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

Stock image of a paint roller.
There are some Danish requirements that may sound bizarre to newcomers. Photo: Malte Luk/Pexels
Even experienced renters who've lived in several countries find Denmark's rental system baffling.

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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