a tenant may sublet their apartment. If you need help, the regional rent tribunal can also answer questions about the laws and regulations that apply. You can read more on the regional rent tribunal's website:
In order to live in a cooperative apartment, you have to pay for a stake. This means that you buy a share of an association that owns the building. This type of association is called a cooperative housing association. You become a member of the association and are allowed to use the apartment.
Some cooperative housing associations belong to a large organisation with buildings throughout Sweden such as HSB or Riksbyggen. Other associations are small. Each association looks after its own finances. When you live in a cooperative apartment, you pay a fee to the association every month. If you have borrowed money from a bank in order to buy the apartment, you also have to pay interest and mortgage repayments to the bank. In a cooperative apartment, you decide yourself how you want to decorate, renovate and equip your apartment. The association's members make collective decision about how to look after the building and any major renovations that are to be carried out.
There are not that many freehold apartments in Sweden. The majority of apartments are cooperative apartments or rental apartments. Freehold ownership is more common when you live in a house or in a terraced house. You then own the house yourself and are responsible for it. Sometimes an association is formed in areas containing terraced houses. The association may be responsible for common areas such as roads, play parks and lawns. All those who live in the area will then share the costs of these.
How to find an apartment
Many municipalities have a housing authority. The housing authority normally has a website where you can register and look for available apartments.
When you have registered, you must visit the website regularly in order to see if any new apartments have become available. If you see an apartment advertised, you can apply for this apartment.
When the deadline for applications for an apartment has passed, the landlord chooses who will be invited to look at the apartment. Many landlords have a queuing system in which a person who has been in the queue (really a waiting list) for a long time has a greater chance of getting the apartment. When you have looked at an apartment, you have to tell the landlord whether you want it or not. The landlord will contact you if you get the lease on the apartment.
If more than one person wants the apartment, the landlord has the right to choose one of them. Whoever owns the apartment or building (the landlord) always decides who will be given the lease on their apartments. The housing authority cannot decide this. In the large municipalities in Sweden, it can often take a long time before you are offered an apartment as there is a major housing shortage.
Advice on looking for apartments
Sometimes it is not enough just to look for apartments at the housing authority. It is also a good idea to contact a landlord directly. The majority of large landlords have their own website where you can register your interest in an apartment. Make use of your own contacts, relatives and friends to get information about available apartments.
One way to find an apartment can be to put up notes in shops, libraries, stairwells or in other places where there are notice boards.
You can also find adverts for available apartments in various daily newspapers and on various websites. This is where you can also find apartments to sublet, i.e. not renting directly from the landlord, but from another tenant.
If it is very difficult to find an apartment in one municipality, it may be easier if you move to another municipality.
Notification of change of address
When you move, you are legally obliged to notify the Swedish Tax Agency of your new address. Public authorities will then have information about your new address. Notifying the Tax Agency of your new address is free of charge. If you want to have your mail sent to your new address (mail forwarding), you have to pay a fee.
You can notify the Tax Agency of your move and register for mail forwarding on Svensk adressändring's website,
Photo: Maria Nobel
Subletting your apartment and having lodgers
Subletting an apartment means that a person who has a lease, i.e. the contract directly with the landlord, rents out their apartment to someone else. The landlord must agree to the home being sublet. If the landlord does not want you to sublet, you can try to get permission from the regional rent tribunal. If you sublet your apartment without the landlord's permission, you can be forced to leave the apartment. You can also rent out one or more rooms in your apartment or house at the same time as living there yourself. This is called having lodgers. You can have lodgers without asking your landlord for permission, but there are limits on the number of people who can live in the same apartment. You are only allowed to have lodgers if you have a lease.
If you have a lease on a rental apartment and want to sublet your apartment you need to have an approved reason for doing so. This may be that you have to work in another city or that you want to try living with a partner. The landlord usually allows people to rent out their apartment for one year at a time.
The grounds for being permitted to sublet a cooperative apartment as about the same.
If you want to sublet an apartment from someone, it is important that you find out whether the landlord has approved this. Think about writing a contract when you are going to sublet. The contract is between the person who has the lease and you, the person who will be subletting the apartment from them. If you do not have a written contract, you may be forced to move if the person who has the lease demands this. The person who has the leases is also at risk of losing their apartment if the landlord has not given their permission to sublet the apartment.
