Swedish word of the day: bostadsrättsförening

The thing about buying an apartment in Sweden is that you don't actually buy the apartment. The key to understanding this is in one word: bostadsrättsförening.

Swedish word of the day: bostadsrättsförening
Image: nito103/Depositphotos

Bostadsrättsförening can be broken down into bostad (home/property), rätt (right) and förening (association).

A bostadsrätt means the right to live in a property, and this is almost always what you buy when you purchase an apartment in Sweden.

You also buy into a collective, the bostadsrättsförening which is the association that's in charge of running the property, usually one or several blocks of apartments, but can also apply to groups of houses, especially terraced houses.

An English translation would be tenants' association or housing cooperative. Before you can move into a newly bought apartment, you need to be accepted by this cooperative, although this is usually just a formality.

Each month, as well as your mortgage, you'll pay fees to the bostadsrättsförening, which is often shorted to BRF in Swedish. These fees cover maintenance of common areas like staircases, lifts and the all-important communal laundry room, as well as things like plumbing, upkeep of external doors and windows, and often heating and water.

When you look into buying an apartment, it's important to check exactly what that monthly fee covers, because if you have to pay extra for hot water or electric heating, for example, that could mean a big increase to your bills each winter.


On the other hand, some bostadsrättsföreningar offer extra perks such as a shared gym, sauna, or guest apartments for when members have visitors staying. In the plushest of BRFs, there might even be something like a pool or cinema just for residents. 

The BRF also sets rules for members, with the idea being that this ensures everyone can live comfortably. These rules will usually include something like no loud noise after 10pm, and no smoking in common indoor areas. 

So who are these mysterious people in charge? The bostadsrättsförening is made up of tenants living in the building, who take on roles on the BRF's board.

They will work together to make decisions on how to use the money; for example in a good year, they might decide to invest in some new benefits for members, and it would be the board who decide whether to build a new playground or an outdoor dining area. Everyone living in the BRF would get a say, though, not just those on the board. There's no goal of making profit, so any extra money should be put back into benefits for BRF members.

Of course, since the associations are run by ordinary people, there's a risk of mismanagement of money. Before thinking about buying a house or apartment in a BRF, it's important to look into the association's finances.

There are also external factors to these; a cooperative that rents out some space to businesses, or owns its land rather than renting it from the municipality, will often have a stronger financial situation. Factors such as a low loan per square metre can make the property a lower-risk investment, since there will be a lower debt to pay off if something goes wrong.


Trevligt område, stabil bostadsrättsförening med bra ekonomi

Pleasant neighbourhood, stable housing cooperative with good finances (you'll see phrases like this in estate agent adverts)

Det är viktigt att analysera en bostadsrättsförenings ekonomi innan man köper en lägenhet

It is important to analyze a housing cooperative's finances before buying an apartment

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Swedish word of the day: liga

You may have this word in your native language or recognise it from football leagues such as the German Bundesliga or Spain's La Liga. Liga has a similar meaning in Swedish, too, with one crucial difference.

Swedish word of the day: liga

Liga originally comes from Latin ligāre (“to bind”). In most languages, liga means “league”, a group of individuals, organisations or nations who are united in some way.

Similar words exist in many European languages, such as Dutch, Spanish, Czech and Polish liga, Italian lega, French ligue and Romanian ligă.

A league is almost always something positive or neutral in other languages, but in Swedish a liga is something negative – a criminal gang, with the word ligist referring to a (usually young, male) gang member, thug or hooligan.

Political or diplomatic leagues are usually translated into Swedish as förbund (“union” or “association”) rather than liga: one example is the Swedish term for the League of Nations, Nationernas förbund.

The only exception to this rule is sport, where the popularity of international football leagues such as the Bundesliga and the Premier League has lessened the negative meaning somewhat in this context. Fans of hockey will be familiar with SHL, Svenska hockeyligan, and Sweden’s handball league is referred to as handbollsligan.

The history behind liga’negative meaning in Swedish can be traced back to the Thirty Years’ War, which took place largely within the Holy Roman Empire between 1618 and 1648.

Essentially, the Thirty Years’ War began as a fight between Protestant and Catholic states of the Holy Roman Empire, with Catholic states forming the Catholic League and Protestant states forming the Protestant Union.

Sweden was – and still is – Lutheran, meaning that, when they got involved in the war in 1630, their enemies were the Catholic League – or the katolska ligan in Swedish, with its members being referred to as ligister or “league-ists”.

King Gustav II Adolf eventually beat the Catholic League in 1631 at the Battle of Breitenfeld, ultimately leading to the formal dissolution of the league in 1635 in the Peace of Prague, which forbade alliances from forming within the Holy Roman Empire.

Although this may seem like ancient history, Swedes still don’t trust a liga – the word’s negative connotations have survived for almost 400 years.

Swedish vocabulary:

Jag är lite orolig för honom, han har börjat hänga med ett gäng ligister.

I’m a bit worried about him, he’s started hanging out with a group of thugs.

Manchester United har vunnit den engelska ligan flest gånger, men City är mästare just nu.

Manchester United have won the Premier League the most times, but City are the current champions.

De säger att det står en liga bakom det senaste inbrottsvågen.

They’re saying there’s a gang behind the recent spate of break-ins.

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.