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UKRAINE

What to keep in mind when renting out property to refugees in Sweden

Many Swedish residents are interested in opening their homes to Ukrainians fleeing war. But there are some important rules to make sure you follow if you're planning on doing so.

What to keep in mind when renting out property to refugees in Sweden
File photo of an apartment building in Malmö. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

sAs a rule, housing a refugee in your home for a short amount of time is not an issue, as long as you have a suitable property, according to Fredrik Aldmo, a lawyer at Familjens Jurist.

“Think about the fact that it needs to be good for the person who will be moving in with you, so the property is suitable for them to live in,” Aldmo told TT newswire. “If you live in a four-room apartment then, of course, you can house a family, but if you don’t have a lot of space then maybe you should think about whether it’s really a good idea,” he said.

Rental properties

On a purely legal level, everyone has the right to let someone live in their home without asking for permission, whether you rent the property or own it. This is also the case if you live in a bostadsrätt, an apartment or house where you legally own the right to live in the property, rather than the property itself. 

At the same time, it’s important to understand that you, as the owner or first-hand tenant, are always legally responsible for any damage or other issues that arise in the property.

Additionally, you can’t rent out a rental property second-hand without the landlord’s permission. If you don’t continue to live in the apartment yourself, then it counts as a second-hand rental, and you need permission from the landlord — whether you charge rent for the property or not. 

“Even if I were to rent out my apartment to a family without charging anything, my landlord might have their own views on that. In that situation, it’s really important that you have written permission where it states that the family will be renting,” Aldmo said.

If you’re planning on renting out your rental property second-hand for a longer period, consider negotiating to remove besittningsskydd from your tenants’ contract. This is a form of legal protection which automatically becomes valid after two years, giving renters the right to remain living in the property even if the landlord asks them to move out.

Once besittningsskydd is activated, tenants can only be forced to move out for a small number of special reasons, such as if they don’t pay rent on time, cause damage or problems with neighbours, or if the property needs to be renovated or demolished.

Bostadsrätter

For bostadsrätter you will need permission from the housing association if you wish to rent out your property second-hand, whether you plan on charging the tenant or not. However, if people will be moving in to live in your property with you, you do not need permission.

“The problem there is that, according to the law on bostadsrätter, you can’t move someone into your apartment if it might have a noticeable effect on the housing association or on residents, which could be the case if there are a lot of people in the apartment or a lot of activity in the stairwells,” Aldmo said.

Aldmo’s advice is to always contact your landlord or housing association first, and also to draw up a rental contract with details on how long the person should live there, how much the rent will be per month, and what will be included.

It is also illegal to charge a higher rent for second-hand rentals than what you already pay, plus an additional fee for furniture which cannot be greater than 15 percent of the rental cost, as well as other real additional costs (for example, internet and energy costs).

If you rent out a room, the rent must be proportional to the rent you pay for the apartment as a whole. Otherwise, you could lose your right to stay in the apartment and be forced to move out.

Bostadrätt owners and property owners risk being liable to repay fees if the rent they charge is considered to be unreasonably high. If you are a property owner, you should also make sure there are not too many people in the property, both from a fire safety standpoint and to make sure there isn’t too much noise.

Insurance

You should also take a look at your home insurance, and see whether new people moving into the property or second-hand tenants will affect your premium.

The Migration Agency does not offer private homes to refugees looking for housing, and does not give any form of economic benefit to those who house refugees.

There are also special rules for children under 18 who arrive in Sweden without a parent or guardian, people wishing to help children must contact the social services in their municipality, as they are responsible for support, housing and schooling.

The Swedish Red Cross recommends that those wishing to help do so via an organisation, so there is support and sufficient checks on both the refugee and the person offering their home. Those who choose to house refugees in their own homes should think carefully about how the agreement will work in practice, the Red Cross says.

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PROPERTY

Property prices in Sweden continue to fall in September

Apartment and house prices continued to fall in September, with the prices now down 6 percent and 3 percent this year respectively, according to the latest data from the Association of Swedish Real Estate Agents.

Property prices in Sweden continue to fall in September

Apartment prices have fallen the most in Stockholm (8 percent) over the past three months, followed by Gothenburg (6-7%) and then Malmö (5-7%), with the Swedish Bankers Association recommending that people only buy and sell houses in the current market if absolutely necessary.

“I would recommend people to buy and sell on the basis of their need for housing and not to see housing as they would a share,” Hans Flink from the associations statistics arm, Svensk Mäklarstatistik, told the TT newswire. “It’s not stocks and shares we’re talking about here, that’s the wrong way to think.” 

Buying new property in Sweden in the current climate is turning out to be a sizeable risk.

The latest findings of the Swedish real estate statistics portray a slow market in a response to the soaring inflation and constantly changing interest rates. The number of completed housing deals has declined throughout the third quarter of 2022, an indication that there is a clear disconnect between buyers and sellers. 

Living in doubt

According to the Swedish Bankers Association, the housing market was first affected by the outbreak of the Covid pandemic in 2020. The demand for single-family homes and larger apartments grew as people needed more space to accommodate working from home, and prices rose significantly as authorities took measures to stabilise sales.

In 2022 though, the growth seen in the past two years has come to an end, mainly due to the crisis in Ukraine. The uncertainty over inflation levels and the resulting costs have kept buyers from taking the plunge. As housing sale volumes slowly return to normal after the pandemic boom, sales are well below normal.

Even if buyers manage to get a lower price, the increased cost of upkeep and services such as electricity, as well as larger interest savings, are likely to mean the overall cost of their purchase is similar.

With current electricity prices, few are willing to dare to invest in a detached house with electric heating, and even those who own houses are rushing to invest in solar panels and wood stoves to bring down their electricity bills.

Flick says he expects the market for detached houses to remain stagnant until there is more clarity on the next government’s plans to reimburse consumers for high electricity prices.

“Electricity prices are lying like a damp sheet over the market for detached houses,” he said. “Who would dare to buy a house which might be mainly heated by electricity?”.

Overall sales volumes, though, are starting to return to where they were in 2019, just before the pandemic. 

“It’s not low but more like a normal year. It’s not as if people aren’t selling houses, in other words. Even if you might not have got the same price your neighbour got earlier, you can still buy your next house a lot cheaper.” 

How prices have changed in September: 

Apartments (bostadsrätter Last month Last three months  Last three months  Average price (kr/m2)
Sweden as a whole -1% -7% -6% 42.228
Central Stockholm -1% -8% -5% 100 258
Greater Stockholm 0% -8% -6% 61 995
Central Gothenburg -3% -6% -7% 62 561
Greater Gothenburg -2% -7% -6% 45 617
Central Malmö -2% -7% -2% 37 772
Greater Malmö -2% -5% -3% 33 805
Detached houses  Last month Last three months  Last three months  Average price (kr/m2)
Sweden as a whole -2% -5% -3% 3 715 000
Greater Stockholm -2% -8% -6% 6 613 000
Greater Gothenburg -3% -8% -7% 5 384 000
Greater Malmö -4% -9% -9% 4 962 000
         
      2% 2 421 000
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