Monday, 9 March 2009

Being Homeless & Finding An Apartment In Stockholm

Being homeless is not just about being a drunk or druggie, about being jobless and without a network - in fact it is pretty easy to end up homeless in Stockholm. That is because there are so few places available to rent, because they are rented for generations, because queues determine who can rent them and because rental contracts are valuable possessions that can be swapped, passed on and even bought and sold on the black market.

A friend of mine says that the annual fee of SEK 250 to be in Stockholm's Apartment Queue is good insurance - especially for any foreigner who might one day find themselves out on the street. Without a network, without family to turn to and contacts it is tough to find anything other than a sub-lease in Stockholm and even that can be extremely difficult. That makes life pretty tough if your relationship ends and/or living circumstances need to change - it is bad enough for the locals - even tougher for those from abroad who often have no idea where to turn.

Saying that, even if your number does come up in the queue there is no guarantee they will offer you the place - you often have to have a minimum income and they want references from previous first-hand contracts, not from sub-leases (???).

What makes the situation so much more difficult is that sub-leased contracts can only be rented out one year at a time, are often only rented to companies who vouch to pay the rent and the company who own the building or the housing association (if they are owner-occupied apartments) need to agree to the apartment being rented out. There is also the legal risk of the lessee claiming rights to the apartment once they have lived there two years which makes people hesitant. And if you own a building - don't think you can rent it out as you please - you have to conform to the housing associations regulations. Such is socialistic Sweden.

But change is in place and as I wrote in an earlier post, the law now allows for true ownership - which means people can invest in property and rent it out - making more places available for rent. While the law only encompasses new property I'm hoping the government will have the good sense to extend it to allow existing buildings to change their legal ownership.

Still, none of this helps my friend, who despite paying her apartment insurance is going to once again be homeless. In 4-5 years she has moved 4-5 times with her young children, spent countless hours trying to find a sub-lease, thousands in lost deposits (skummy landlords) and who knows how many days, weeks and months of stress at the thought of having to move again, or worse still, not be able to find a place. And now, when her number in the queue has come up (after years of being on it!) and she finally is offered a rental contract of her own, she doesn't qualify according to the income requirements, despite saving each month in the hope of one day being able to buy a place.

Today Metro published her story - hopefully someone out there will read it and offer both her and her children more stability, and peace of mind.

1 comment:

  1. That the lessee can claim rights to the apartment is a common misconception. Without going into any details about the issue - in English - it was my area of expertise as a lawyer. If you follow the Swedish rent laws that bit shouldn't cause any problems. That is if your counterpart (be it landlord or tenant) is a sensible person.

    The housing problem, especially in the overpopulated cities, isn't easy to solve and I'm far from sure that the so called "true ownership" of apartments is all good.

    Another misconception seem to be that Sweden is socialistic. It's not, however it has been a socialdemocratic country for decades, with pros as well as cons.