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HOUSING

How much does it cost to rent in Sweden?

The price of a first-hand rental saw only a modest increase over the past year, new figures show, but there are stark differences between Sweden's municipalities.

How much does it cost to rent in Sweden?
Vaxholm in the Stockholm archipelago is one of the priciest spots for Swedish renters. Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

On average, rent prices have increased by 1.1 percent over the past 12 months, and another increase is expected for the coming year.

That's according to the Swedish Union of Tenants (Hyresgästföreningen), which measured rental costs across the country to find out how much it costs to rent first hand, based on figures from Statistics Sweden.

Since 2000, the average year-on-year rise has been 1.7 percent. This is higher than inflation rises over the same period, but has been kept relatively low by low interest rates and small tax increases.

However, the cost of renting varies significantly from region to region.

Monthly rent costs twice as much in the most expensive municipality – Täby in northern Stockholm – as it does in the cheapest area, Fagersta in Västmanland. In Fagersta, first-hand renters pay on average only 63 kronor per square metre per month, while that figure rises to 118 kronor per square metre in Täby.

The five most expensive municipalities for a first-hand rental were all located in Stockholm county, with Vaxholm, Haninge, Nykvarn and Nacka all setting renters back between 109-111 kronor per square metre each month.

At the other end of the scale, Bjurholm in Västerbotten County boasts the second cheapest rentals, followed by Norsjö in Västerbotten, Tibro in Västra Götaland, and Storuman in Västerbotten.

LONG READ: The story of Sweden's housing crisis

In general, lower rents can be found in rural inland areas, with prices creeping up in university towns or large cities as well as along Sweden's coastlines, where demand for housing is much higher. Another factor that pushes up rents is large-scale building of new accommodation and/or renovations of older rental properties.

Prices rose the most over the last year in Nykvarn, Haninge, Lidingö and Östermalm, all in Stockholm county, as well as in Svenljunga in Västra Götaland, with the high level of new housing in these areas the key factor. In these municipalities, monthly rents rose by an average of between 7.37 percent (Lidingö) and 17.2 percent (Nykvarn).

In urban areas, there was a large difference between the expensive rents in central areas and more affordable prices in the suburbs. This gap was particularly large in Stockholm, where monthly rents were an average of 130 kronor per square metre in the central Kungsholmen district, compared to 80 kronor per square metre in Spånga-Tensta north of the centre.

“Rental negotiations are currently under way for 2019 and the Swedish Union of Tenants is working to streamline the negotiations and continue the work of digitizing and making available the negotiation results at a local and national level,” said Erik Elmgren, the union's negotiations manager.

The full interactive map can be viewed online here.

However, the high demand for housing means that for many people in Sweden, a first-hand rental contract is out of the question altogether. Sweden's residents must join a queue system to be eligible for one of these elusive rent-controlled properties, and in popular areas the average length of time before they can actually get their hands on such an apartment is several years.

This means that new arrivals from abroad, or people who have relocated within Sweden, are especially unlikely to find a first-hand rental. Instead, they often sublet, also known as renting second-hand – but as The Local reported earlier this month, rents in this category have risen even more sharply over recent years.

FOR MEMBERS: How to navigate Sweden's crazy rental market

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PROPERTY

Nudity to BBQs: What you can (and can’t) do on your balcony in Sweden

What better way to enjoy summer in your apartment than by making full use of your balcony? The Local spoke to Henric Gartz, a lawyer who specialises on issues related to housing, to find out how to stay on the right side of the law.

Nudity to BBQs: What you can (and can't) do on your balcony in Sweden

“You should look at your rental contract to see if there are any special rules in regards to what you can and cannot do on a balcony”, Henric Gartz, lawyer at Fastighetsjuristerna Göteborg, a legal firm specialising in housing issues, told The Local.

“If nothing is specified, then you should follow the general rules and be considerate towards your neighbours.”

The three common issues that arise during the summer when Swedes take to their balconies are grilling, smoking and nudity, he said.

Barbecues

The summer season is perfect for grilling, and although many residential areas in Sweden have communal grills in the garden, this is not always the case. Even if they do, some people prefer grilling on their balcony to be closer to the kitchen.

“If you grill, it will smell of meat, fish or vegetables and it could smell bad for a neighbour”, said Gartz. 

Electric grills are often more suitable for balconies. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

It’s also important to check with your housing association or your landlord to make sure they allow grilling on the balcony before you get started.

“A housing association has a lot of freedom to choose whether barbecues are allowed or not,” Maria Mati, property lawyer at HSB, Sweden’s largest cooperative housing association, wrote on their website.

“Therefore, you need to check to find out what applies in your association. But even if it’s allowed, you need to make sure that you grill in a fire-safe way.”

“And respect your neighbours,” she added.

Smoking

So, is it legal to smoke a cigarette outside on your balcony?

“You are allowed to smoke on your balcony,” Gartz said, “But if neighbours don’t like the smell of cigarette or cigar smoke, then be considerate.”

According to HSB, there’s no general ban on smoking in apartment blocks, and a housing foundation can’t ban you from smoking on your balcony or outside space.

“But you should also make sure you show consideration here,” Mati said, warning that you could end up on the wrong side of the law.

“The Residential Tenancies Act’s rules on disturbances in the property, or the Environmental Code’s rules on nuisance could be used in cases involving tobacco smoke,” she said.

“However, in one case, the district court in Falun decided that smoking on a balcony was permitted to a reasonable extent, even if irritated the neighbours,” she said.

Again, it all boils down to showing consideration for your neighbours.

“Maybe if you see that they are drinking coffee and you know smoke annoys them, wait until they finish before smoking”, Gartz said.

Just because your balcony is small doesn’t mean you can’t try your hand at growing your own vegetables. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Can I have plants on my balcony?

Flower boxes are a great way to liven up a balcony or even try your hand at growing vegetables during the summer months – just make sure they’re hanging on the inside of your balcony so they can’t fall down and injure someone, and try to avoid water and soil raining down on your neighbours below when you water your plants.

Is it legal to sunbathe naked on my balcony?

It depends how you do it.

Stripping off on your balcony isn’t necessarily forbidden. However, you do need to consider whether the neighbours might see more than they want to while you’re catching some rays. 

As is generally the case with rules for what you can and can’t do on your balcony, the law says that you’re more than entitled to take off your clothes in your own private space – but this shouldn’t impact your neighbours. 

To get around this, you may want to put up a screen between you and your neighbour’s balcony (you may have to ask permission from your housing foundation if this involves drilling any holes in the wall), or even go full Adam and Eve with a strategically placed plant or two.

Another option is position your parasol so it blocks your neighbour’s view – just watch out for any gusts of wind that may strike at an inopportune moment.

If, however, people see you from the street this could be more problematic, and in some cases end up in court depending on the gravity.

Similarly, you can’t have sex on your balcony where others could see or hear you – this could lead to a police report for förargelseväckande beteende (disorderly conduct).

In a nutshell:

Apartment living is often about compromise, and this also applies to what you do on your balcony. Speak to your neighbours and make sure they’re not irritated by your behaviour – similarly, let them know if something they’re doing is irritating you and see if you can figure out a solution which works for everyone.

“It is important to respect each other and talk about issues, if you live close to other people”, Gartz said.

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