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Sweden’s first case against an overpriced rental goes to court – two years after law change

For the first time, a Swedish landlord has been prosecuted for overcharging their tenant and subletting their apartment without permission from their own landlord.

Sweden's first case against an overpriced rental goes to court – two years after law change
The tenant was charged around 3,000 kronor more each month than the price allowed by law. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Sweden tightened its rules on subletting in October 2019, introducing a maximum two-year jail sentence for people found guilty of overcharging their tenants.

The landlord who is first to be prosecuted under the new laws is a man in his 40s, according to Hem & Hyra which was first to report on the case.

He was paying 6,527 kronor in monthly rent for the apartment in Hässelby, northern Stockholm, and the law states that a secondhand tenant or subletter should only be charged around 10-15 percent more than this (to cover bills and furniture). Instead, he allegedly charged at least two tenants 10,500 kronor.

The rules for people who own their apartment and sublet it are slightly different, since the base amount can be calculated based on what it would cost to get a new mortgage on the apartment, which means that subletting from someone who owns their apartment is often more expensive than subletting from someone who rents.

The case in Hässelby came to light after neighbours informed the property owner last winter that there were a lot of non-residents coming to and from the apartment. 

Then, the company that owns the apartment asked one neighbour to keep a log of who was living in the apartment and when moving companies were seen, which they then provided to police. Additional evidence included the advert for the sublet on classifieds site Blocket as well as text messages between the subletter and his tenants. The man denied the allegations when questioned by police.

As well as overcharging for the monthly rent, the charges allege that the landlord had not requested permission to sublet from the housing company, which is compulsory in Sweden. Secondhand tenants should always ask to see proof of this permission being granted, as well as a breakdown of the costs, to guard against illegal sublets.

The punishment for illegal sublets can include fines or even a jail sentence for the landlord, of up to two years.

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CRIME

Swedish Green leader: ‘Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity’

The riots that rocked Swedish cities over the Easter holidays were nothing to do with religion or ethnicity, but instead come down to class, the joint leader of Sweden's Green Party has told The Local in an interview.

Swedish Green leader: 'Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity'

Ahead of a visit to the school in Rosengård that was damaged in the rioting, Märta Stenevi said that neither the Danish extremist Rasmus Paludan, who provoked the riots by burning copies of the Koran, nor those who rioted, injuring 104 policemen, were ultimately motivated by religion. 

“His demonstration had nothing to do with religion or with Islam. It has everything to do with being a right extremist and trying to to raise a lot of conflict between groups in Sweden,” she said of Paludan’s protests. 

“On the other side, the police have now stated that there were a lot of connections to organised crime and gangs, who see this as an opportunity to raise hell within their communities.”

Riots broke out in the Swedish cities of Malmö, Stockholm, Norrköping, Linköping and Landskrona over the Easter holidays as a result of Paludan’s tour of the cities, which saw him burn multiple copies of the Koran, the holy book of Islam. 

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More than 100 police officers were injured in the riots, sparking debates about hate-crime legislation and about law and order. 

According to Stenevi, the real cause of the disorder is the way inequality has increased in Sweden in recent decades. 

“If you have big chasms between the rich people and poor people in a country, you will also have a social upheaval and social disturbance. This is well-documented all across the world,” she says. 
 
“What we have done for the past three decades in Sweden is to create a wider and wider gap between those who have a lot and those who have nothing.” 

 
The worst way of reacting to the riots, she argues, is that of Sweden’s right-wing parties. 
 
“You cannot do it by punishment, by adding to the sense of outsider status, you have to start working on actually including people, and that happens through old-fashioned things such as education, and a proper minimum income, to lift people out of their poverty, not to keep them there.”

This, she says, is “ridiculous”, when the long-term solution lies in doing what Sweden did to end extreme inequality at the start of the 20th century, when it created the socialist folkhem, or “people’s home”. 

“It’s easy to forget that 100 to 150 years ago, Sweden was a developing country, with a huge class of poor people with no education whatsoever. And we did this huge lift of a whole nation. And we can do this again,” she says. “But it needs resources, it needs political will.” 
 
 
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