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PROPERTY

Don’t panic! How to find student housing in Sweden

Help, I'm starting university in Sweden but I don't have a place to live! Read these top tips.

Don't panic! How to find student housing in Sweden
Finding student accommodation can be tricky. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Student accommodation can be difficult to find in any country, and in Sweden your options can vary considerably between cities. There are always going to be housing shortages, landlords who want to take advantage of your lack of knowledge of the market, and last minute mess-ups. 

Know your options

Sweden does not tend to offer boarding-school halls of residences with breakfast or dinner included as some other countries do. But there’s a range of options: from renting an en-suite apartment with your own kitchen, to student dorms with a communal kitchen and shower in the hallway.

There are several alternatives available, but some of the most common formal routes include renting via the university’s own housing scheme if they have one, the municipality’s official housing queue (which often has apartments available specifically for students) or, if you’re studying in Lund and Uppsala, via the student nations’ own halls of residence (read more about student unions here).

It is worth contacting your university’s housing office for information on your specific options, but do start looking as soon as you get your acceptance letter, as apartments in some towns are hard to come by.

Don’t rely on university housing

Places in university halls are often limited. Partly because of the increasing number of students, and not enough universities to accommodate everyone. Some municipalities offer a “housing guarantee” for all students, but most don’t have an obligation to provide accommodation.

Even if you’re part of the Erasmus programme or some kind of exchange student, a place to stay isn’t always guaranteed.

Check out The Local’s guide to how to navigate Sweden’s rental market if you want or need to look for an apartment outside the university accommodation system. You can also rent second-hand apartments via housing sites such as Blocket, but it is usually easier if you’re already in Sweden and know the system.


University housing can be difficult to obtain. Photo: Magnus Liam/imagebank.sweden.se

What do I do if the semester is about to start and I still can’t find a place to stay?

Have you contacted your university housing office yet? If you are in luck there may be a last-minute opening in one of the university complexes, and even if there isn’t anything available, they can point you to off-campus apartment complexes or housing offices in the area that the university has agreements with or find reliable, giving you the best chance at reasonable rent prices and finding a place that is close to the university.

But if it’s very late in the season, most university housing will be full, so it is best to look into subletting. Some towns or universities have an online notice board where other students can sublet their apartment if they, for example, go on a semester abroad (for example Studentboet in Uppsala).

Subletting, although useful, means you need to check extra carefully that everything is legitimate. Make sure you have approval from the landlord, don’t pay a deposit larger than a month’s rent and make sure you get insurance that covers any damages that may happen while you’re living there. Read more about it here.


Many student dorms come with a communal laundry room. Photo: Magnus Liam Karlsson/imagebank.sweden.se

Contact your student union

Your university’s student union is a great resource and they are more than happy to advise incoming students. You can get the inside scoop on where the best off-campus housing is and what to avoid, as well as making new friends. Some student unions have temporary housing programmes to help tide new students over when they’re still looking for housing. 

You can also look into youth hostels in the area. It may not be ideal, but it can be a safe place to stay while you get on your feet, and you may meet other students in a similar situation to you and look for an apartment together.

You could stay temporarily with a fellow student. Photo: Tina Stafren/imagebank.sweden.se

Use your friends, colleagues, family and acquaintances to your advantage

This is frustrating advice if you’re a newcomer, but networking is one of your best bets. Know a couple of people already studying in Sweden? Contact them and ask for advice, especially if they’re going to the same university as you. Maybe they know someone who needs a housemate, or are moving out of their apartment and the lease is still up for grabs. Or you could ring up your uncle’s best friend’s cousin’s boss who happens to live in Stockholm and who also happens to be a landlord. 

Connections are particularly helpful in major student towns such as Uppsala and Lund or in big cities like Stockholm and Gothenburg, where the number of students often exceeds the number of rooms offered by universities and are plagued by long waiting lists.


Get by with a little help from your friends. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Lastly, the internet is your ultimate tool

If you don’t have any contacts in Sweden, don’t worry. You can try using online marketplaces such as The Local’s property page.

Thankfully, social media is also useful to find somewhere to live. With Facebook groups such as Rooms/Housing in StockholmUppsala Housing or The Local’s own Living in Sweden group you have somewhere solid to ask questions and survey your options, and talking to people who are, or were, in similar situations can help you better understand the process and the advantages or disadvantages of options.

Article first written by Saina Behnejad in 2016 and updated in 20201.

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RENTING

Five tricks Swedes use to avoid the long wait for rental apartments

The official waiting time for apartments in Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmö varies between three and eleven years. But Swedes have their own tricks for jumping the queue.

Five tricks Swedes use to avoid the long wait for rental apartments

There’s no requirement for landlords or renters to use the queuing systems run by the municipalities in the big cities, but most of the big ones do, the intention being to reduce corruption and increase fairness in the rental market. 

The Stockholm Housing Agency, or bostadsförmedlingen, has a queue between seven and eleven years long. Boplats Gothenburg has an average wait of 6.4 years, and Boplats Syd in Malmö has an average waiting time of nearly three years.

