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Don't panic! How to find student housing in Sweden

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Don't panic! How to find student housing in Sweden
Finding student accommodation can be tricky. Photo: Tina Stafren/imagebank.sweden.se
17:40 CET+01:00
Help, I'm starting university in Sweden but I don't have a place to live! Read these top tips.

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Student accommodation can be difficult to find in any country, and in Sweden your options can vary considerably between cities. There are always going to be housing shortages, landlords who want to take advantage of your lack of knowledge of the market, and last minute mess-ups. 

Know your options

Sweden does not tend to offer boarding-school halls of residences with breakfast or dinner included as some other countries do – you're an adult, cook your own food. But there's a range of options: from renting an en-suite apartment with your own kitchen, to student dorms with a communal kitchen and shower in the hallway.

There are several alternatives available, but some of the most common formal routes include renting via the university's own housing scheme if they have one, the municipality's official housing queue (which often has apartments available specifically for students) or, if you're studying in Lund and Uppsala, via the student nations' own halls of residence (read more about student unions here).

It is worth contacting your university's housing office for information on your specific options, but do start looking as soon as you get your acceptance letter, as apartments in some towns are hard to come by.

Don't rely on university housing

Places in university halls are often limited. Partly because of the increasing number of students, and not enough universities to accommodate everyone. Some municipalities, like Sundsvall and Östersund, offer a "housing guarantee" for all students, but most don't have an obligation to provide accommodation.

Even if you're part of the Erasmus programme or some kind of exchange student, a place to stay isn't always guaranteed, although universities do tend to make room for you if you apply early enough.

Check out The Local's guide to how to navigate Sweden's rental market if you want or need to look for an apartment outside the university accommodation system. You can also rent second-hand apartments via housing sites such as Blocket, but it is usually easier if you're already in Sweden and know the system.

University housing can be difficult to obtain. Photo: Magnus Liam/imagebank.sweden.se

What do I do if the semester is about to start and I still can't find a place to stay?

Have you contacted your university housing office yet? If you are in luck there may be a last-minute opening in one of the university complexes, and even if there isn't anything available, they can point you to off-campus apartment complexes or housing offices in the area that the university has agreements with or find reliable, giving you the best chance at reasonable rent prices and finding a place that is close to the university.

But if it's very late in the season, most university housing will be full, so it is best to look into subletting. Some towns or universities have an online notice board where other students can sublet their apartment if they, for example, go on a semester abroad (for example Studentboet in Uppsala).

Subletting, although useful, means you need to check extra carefully that everything is legitimate. Make sure you have approval from the landlord, don't pay a deposit larger than a month's rent and make sure you get insurance that covers any damages that may happen while you're living there. Read more about it here.

Many student dorms come with a communal laundry room. Photo: Magnus Liam Karlsson/imagebank.sweden.se

Contact your student union

Your university's student union is a great resource and they are more than happy to advise incoming students. You can get the inside scoop on where the best off-campus housing is and what to avoid, as well as making new friends. Some student unions have temporary housing programmes to help tide new students over when they're still looking for housing. Malmö University's student union has something called the Sofa Project, which allows students to volunteer their sofas or a spare bed. Think of it as an Airbnb or Couchsurfing arrangement, because you may be asked to pay rent.

If you don't feel comfortable sleeping on a stranger's sofa, look into youth hostels in the area. It may not be ideal, but it can be a safe place to stay while you get on your feet, and you may meet other students in a similar situation to you and look for an apartment together.

You could stay temporarily with a fellow student. Photo: Tina Stafren/imagebank.sweden.se

Use your friends, colleagues, family and acquaintances to your advantage

This is frustrating advice if you're a newcomer, but networking is one of your best bets. Know a couple of people already studying in Sweden? Contact them and ask for advice, especially if they're going to the same university as you. Maybe they know someone who needs a housemate, or are moving out of their apartment and the lease is still up for grabs. Or you could ring up your uncle's best friend's cousin's boss who happens to live in Stockholm and who also happens to be a landlord. Connections are particularly helpful in major student towns such as Uppsala and Lund or in big cities like Stockholm and Gothenburg, where the number of students often exceeds the number of rooms offered by universities and are plagued by long waiting lists.

Get by with a little help from your friends. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Lastly, the internet is your ultimate tool

If you don't have any contacts in Sweden, don't worry. You can try using online marketplaces such as Blocket or Bostaddirekt which allow you to contact landlords or sub-letters directly, but you have to keep in mind that they're probably being bombarded with messages from other hopefuls.

Thankfully, social media is also useful to find somewhere to live. With Facebook groups such as Rooms/Housing in Stockholm or Uppsala Housing you have somewhere solid to ask questions and survey your options, and talking to people who are, or were, in similar situations can help you better understand the process and the advantages or disadvantages of certain areas or complexes.

Let The Local help you find an apartment in Sweden.

Check out our property rental section

Article first written by Saina Behnejad in 2016 and updated in 2018.

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