Tips for renting accommodation in Denmark
by Brian Keith, AllCanuck
November 21, 2009
This article contains some guidance for people intending to rent accommodation in Denmark. Many expats have pleasant and hassle-free experiences with rental properties and landlords, but many run into easily preventable problems. There's very little help available for those who run into problems, and for those who do, it can be frustrating to find that they are more or less on their own.
However, the tenants union can provide some support. I have based much of the information in this article on a presentation they gave to Dagmar Fink's "Worktrotter" group this month.
Note that in this article, "apartment" also refers to a house, villa or room that's covered by a lease.
The Copenhagen Tenants Union
The tenants union for the Copenhagen area is called "Lejernes Lo in Hovedstaden" or LLO. It is a self-help association for tenants, and has no legal powers. The organization's goal is to assure affordable, livable housing with secure tenancies, good maintenance etc. The association offers 6- or 12-month memberships; the membership fee is 655 kronors for the first 6 months. The group currently has 31,000 members.
Danish law offers some protection for tenants, covering such aspects as rent control, protection against being evicted for no reason, etc. LLO can help tenants with problems that arise. Every year, LLO helps launch more than 1,000 court cases against unscrupulous and criminal landlords. LLO staff can advise tenants on their legal options and advise which courts to use to pursue nonresponsive landlords, injustice, fraudulent actions, etc.
Their offices at Vester Voldgade 9 in Copenhagen (near Vesterport S-train station) are open limited hours. Their web site is www.llo.dk. You can obtain 3 introductory brochures in English:
-- Take care you don't get cheated
-- When moving in
-- When moving out
When you visit LLO, take your rental contract. LLO staff can also review members' leases before they are signed. You should calculate the cost of renting a property using the number of kronors per square metre per year; the result is then used for comparing your apartment's rent with others of similar size, age and condition.
You can "test" or object to the rental cost -- but only within the first year of the lease. If you plan to move out of the apartment in the near future, don't bother testing the rent. You must advise the landlord that you are applying to have the rent tested. He cannot evict you for having the rent tested or reduced. If the testing process finds that the rent was too high, the landlord must refund overpaid rent dating back to day 1.
There is no set wording for a lease. All the terms of a lease are negotiable between the landlord and tenant. Always sign a lease directly with the landlord -- do not a lease with a third party (for example, a company). Landlords who sign leases with companies can circumvent rent controls and can break the law in many other ways.
Do not sign a lease that contains the word "nyistandsat" -- this means that you will be obligated to restore the apartment to brand new condition when you move out.
Make sure that the lease allows you to terminate it within the 2-year period (usually 3 months notice, or 1 month for a room). That means you are not stuck paying rent for the entire term if things don't work out. Also, there is nothing in Danish law that states you cannot renew an existing lease after 2 years. Some people are under the erroneous impression that leases cannot be renewed after 2 years, but that belief has no merit.
Take pictures of the apartment before you move in, especially of anything that is damaged or imperfect. Within the first week after moving in, prepare a "moving in report". Document any faults that were present when you moved in, and send a list of the faults needing repair to your landlord.
If an apartment is poorly maintained, or if you find something faulty after moving in, write to the landlord and ask for it to be fixed within 2 weeks. If nothing happens, you can get a ruling from the "tenancy board" (advice on how to do that is available from LLO).
Of all areas affecting tenants, problems with moving out are the most prevalent and gut-wrenching, and may take place after you've left the country which makes communicating, investigating and solving problems much more difficult.
Approximately one-third of all tenants never see a single kronor of their deposit (usually 3 months rent). In addition, tenants are quite likely to be invoiced thousands of extra kronors to cover imaginary repairs, painting, renovation costs, etc. Danes are equally at risk for being ripped off, but for expatriate tenants who have moved abroad, it's an unneeded headache.
Pay particular attention to terms in the lease that relate to the condition of the apartment when you move out. Some landlords will oblige the tenant to repaint the entire apartment, repair all damage to floors, woodwork or broken windows -- things that in an equitable world the landlord would have to fix. If it's in the lease, he has every right to insist the tenant do just that.
So the first rule upon moving out is to read what the lease says. If it states the apartment must be in "nyistandsat" (brand new condition), then try your best to achieve that. When you are about to move out, have the landlord inspect the apartment together with you (optionally with a representative from LLO), and agree on the repairs/repainting that you will do after moving out. You can do the work yourself; it's not necessary to hire professionals. It's normal (regardless of what the lease says) that the apartment is cleaned, e.g. walls, windows, ceilings, floors, bathroom fixtures, oven, etc.
Take pictures of the apartment when you move out. This serves as evidence of the way you left the apartment.
Problems with moving out may require intervention by the "tenancy board". Several rules apply, for example, if the landlord seeks damages for repairs, he must present his claim within 2 weeks after you move out. If he misses the 2-week cut-off, he can't claim anything.
If there's a dispute, tenants can hire representatives of the tenancy board to look at the apartment and decide whether the landlord is being reasonable in his claim. Engaging the tenancy board costs 2,500 kr.
In conclusion, some landlords are honourable and tenants have positive experiences, and I hope this article will help prevent a few problems and unnecessary bad experiences. As shown by many people's unfortunate experiences, being forewarned is a good idea.
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