Renting in Sweden: How to ace the apartment viewing

A Swedish apartment living room
A few compliments directed at the landlord's furnishing style won't go amiss. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT
Foreign tenants in Sweden often face stiff competition for apartments due to a housing shortage in the big cities and a queue system that benefits those who have lived in the country longer. Here are our tips for boosting your chances in the apartment hunt.

Stand out in your ad

To secure a viewing, you will usually need either to respond to ads put up by landlords on sites like Blocket and Qasa, or to put up your own ad. Either way, make sure you’re making a good first impression.

Include any details that make you a desirable tenant, for example if you have a full-time job or stable income, are a non-smoker, and so on. Many sublets are from people renting out their own homes for a short period, for example if they work or study abroad, so it’s also a good idea to include a few details about you as a person, and show you’ve read the ad by referencing the neighbourhood or another detail. If you can, write in Swedish and have a Swedish speaker translate or check your template. Save your questions for the viewing itself; this initial contact is all about securing your viewing.

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Get references ready

As well as proof of income or employment, many landlords in Sweden will ask for references from previous landlords. The housing process can move fast, so you’ll want to prepare these in advance, particularly since landlords in many countries will not be used to providing them.

If you’ve never rented before, consider asking a previous flatmate to provide a ‘character reference’, or you could ask your employer or university tutor if they can vouch for you. If you’ve been staying at a temporary accommodation such as an Airbnb or apartment hotel, you could also ask your host to write something. However, the really crucial thing is your proof of employment or another source of income.

Take off your shoes

Sweden is a shoes-off country when it comes to people’s homes, and this is particularly important in the autumn and winter. Your host may not always ask, but it’s expected that you remove your shoes on arrival — stamping slush into their floor will not make a good impression.

Check on the laundry room

Swedish laundry culture is a big thing. Some apartments have their own washing machines and dryers but if that’s not the case, find out where the tvättstuga (laundry room) is, usually either in a basement or outbuilding. Bear in mind that even a short outside walk could become a hassle on winter evenings.

Be positive

It’s nice to be nice, and it could also help you become the landlord’s top choice. As we mentioned, in many cases the people renting out second-hand apartments intend to return to live there after the rental, so if you’re complimentary about the apartment and their furnishings, it can help persuade them that you’re the right person to take care of their home.

Check the legality

The market may move fast, but you should still look out for scams or ‘black market’ rentals. A legitimate landlord will not have a problem proving their identity to you, and you can do your own research on websites like Hitta and Eniro where you can confirm their personal details. Of course, never hand over any money before viewing an apartment, making these checks and signing a contract, and never sign anything you don’t fully understand.

Find out why the landlord is subletting the place — do they own or rent it, and why is it available? This isn’t about being nosy, but it can affect whether and for how long they are able to sublet. For example, many housing associations have a rule that home-owners can only sublet for up to six months or a year if they are moving in with a partner, but for longer periods if they are working or studying in another location.

You should always ask to see the proof they’ve received to sublet. If your landlord hasn’t been appproved by the housing association to rent out their home, this could cause several problems for you as a tenant. Firstly, you may be unable to officially register at the address, making it hard to receive post and to be ‘in the system’ in Sweden. But if the housing association finds out about the unapproved sublet, you could also be forced to leave.  

If your landlord is renting the apartment on a first hand contract, they should be able to show you the calculation of the rental price. There are strict legal limits on how much they can charge, so check that you’re not being ripped off. Prices are also regulated if the landlord owns the property, but in that case they can base the amount on the current value — which in Sweden’s hot housing market means they can often legally charge a high rental price in the big cities.

Ask about upcoming renovations

One thing which can have a major impact on your quality of life, but which may not be obvious even from a thorough viewing of the property, is building work. Here there are two possibilities to keep in mind; works on the building itself, and in the local area.

You should be able to ask the landlord if any major renovations are planned for the building. The two which generally have the biggest impact are stambyte (replacement of pipes) which can leave you without running water for an extended period, and fasadrenovering (renovation of the outside of the building), which usually means the entire side of the building is covered up for a few months, blocking your natural light. As well as asking the landlord, you can check on the website of the housing association (BRF); you can find out which association an apartment belongs to by searching the website allabrf.se.

Planned building work in the local area will likely be described on the website for your municipality, or you may see signs in the neighbourhood if it will be starting soon.

Follow up fast

Unfortunately the rental market in Sweden means the advantage often lies with the landlord. Don’t rush into an agreement before getting all your essential questions answered, but don’t delay once you see a place you like and are confident that it’s legitimate. It’s a good idea to contact the landlord as soon as you’ve decided their apartment is the one you want, and have your proof of income and references ready immediately — you may even want to bring paper copies to each viewing.

Properties in Sweden

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