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Thousands of apartments rented illegally

Peter Vinthagen Simpson · 14 Apr 2010, 16:05

Published: 14 Apr 2010 16:05 GMT+02:00

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Long waiting times and high black market prices have long characterised Stockholm's rental housing market, as shown in a report from the Swedish Property Federation (Fastighetsägarna) published in February.

The sheer hopelessness of the situation faced by newcomers to Stockholm looking to rent an apartment has been exposed once again by a report on the findings of the major public housing firms - Stockholmshem, Familjebostäder and Svenska Bostäder - which have been conducting a review of their housing stock and who actually lives in many of their apartments.

Stockholmshem has been hunting for illegal contracts since 2005 and has so far unearthed 996 apartments that were shown to be illegitimately rented, almost half of the 2,000 checked, according to a report in the Dagens Nyheter daily.

Familjebostäder has confirmed that the problem is just as widespread within their housing stock, with 40 percent of the 800 cases opened so far finding irregularities.

Svenska Bostäder reports that it has managed to reclaim 500 apartments for redistribution, around 40 percent of those checked.

"We have two people working full time on this. There are still many houses that are rented illegally," said Frederick Junell at Svenska Bostäder to the newspaper.

The most common scenario is that many tenants keep hold of their rental apartments after having moved. As the waiting times for inner-city Stockholm apartments can run to as long as 20 years many fear never being able to re-enter the market again if they were to surrender their contracts.

Furthermore the rental contracts often hold a hidden value, either on the black market in exchange for substantial amounts of cash, or when bought at a favourable price after being sold to a tenant-owner's association (bostadsrätt).

"Some want a complementary home, others retain the apartment for a child or grandchild. I remember one case where a man had an apartment with us, one at Stockholmshem, as well as a house and a townhouse," said Jouni Mäki at Familjebostäder to the newspaper.

Story continues below…

While the problem is at its most acute in Stockholm, it is not restricted to the capital with Malmö's increasing popularity leading to a chronic shortage of available apartments and incidences of illegal subletting as a result.

Housing companies in Gothenburg reported a relatively low level of black market activity, despite the fact that the city has 90,000 people in its rental queue.

According to Familjebostäder's regulations, which are based on housing legislation, tenants may sublet their apartments for a limited period of time with the permission of the landlord. There are several acceptable reasons for doing so, including: study or work elsewhere, health reasons requiring a temporary move, or if tenants want to try cohabiting with a partner.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

18:57 April 14, 2010 by conboy
Nonsense absolutely no public corruption in Sweden......
23:05 April 14, 2010 by Gretchen
My colleagues from outside Sweden have a huge problem finding accomodation. The system is cracy here and completely unrealistic in a time when people have to be flexible and move.

Especially with kids you cannot move every year as Dagis is linked to the commune you life in.

We were forced to by an apartment in an area I don't really want to life in with a standard that is well below other countries in Europe (is there just one producer of bathtubs in Sweden??).

Puuuhh , a real minus point for Sweden.
23:41 April 14, 2010 by Cze
I remember in the comminist time in Poland, there was also 20 year or more waiting time for an appartment. It is diffcult...
23:47 April 14, 2010 by J Jack
@ Gretchen. BUY, LIVE, ok lesson over... @ Cze communist...
03:24 April 15, 2010 by Davey-jo
How long to wait for a Catholic priest?
09:02 April 15, 2010 by wabasha
so start building more apartments! weather the contracts are legal is just a waste of time to figure out...
09:25 April 15, 2010 by Britswedeguy
Every apartment I've had in Stockholm has been an illegal sub-let from immigrants. It seems what happens is that their extended families are assigned a number of apartments then they live in a few of them and rent out the others.

In once sense I can't blame them for exploiting the situation, but...
11:56 April 15, 2010 by Kronaboy
Stop living in Stockholm it's a f*****g big country.
12:36 April 15, 2010 by Audrian
I agree with Wabasha's view that Stockholm would do better by building more apartment buildings rather than bickering over a few apartments that are illegally rented out or occupied. Removing those who are occupying apartments might be a just thing to do, but it is not a solution to the problem of housing shortage.

There is effective demand for housing in Stockholm. Construction of new apartment buildings has not caught up with annual increase in the labor market, e.g., college graduates and net migration to the city. Building several apartment buildings in the suburbs and linking them to central part of the city with underground rails could address the problem.
20:00 April 15, 2010 by Venturisection
Since the swedish population is exploding due to immigrants how long do they think they can carry on not providing enough housig before the problem gets even more ridiculous than it already is.
01:55 April 16, 2010 by here for the summer
so the people who hold the leases and illegally lease out the apartments also get a big payout from the government or the landlord when the apartment building is sold . What a great system ..
04:56 April 18, 2010 by Catch
As a North American, this whole situation sounds completely crazy to me. Are the Swedes, which are in most respects a modern, first-world country, trying to put themselves in the same situation as under the old and defunct Soviet system? Have they no capital to put into housing? Have they no firms eager to develop and build new housing? The population of Sweden is projected to hit 10 or so million by 2020 ... where are they all supposed to live? Insane.
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