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Renting Property

Norway - Renting Property

If you are moving to Norway from expensive cities such as London or New York, you may not find Norway particularly expensive in comparison. For most other people the high rental costs will be a surprise, especially if you want to live in a central area of Oslo for proximity to work. The average rent in Norway is just over 15% higher than the average rent for the UK.

Renting is a good option if you are living in Norway for the first time. You need time to acclimatise to the environment and culture, and to assess where your ideal home is located. It is not possible, for example, to find a remote house with beautiful lake views within easy striking distance of a city. Compromises have to be made, and time in a rental property will give you the opportunity to compare your aspiration against reality.

However, government policy in Norway is to promote home ownership, and as a result only about 20% of properties are available for rent. In the cities, rental properties are highly sought by students, young people starting professional careers, and expat arrivals. As home ownership has become prohibitively expensive, less young people are able to move into their own homes and stay longer in the rental market. Over the past twenty years, the smallest properties have seen the sharpest rises in rent as the pool of tenants competing for these homes has continuously increased.

Properties in the Oslo districts of St. Hanshaugen, Frogner, Majorstuen, Skillebekk, Sentrum, Grunerløkka and Torshov can command very high rents. The nearby county of Bærem is also expensive.

Rental costs are likely to eat up a significant portion of your monthly income. You must be very careful to assess the additional costs associated with each property offered for rent. Sometimes additional charges may be demanded for building maintenance costs, whilst other properties may include hot water, electricity and broadband within the rental charge.

At the cheapest end of the rental market, the “Hybel” offers affordable accommodation for those who do not need much space. This is a bedsit, sometimes in the cellar of a house. A hybel will often be furnished with a sofa bed and kitchen limited facilities in the room. Bathrooms may be shared.

A room in a shared house is more common. In Norwegian it is called “Rom i kollektiv”. Residents are expected to keep the house clean, to live pleasantly together, and to decide as a group whether a prospective tenant can move in.

Apartments are called “Leilighet”, and will vary enormously. Most have a combined living and cooking area, whilst others will have separate living rooms and kitchens. A storage cupboard outside the apartment may also be available. The maintenance costs for shared areas of the building are normally included in the rental costs.

For those with a generous budget and a family to accommodate, a “hus” can be considered. These range from the terraced “rekkehus” to the detached houses set in gardens.

Some landlords are happy to take on tenants through personal recommendations, in order to save advertising costs and reduce the risks of a bad tenant.

Online, the most popular choices for finding accommodation in Norway are Finn.no and Hybel.no. The sites are in Norwegian but with a limited vocabulary you will be able to negotiate the site. Some basic terms include “Bolig til leie” ( to rent), “Pris” (price), “Møblert/umøblert” (furnished/not furnished), “Kjøkken med hvitevarer” (kitchen with appliances), “Soverom” (bedroom) and “Strøm” (electricity).

Many estate agents will have a decent grasp of English. The Norwegian Yellow Pages list estate agents and they are easily found online.

Many newspapers will include property pages, titled “Eiendommer” or “Eiendomsmarkedet”. In Oslo, Aftenposten is one such newspaper.

Properties will be advertised as furnished or unfurnished. Costs for many things in Norway is higher than the UK or US, including furniture and kitchen equipment. The rent for furnished properties will usually be higher.

Make sure you visit a property before agreeing to rent it. Norwegian winters can be tough for newcomers, and finding a property will not be fun when the roads and pavements are full of snow. If you can, try to find a new property and move into it during the summer months, although remember during viewings that the property will be different during the cold and dark months.

Once you have found a property to rent, you should sign a lease agreement with the landlord as long as you are happy with the terms and conditions in the document. These should be clear as they are designed to protect you and your landlord legally from exploitation from the other party. You are also given extra protection by Norway’s Tenancy Act, which sets out the rights of a tenant.

Tenants in Norway have much stronger rights than found in many other countries. The period of tenancy cannot be less than three years. However, the tenant can decide to terminate the lease at any time. They do not need to give a reason, but the notice must be given in writing.

The tenancy agreement must stipulate which costs are included in the rent. Such costs may include maintenance of the communal areas, electricity, or hot water. If it is not agreed to in writing with the landlord when you sign the lease agreement, then you have no legal redress later.

The tenancy agreement should list the property contents. When you move in, and later when you move out, photograph each room carefully so that you have evidence should any dispute arise.

Rental deposits are very high in Norway. A landlord will often demand a deposit equivalent to three months rent, to be paid when you sign the lease. The funds should be held in a client account and not accessed by either the landlord or any other party unless the conditions of the lease allow it.

You must also pay the first month’s rent in advance of moving in, usually at the same time you pay the deposit. You will continue to pay the rent a month in advance throughout the tenancy.

Never make any cash payments for the deposit or rent, as you will need absolute proof of payment in the event of any later dispute. People trying to scam victims also prefer to receive untraceable cash.

If the landlord wishes to end the lease early, they must have justifiable cause. As a tenant you are allowed to object, in which case the landlord must apply to the Conciliations Board.

If you live in an apartment block, you will find that the heating is switched off in May. It will be unavailable until late September, regardless of the weather or your individual needs.

You will be expected to recycle as much waste as possible, by sorting it into different coloured bins.

At least once a year you will be expected to participate in a “dugnad”. The residents and communities gather for about three hours to tidy up the local area together. If you don’t take part, you will insult your neighbours. It is an important cultural and community event which will help you meet the locals and be accepted into the community. The event normally takes place in spring, and ends with everyone enjoying coffee and buns together.

In October 2016 Crown Prince Haakon, the heir to the Norwegian throne, was found to be renting flats on the official estate without permission. Some of the tenants had to temporarily move out whilst stored petrol was removed from the basement of one building and fire alarms were installed. A temporary letting permit allowed the tenants to return once work was completed whilst the application for the permanent license was considered. The incident confirms the degree to which the authorities expect all landlords to meet tenancy regulations, regardless of who they are.

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