As finding accommodation in Sweden is very hard and no easy subject, here is a guide with some hints on how to easier find a place to live as well as how to deal with the rental market:
Finding a place to live in Sweden might not seem like any harder than in any other country, but actually the housing situation in Sweden has been hard for years due to the demand being bigger than the supply. This is especially the case in bigger cities like Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. So, if you are having a hard time to find a home, remember that you are not alone: you share this challenge with the rest of the Swedish population.
Available types of Accommodation
There are several types of accommodations you can live at:
- First hand contracts: You rent directly from the owner of the building. It is currently very difficult to obtain such a contract in Gothenburg and queuing can take a long time. In surrounding municipalities, however, the queuing times are much shorter. First hand contract apartments are always unfurnished.
- Second hand contracts: This is when you sublet from the individual who rents directly from the owner. Normally these contracts are for a limited period of time. The apartments or rooms may be furnished or unfurnished.
- Student Accommodation: You will find description of accommodation, location and prices on the website of the specific agency. All administration - i.e. contracts, keys, payments - are handled by the housing agencies, not by the universities. Questions regarding housing should be addressed to the housing agencies directly.
Here you can find more specific information on how to find accommodation in Sweden's largest cities:
Finding accommodation is quite hard for people studying in Sweden. Unlike in many countries the universities that do have an obligation to provide accommodation to students, Sweden does not. Even if you are an Erasmus or another kind of exchange student, you will not be guaranteed accommodation, as the number of students applying generally exceeds the amount of student accommodations available.
Do not fear however, help does exist. Student unions and associations can be found on the campus of the major universities and will help you with landlord listings. Most universities offer accommodation services for international students, which can include providing guaranteed housing or giving advice on where to find a room on your own. If you’re not sure how to find the accommodation service at your university, check with your program coordinator or international office.
Before you arrive, this might make it a good idea to add your name to a University hall waiting list even before you are officially accepted to the University you are applying for. If you are already in Sweden, you could ask your fellow students about housing. They might know someone looking for a flat mate, or an old landlord to contact. If you are going on an exchange, ask the previous generation of exchange students from your university to give you tips.
If you are not able or do not want to find a place in student accommodation, you can try to find a place on your own. Renting is not easy in Sweden and you will probably need to sub-let an apartment. Shared flats would be a good solution.
Also, remember to plan ahead of time, you should also be prepared to stay in temporary accommodation, such as a hostel, hotel or guesthouse (depending on your budget) for a short period upon arrival.
In Sweden, the “queuing system” is approached. This means that in order to get access to most first-hand rental contracts, you might have to wait in a line, where you apply for available rooms or flats based on how long you’ve been in the queue, which in relevant cases to students could take months to get through.
Through a sublet, or “second-hand” contract, you sign a contract to let a flat or a room in a flat from the current tenant. The contract terms depend on what you agree on with the person letting the flat, but usually cover theth of the rental, the monthly rent and what is included in the rent (e.g. internet, electricity and heating).
In addition to the information provided by your university, the following websites offer listings for sublets:
If you are looking in cities outside the major areas, your problem competing for a place to live might not be as hard. Due to depopulation, rather than rushing to an apartment so that it won’t be taken by someone else, you would be hurrying to get it before the building is demolished.
Increasing your Chances
There are many things you can do to increase your chances of finding accommodation on the Swedish rental market.
Adjust your expectations; Just to give you an idea about what the rental market looks like, these are quite normal price ranges for accommodations in Stockholm city center (other cities might be a bit cheaper):
A room for 6 months: about 3000-4000 SEK/ a month
A 1-room apartment for 6 months: about 8000 SEK/ a month
- Look outside the city center: A lot of people actually prefer to live outside of the city center, as you’ll be closer to nature but not too far away from the city.
- Download the app Easy Rental: This app makes it easier for you to keep track of all the ads matching your search criteria.
Long-term contracts vs. short-term contracts
It is more common to find a short-term stay rather than a long one, so people who plan to stay for a longer period should look for something more lasting as no one likes to move every three months. But going for a short-term contract might give you some pros:
- Plenty of apartments to choose from; many choose to rent their apartments when going on vacation or to work abroad. So there are many more short-term than long-term contracts.
- Fewer competitors; People already living in the city look for long term rentals, so you will find less people asking for these apartments.
- Lower price; Short term contracts are usually a bit better priced (1 to 3 months).
- Get to know the city before you settle permanently; once you are in the city and you have a clearer idea about where you want to live, you can search for something more permanent.
Although finding a long-term contract is what most people look for, there are a few matters to consider:
- The one-year limit: Most long-term contracts are for 6 months to a year, but it’s rare that you find something longer than that.
- Sign up for a bostadskö: If you are considering a longer stay in Sweden, you might consider signing up at a “bostadskö”. Most Swedes sign up as soon as they are allowed (nowadays once they turn 18) and the waiting time on these “bostadskö” are very long. However, if you are patient and not too picky with your choice this might be an option.
Dealing with Landlords
Landlords are prohibited from charging tenants a certain percentage more than the average price for other properties of the same quality and size in the area. But as the demand in major cities is incredibly high, there is a real gap between rents and market value, meaning that most accommodation is sub-let at much higher prices, creating a parallel ‘grey’ market.
If a landlord wants to increase the rent, there is a legal obligation to notify the tenant. If the tenant agrees or takes no action within two months, the new rent is applied. Tenants have the right to refuse an increase, which would then oblige the landlord to make a successful appeal to the Rent Tribunal in order to change the rent. Rents are usually negotiated in Sweden between owner and tenant associations. Also, deposits are not usual in a Swedish contracts, so be cautious if a landowner or sub-letter asks you for a high deposit.
Rental contracts and the law give tenants a number of rights and protections. Tenants can prolong a contract indefinitely and have the right to terminate a rental agreement at any time with three months’ notice. A landlord can only refuse to prolong a lease if there is a cause, such as building work, which would require the property to be vacated. In this instance, the landlord is usually required to provide the tenant with alternative accommodation.
In the case of sub-let apartments, they are usually furnished. If you are sub-letting a property, you will have very few rights and may have to vacate your property at short notice. This is very common in Sweden and many young students find themselves moving from one place to another.
As in all countries, it’s important to be aware of fraudsters when searching for a flat on the private market. Never send a payment before you’ve seen the flat and signed a contract, and don’t send money through anonymous payment services. Always ask to see identification for the person signing the contract as well as proof that he or she has the right to let the flat to you. If you feel unsure about a situation, you can always ask staff at your university for assistance.