According to Kristina Wahlgren, a journalist at Hem & Hyra, Sweden’s leading rental property magazine, the system puts foreigners and recent arrivals to Sweden at a significant disadvantage. 

“It’s extremely difficult if you are from another country. You don’t have any contacts, and it’s quite difficult to understand if you haven’t grown up in this culture,” she says of the system. “There are some quite subtle aspects, and there’s vänskapskorruption [giving special advantage to friends]. ” 

Listen to a discussion about Swedish queue systems on Sweden in Focus, The Local’s podcast. 

Click HERE to listen to Sweden in Focus on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.

Obviously, the biggest advantage faced by locals in Sweden is that they normally joined the queue the moment they turned 17, so by the time they’re looking for an apartment as a young adult, they’re already near the front. 

But even for new arrivals in Sweden, it’s possible to wait a much shorter time if you know the tricks, says Wahlgren, who has been nominated for Sweden’s Guldspaden journalism prize for an investigation into how Malmö finds housing for homeless people. 

Kristina Wahlgren, a reporter for the Hem & Hyra newspaper. Photo: Hem & Hyra

1.  Apply for more expensive new-build apartments to start off with 

If you’ve got a good enough salary, and are willing to pay high rent for your first few years in Sweden, this can make it easier to get an apartment, as there is less competition for more expensive, new-build apartments, Wahlgren says.

“If you’re willing to pay high rent, then you can get an apartment within a couple of months [in Malmö]. If you want a cheaper apartment, it can take years. So it’s quite a big difference.”

2. Rather than wait for your perfect apartment, take what’s available and then swap 

The rules recently got a little stricter, but it’s still relatively easy to swap between apartments once you have a first-hand contract. There’s even a website, Lägenhetsbyte, which acts as an interface. 

This means, if you use the method above, and decide to rent a more expensive new-build apartment with a shorter queue, you can then downgrade to a cheaper apartment with someone who is after somewhere newer and swankier.

Rental queues are also shorter in less desirable areas of Sweden’s cities. For example, the waiting list in Norra Hissingen in Gothenburg is only five years, half what it is in Majorna. It can be quicker to make do with living in a relatively dreary area, and then swap with somewhere better, than to insist from the start on an apartment in your dream location. 

“If you can’t wait for the right department, just take the one that you get, then you can keep on looking and when you do have a lease, you can change the lease with someone else,” Wahlgren says. 

To change apartment, you need to have a so-called “acceptable reason”, such as needing a bigger or smaller apartment. With any luck, your landlord should accept the swap. If they refuse you can challenge their decision at your local hyresnämnden or “rental tribunal”.  

3. Use the tricks for contacting landlords directly  

Landlords in Sweden are not required to use the municipal rental queues to find their tenants, and if a suitable tenant presents themselves just as an apartment becomes free, they may prefer to take someone they know.

This is particularly the case with the smaller, private landlords. It’s possible to find lists of private landlords online, such as here. But Wahlgren recommends putting in a bit of legwork.

“One way to find who owns an apartment block, is to just go around and check on the buildings for the names of the landlords, and look in the stairwells for the number of the landlord’s agent.” 

Once you have the number, you have to ring both regularly, at least once a month, and also strategically. 

“It’s important to call at the right time,” Wahlgren says. “Because normally apartment rentals end at the turn of the month, so that’s when you’re going to call. You don’t call on the 15th, you call on the 31st or the 1st of the month.”

4. Exploit all the friends and contacts that you have 

When someone hands in their notice on a rental agreement, they may try to shorten their notice by finding a replacement for the landlord, or they might find a replacement simply as a favour. This is why it’s important to ask your friends and work colleagues if they know of any apartments becoming free. 

“If they use the municipal queue, they have to follow the rules. This way, they can choose their own tenants,” Wahlgren says of the appeal of this to landlords. “If you’re a nice person, you might be able to just talk your way into an apartment.” 

5. Be a student 

“If you’re a student, there are special housing companies in the university cities, different foundations that rent out apartments,” Wahlgren says. But then you have to study.” 

Illegal ways of getting an apartment

All of these ways of getting a rental apartment are legal, but there are some ways of getting a rental apartment more quickly which are not.

1. Paying a fee

You may also find landlords or intermediaries on websites such as Blocket, who ask for a one-off payment to jump a rental queue, or get a rental apartment. This is illegal. “You can lose your money, you can lose the apartment, and in the worst case, you can go to prison,” warns Wahlgren.

2. Getting an illegal subtenancy 

It’s perfectly legal to rent out your rental apartment to someone else for a period, if you have a valid reason for doing so and your landlord agrees. But such is the pressure to get housing that a market has sprung up in illegal subletting. Before signing a contract for a sublet, make sure that the landlord who owns the property has agreed to it. 

3. Bribing someone running the queue 

There have been cases of people working for municipalities logging into the housing queue and altering it, either as a favour to their friends, or for money. This is fairly rare, and in the unlikely event that someone offers to do this for you, it’s best to decline. 

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