The leaseholder is liable
The person who has the lease on an apartment is also called the leaseholder. As the leaseholder, you are responsible for ensuring that the person you are subletting your apartment to pays the rent. You can lose your lease if the person you are subletting your apartment to does not behave themselves and, for example, doesn't pay the rent or disturbs the neighbours.
What can you charge for subletting your apartment?
If you have a lease or a tenant-owned apartment and are going to sublet your apartment, there are rules about how much rent you can charge. You have the right to charge an amount that compensates your costs for the apartment. It is acceptable to add 10–15 per cent on top of the rent if you are subletting the apartment furnished. Should you as a tenant end up paying a lot more for a sublet than the leaseholder is paying in rent, you can turn to the regional rent tribunal. The regional rent tribunal can help you get your money back, but be aware that this does not apply to tenant-owned apartments. The regional rent tribunal will make an assessment in each individual case.
If you have a lease on a rental apartment, you have the right to swap your apartment if have an approved reason for doing so. Approved reasons may be that you need a larger apartment, an apartment with a lower rent or an apartment that is closer to where you work. If you want to swap your apartment, the landlord must first approve the swap. If you swap your apartment without the landlord's approval, you can lose your lease. If you are a tenant, you have the right to swap your apartment as soon as you have a lease.
Black-market contracts are leases on rental apartments that are bought and sold for money. It is illegal to sell a lease. Those who sell a lease can be sentenced to two years in jail. It is not illegal to buy a lease, but you are taking a big risk when you do so. A landlord has the right to terminate a lease if the apartment is rented out on the black market.
Inspecting an apartment
Before moving into an apartment, you can demand that the landlord has it inspected. This means that the landlord inspects the apartment for damage. If the apartment has been damaged by a previous tenant, you will not need to pay for the repairs.
Terminating a lease
If you want to move out of an apartment, you always have a notice period. The notice period begins when you tell the landlord you want to move. The notice period for a rental apartment is usually three months. This means that you have to pay three months' rent, even if you want to move earlier.
The landlord has the right to give notice of termination to tenants who do not behave. This may mean that they haven't paid the rent on time or have done things that are not good for the apartment or the building.
Practical considerations when you live in an apartment
All buildings in Sweden are built to be warm in the winter, but buildings are sensitive to damp. It is easy to damage the apartment if it is not looked after correctly. If you see that a tap or water pipe is leaking or dripping, you must always notify the landlord. The apartment has air vents to remove damp air, and it is important that these are kept open all year.
All tenants in a rental apartment building are responsible for the spaces everyone uses such as stairwells, laundry rooms and areas around the building. You usually pay for cleaning of areas such as stairwells, cellars and attics as part of your rent. However, you are also responsible for cleaning up after yourself. You may not leave things in the stairwell as there must be space for people to run out if a fire starts or something else happens in the building. You have to follow the rules about booking time in the laundry room and about cleaning the laundry room when you have used it.
It is important that you have home insurance as this provides you with basic protection. There are many different companies selling home insurance – you need to compare their policies and choose the company that suits you best. Having home insurance means that you get money back if your things are stolen or damaged, e g in a flood or fire. Home insurance covers everything you have at home. It also covers all the people who are named on the insurance policy and who live in the same home. If you own your home, you can supplement your home insurance with tenant-owner's insurance or detached-house insurance.
Home insurance has various parts:
- Property cover – can provide you with money for things that break or are stolen.
- Legal cover – you can get help to pay for the cost of legal representation if you end up in a conflict with someone.
- Assault cover – can provide you with financial compensation if you are injured during an assault or rape, for example.
- Liability insurance – can provide money if you have to pay damages to someone.
- Travel insurance for 45 days during a trip to another country.
There are also other types of insurance that can provide you with protection: :
- Comprehensive insurance – provides you with greater protection for your things. This applies to what are known as sudden and unforeseen events, for example if you drop your mobile phone in a lake.
- Illness and accident insurance – compensates for the cost of medical care if you are injured in an accident. If you are invalided, you can get a lump sum.
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