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PROPERTY

Do I have to varnish the floor? Why moving out in Denmark can be complicated

Even experienced renters who've lived in several countries find Denmark's rental system baffling.

Stock image of a paint roller.
There are some Danish requirements that may sound bizarre to newcomers. Photo: Malte Luk/Pexels

Renting in Denmark requires a substantial up-front investment – with as much as three months’ rent pre-paid, three months’ rent as a deposit, and the first month’s rent due before you move in, you’re out seven months’ rent before your first day in your new digs.

The Danish Rent Act, an impenetrable and oft-amended tome without an official translation to English, was last updated in 2015. It sets the standard conditions for a rental in Denmark and lays out protections for renters that can’t be changed by contract. Outside of those parameters, though, Danish landlords have leeway to ask for a lot from their tenants in a housing market where rentals are expensive and in high demand. 

READ MORE: Deposits, complaints and registration – 5 things to know about renting in Denmark

The default rental terms only require a tenant to keep the property in good condition, allowing for normal wear and tear. But a common change that landlords make in section 11 of the contract is giving the tenant responsibility for “interior maintenance” – and that unassuming phrase can cost you dearly. 

Responsibility for interior maintenance includes returning the apartment in the condition you received it. If it was newly painted and the floors were newly refinished right before you moved in, that paint and varnish needs to be fresh when you leave too. That’s regardless of how long the term of your rental was – newcomers to Denmark have been shocked to learn that their hefty deposit won’t be returned in order to repaint an apartment after a three-month stay. 

Depending on the landlord, you may be able to do the work for a “normal renovation” yourself or through a contractor you select, but sometimes the choice of labour (and the price!) is up to them. 

Immigrants to Denmark from countries with more humane terms for renters – such as the United States, where you only really have to worry about losing your full deposit if you’ve punched a hole in the wall or bred snakes in the crawlspace – the expectation that you’ll pay to have the floors stripped, sanded and revarnished seems like a lot. But it isn’t outlandish here. 

READ MORE: Cost, not availability, is source of housing difficulties in Danish cities

That said, it’s important to know your rights and reach out for advice if you suspect your landlord of asking too much. There are plenty of resources to help you wade through the Danish legalese – Lejerens Frie Retshjælp (or the Tenant’s Free Legal Aid) is a volunteer organisation of law students that helps tenants and landlords parse through contracts and settle specific disputes. (Note that LFR is on summer holiday until August 1st), and Digura is a paid service that can correspond directly with your landlord and escalate the issue to the Danish rent committee or court system if necessary. Other resources recommended by the Danish government are listed here.

Danish landlords have to follow strict procedures surrounding move-in and move-out inspections – any deviations can mean they forfeit the right to any repairs at the end of your lease. 

Read The Local’s interview with Digura co-owner Louise Song to learn how landlords can take advantage of international tenants and how to (hopefully) get your deposit back.

READ MORE: How to get your deposit back when renting in Denmark 

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PROPERTY

What do foreigners need to know about buying a home in Denmark?

After several years of settling down in Denmark, it’s natural for foreign residents to think about buying a home. What’s worth knowing about getting on the property ladder as a non-Dane?

What do foreigners need to know about buying a home in Denmark?

For some foreign home buyers in Denmark, their first Danish home might not be the first home they have bought, and there will be a few differences in rules to take into account.

For others, Denmark might be the place where you take your first step onto the property ladder.

In either case, there are several rules and facets of the Danish housing market that are worth knowing when you set out.

I have savings, am a permanent resident in Denmark and want to buy a home. What should I do?

Unsurprisingly, the first step is to get approved for a mortgage or, in Danish kreditgodkendt.

“Then the thing to do is go down to a bank and get a købsbevis [mortgage certificate, ed.],” Mikkel Høegh, department director for real estate economics with Jyske Bank, told The Local via email.

“Here you will have a meeting at which you are pre-approved to buy a property up to a certain amount,” Høegh said.

The meeting, which takes place with an advisor from the bank, involves setting out a budget and looking at the applicant’s tax information to get an overview of their personal finances.

“Once you have been (approved) you can start house hunting,” he said.

The certificate is based on a calculation of “what amount you are in a position to buy a property for,” Lise Nytoft Bergmann, real estate economist and senior analyst with bank Nordea, told The Local.

House hunting can initially be done online, while buyers should talk with their families about how the see their future home, Bergmann advised.

“Whether it’s location that’s given highest priority, or the number of square metres, how modern a property… have these thorough conversations with the family about what you see as most important,” she said.

Are there any rules relating to buying a home that apply specifically to foreign nationals?

“There are no special rules for foreigners as such,” Høegh said.

Danish mortgages are based on the prices of the house being purchases, and buyers are approved to buy for that amount, he explained.

“The next step is then to find the property. When it’s been found, the property is what guarantees the loan. This means that the mortgage lender has a guarantee in the property. So it’s the property that is most important here,” he said.

“The buyer must pay at least 5 percent (of the price of the house) upfront,” he noted.

What if there’s a chance I might move back home (or somewhere else) in future? Should I still buy a house in Denmark?

“There some overheads which are connected to buying a house,” Bergmann said.

“They’re not entirely small, and so therefore it’s an advantage to spread these costs out over as many years as possible,” she said.

These include a registration fee which must be paid to the state of 1,750 kroner plus 0.6 percent of the purchasing price; and registration of the mortgage deed (pantebreve) of 1,730 kroner plus 1.45 percent of the purchase price.

Banks and mortgage lenders must usually also be paid for their work related to the purchase. This can include assessing the buyer for the mortgage certificate and for issuing it, valuing the property, and producing documentation as well as for consultancy. These costs can vary between financial institutions.

It may also be necessary to take advice from third parties such as lawyers, architects or electricians. The costs of actually moving, insurance and renovation must also be considered.

“We usually that you should have a timescale of a minimum of five years, and preferably longer,” Bergmann said in relation to staying in Denmark after buying a home.

What can I do to make sure I get the best mortgage offer?

“In Denmark the prices of mortgages are relatively similar and there is no difference between people and the price they are offered,” Høegh said.

“As such, what is important is finding a property that can be turned over, in other words you should keep in mind that another buyer must come after you,” he said.

“In addition to this, the price of the mortgage is related to how much of the loan is in the property. The more money you bring yourself [through the deposit, ed.], the cheaper it is to loan,” he said.

Both fixed and variable interest rate mortgages are available in Denmark, and the terms for these may stand out from what is available in other countries.

“A quite unique thing in Denmark is that you can get a fixed interest rate mortgage for 30 years. There are very few places in the world where you can do that, so when we say fixed rate we don’t just mean five or eight years,” Høegh said.

“Additionally, a mortgage in Denmark is such that the borrower can always go to market interest, so there is also nothing like a penalty interest which you see in other countries,” he said.

“Denmark has therefore an incredibly efficient mortgage system which everyone who buys a property has access to,” he said.

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