Rights and obligations in housing
Last updated: 21 9 2021
This text is about rights and obligations when you rent or own your home. You must always be able to feel safe and secure in your home. This means that housing comes with both rights and obligations. These rights and obligations vary depending on whether you rent or own your home.
The text describes rental contracts and what happens if something in your rented flat breaks. It also describes home insurance policies and housing allowances.
The right to housing
Everyone is entitled to housing. Your right to housing means that you can apply for help to find some form of housing if you have nowhere to stay. Municipalities have a responsibility to ensure that all of their inhabitants have housing.
You are also entitled to move and to choose where in Sweden you want to live.
Everyone has a right to housing
In Sweden everyone has a right to housing. It is illegal to discriminate against people looking for a place to live because of their:
- religion or other belief
- functional impairment
- gender identity or expression
- sexual orientation
If you feel that you have been subject to discrimination, you can contact an anti-discrimination bureau for advice and support. Many municipalities also have consumer guidance services that you can contact for support.
A rental contract is a right you have when you rent a flat. The contract specifies what is included in the rent, how long you can stay in the flat, and how long the notice of termination of the contract is. The contract also specifies your obligations as a tenant, including when your rent has to be paid and that you have to look after the flat. If you rent or own a flat, there are often rules about what you can and cannot do that all the residents in the block of flats have to follow.
Rental contracts must not be bought and sold
Landlords and tenants are not permitted to accept payment for or sell rental contracts. Rental contracts which are bought and sold are illegal and are often referred to as "black contracts" (svarta kontrakt) in Swedish. The person asking you to pay for a rental contract is committing a crime and can be sentenced to prison.
If you pay for a rental contract, you are taking a big risk. If the landlord finds out that you bought the contract they can annul it, meaning you lose the contract and your flat.
The tenant's right to terminate the rental contract
As a tenant you always have the right to give notice on your rental contract if you want to move. After having given notice of termination of the rental contract, you may have to continue paying rent for a specified period of time. This is called the term of notice. The term of notice is usually three months, unless your contract specifies something else. The term of notice begins at the end of the month in which you gave notice of termination of your rental contract.
The landlord's right to terminate the rental contract
The landlord is entitled to terminate the contract with the tenant under certain circumstances, such as if the tenant:
- are more than a week late paying rent.
- rent out or transfer the property to someone else, without the landlord's permission.
- use the property for other purposes than as a residence, e g criminal activity or for running a big company from the property.
- are responsible for allowing vermin to infest the property, or fail to report the appearance of vermin there.
- refuse to let the landlord enter the property without having a good reason to do so, e g in the event of repairs.
- neglect to look after the property.
- do not abide by conditions in the rental contract.
If anything breaks in the flat
If something stops working or breaks in the flat (e.g. a refrigerator or a cooker), the landlord must repair or replace it. As a tenant you do not have to pay for such repairs – unless you were the one who caused the damage, in which case you may be obliged to pay for the repairs. Normally the landlord inspects the flat for damage before you move into it, in order to make sure that you will not be required to pay for any damage caused by the previous tenant.
If you live in a tenant-owned flat, you have to take care of the maintenance of the flat yourself. If the cooker, the fridge or anything else needs repairs, you have to pay for them yourself.
Questions to think about
What does "neglect looking after the property" ("vanvårda bostaden" in Swedish) mean?
Can you give any examples of things you have to look after in your flat?
Adapted housing for people with functional impairments
If you or anyone in your family has a functional impairment, there are various types of adapted housing you can apply for in your municipality. For example, the municipality may help you adapt your home to your needs.
If you need more help, you can apply for a place in adapted housing where there are staff to help and support you.
If you have a lease on an apartment, you are entitled to swap apartments with someone else if you have an approved reason for it. Such reasons include needing a bigger apartment, an apartment with a lower rent or an apartment that is closer to your workplace. You yourself have to find someone who wants to swap apartments with you. Once you have found someone who wants to swap apartments with you, both your landlords have to approve the swap. If you swap your apartment without having the landlord’s prior approval, you can lose the lease on your apartment.
The Swedish Union of Tenants
The Swedish Union of Tenants (Hyresgästföreningen) is a membership organisation for tenants in Sweden. One of its most important tasks is to negotiate rents on behalf of its members. Its goal in this is for rents not to increase more than other prices, and to prevent unreasonable rent increases. Hyresgästföreningen can also provide legal support in disputes and answer questions about your rights and obligations as a tenant. If you have neighbours who are a nuisance, for example, or if you and your landlord cannot agree on the rent, Hyresgästföreningen can give you advice and support.
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.
Obligations if you own a tenant-owned flat
If you are the owner of a tenant-owned flat, you are also a member of the association of tenant-owners of the building. All members have obligations towards the association, which include paying a fee to the association each month and not neglecting the maintenance of your property. If you do not fulfil your obligations, you may, in the worst case, lose your right to the property. That means you will be forced to sell it. It is very rare that this happens, however.
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.
If you have a low income and are registered on the population register in Sweden, you may be entitled to receive help from the Social Insurance Agency in order to pay your rent. This is called housing allowance. You can apply for housing allowance if you have children. The number of people in your family determines whether you are entitled to housing allowance and, if so, how much. This also depends on how high your rent is and how much you earn. If you are between 18 and 28, you may also have a right to housing allowance.
If your income or housing situation changes – if you start a new job or get a salary raise, for instance – it is important that you inform the social services. If you forget to inform the social services, you may be paid too much in benefits, in which case you will have to pay back money.
Living close to other people
In a block of flats, you live close to your neighbours. This means you have to be able to show them consideration and be tolerant of other people's way of life. All of the tenants in a block of flats share a responsibility for the spaces they all use, including the stairwell, the laundry room, and the area around the building.
In the evening and at night you have to adapt your noise level and show extra consideration for your neighbours. For example, you can think about not having the volume turned up too high on your TV or stereo, not use a drill or hammer on your walls, and avoid using household appliances late in the evening or during the night.
For fire safety reasons and to facilitate cleaning you must not leave objects in stairwells, hallways or basements.
Grilling food on your balcony is usually not permitted. You may be allowed to grill food in the courtyard, but bear in mind that the smoke from the grill may bother your neighbours.
Smoking is not permitted in any shared spaces such as stairwells, hallways, basements and laundry rooms. Smoking on your balcony may be permitted. Remember to show consideration for your neighbours by not throwing cigarette butts from the balcony.
The laundry room is a shared space that all the residents have equal access to. It is important, therefore, that you clean the laundry room after using it. In most blocks of flats you have to pre-book your time slot in the laundry room on a list or via a reservation system.
You are responsible for ensuring that your pets don't disturb your neighbours or soil playgrounds, flowerbeds, lawns and other areas around the building.
If you want to mount an antenna or a satellite dish you may need to get approval from your landlord or tenant-owners' association first.
Questions to think about
What does it meant to “show consideration and be tolerant of other people’s way of life”?
Do you know what the rules for tenants are where you live?
What are the most important rights and obligations when you rent a flat?