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What happens if you don’t pay a bill in Sweden?

Sweden's Enforcement Authority is responsible for collecting unpaid debts, fines, and declarations of bankruptcy. So, what happens if an unpaid bill reaches the Enforcement Authority, and can you do anything if you have a black mark on your record?

What happens if you don't pay a bill in Sweden?
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

What happens when you have a bill?

Usually, if you have a bill in Sweden, you will receive an invoice (faktura) either digitally or via post, which will include details such as the amount owed, who to pay and the date payment is due (förfallodatum).

If you don’t pay the invoice in time, the person you owe money to may turn the case over to inkasso, or a debt collection agency, who will again send you an invoice for payment, plus the agency’s fee.

If this invoice goes unpaid, the Enforcement Authority will get involved.

The Swedish Enforcement Authority, Kronofogden in Swedish, is responsible for collecting unpaid debts. It does this by providing advice and support to those who are unable to pay their debts, as well as helping creditors – such as, for example, landlords whose tenants have not paid their rent.

The debt collection agency will pass unpaid bills on to them, and you may receive a betalningsanmärkning or black mark on your credit record.

Before you receive a black mark, however, you will first receive an ansökan om betalningsföreläggande from the Enforcement Authority. If you pay this in time, your debt will not be registered as a betalningsanmärkning.

There are some types of payment where you can receive a betalningsanmärkning without the bill going through a debt collection agency first. These are usually payments owed to the state, such as unpaid tax, unpaid student loan repayments or unpaid municipal parking fees.

You are unlikely to come into contact with the Enforcement Authority unless you miss or forget to pay a bill.

What happens if you get a black mark?

A black mark can have pretty major consequences – it can stop you from hiring a car, getting a credit card, borrowing money (including getting a mortgage), taking out a phone contract or even renting an apartment, as well as barring you from ordering anything on credit or paying via invoice.

This is due to the fact that whenever you apply for a loan or credit in Sweden, the lender will check your credit score (kreditupplysning) to see if there is any risk of you not paying up. Many lenders have a strict policy on not lending to individuals with black marks on their credit score to minimise risk, no matter whether the mark is due to an unpaid phone bill or a missed mortgage repayment.

How can I check if I have one?

You can check if you have a black mark by contacting a credit check company – here is a list of all credit check companies in Sweden. Some may charge a small fee for the service, whereas others offer it for free.

One advantage of checking your own credit score before contacting a lender is that your credit score is not affected when you carry out a check on yourself. 

If, however, a bank carries out a credit check on you, this can affect your credit score – it’s usually not an issue if you carry out one or two checks, but a lot of checks in a short period of time could cause issues.

Can you do anything to remove it?

Unfortunately, no. 

All you can do is wait – a black mark will disappear from your record after three years for private individuals or five years for businesses. 

The best strategy is to avoid getting a black mark on your record in the first place – such as by paying your bills via autogiro (direct debit), keeping an eye on your post (as well as your digital post), and paying for items up-front if possible to avoid invoices, rather than using “buy now, pay later” credit services such as Klarna or Clearpay.

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House prices in Sweden are falling – but still far from bottoming out

The interest rate increases have had a notable effect on the Swedish housing market, and many analysts predict housing prices will continue to fall.

House prices in Sweden are falling – but still far from bottoming out

However, for the moment, property sellers are slowing down the development.

“The sellers find it difficult to accept the new situation,” professor of economics at Södertörn University Mats Bergman explained.

Sweden’s central bank (Riksbank) has been raising the key interest rate since Spring, and in line with that, prices in the housing market have fallen.

Several banks, including the Riksbank, predict that prices will plummet by 20 percent from their peak level.

“One should remember that what happened during the pandemic was not healthy either. We are comparing ourselves to a unique period where the market was completely crazy, and we also had low interest rates and low inflation. You might even be able to talk about a normalisation instead of a disaster,” Claudia Wörmann, housing economist at SBAB, noted.

Interest rate effect

The interest rate increases are hitting the housing market prices hard.

But the price increases of food, energy, and fuel also make consumers more cautious, leading them to wait when it comes to buying a home, according to Cecilia Hermansson, a Swedish researcher focusing on real estate and finances.

“It is quite a dramatic development for many, both in terms of interest rates and prices,” she said.

The fact that prices have not fallen further, despite most people expecting the policy rate to land at just over 3 percent next year, is due to the fact that there is resistance in the market, Bergman notes.

“The sellers find it difficult to accept the new situation and are resisting the price drop. We see this, among other things, in the fact that it takes longer before homes are sold. The sellers are holding out and hope this will be a temporary slump,” he noted.

It’s hard to predict when things will turn around, Hermansson added.

Bergman, on the other hand, thinks the market could bottom out sometime in 2023.

“If the scenario surrounding the key interest rate is correct and the interest rate levels off in the Spring, and if the economic downturn is not particularly severe, then the market will probably stabilise next year. But it is difficult to predict,” he told the news bureau TT.

When could housing prices rise again?

For prices to rise, the situation must become more stable, and the world economy needs to start recovering, according to Hermansson.

“(For the prices to rise), I think we need to get signals that the Riksbank is starting to lower interest rates, that inflation is low again, and that it won’t rise again next winter,” she pointed out. 

Bergman does not believe that housing prices will rise in the same way as they have in recent decades once prices have stabilised.

“Prices have risen to a level that is very high in relation to incomes. My prediction is that we cannot count on 20-30 years of rising prices,” he concluded.