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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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MONEY

Boligstøtte: Who can claim Denmark’s national rent subsidy?

Residents of Denmark can in some cases apply for ‘boligstøtte’ (“housing support”), a reduction on their monthly rent.

Boligstøtte: Who can claim Denmark's national rent subsidy?

What is boligstøtte? 

Boligstøtte is a tax-free sum which people who live in rented housing can – in some cases – qualify for. It provides a subsidy to rent.

The subsidy is available to anyone who rents their home, provided the home meets certain criteria and the household income is under a certain level.

For example, your rental home must have its own kitchen (which would rule out student housing with shared kitchens, termed kollegier in Danish) and you must live permanently in the property.

Homeowners can also be entitled to apply for boligstøtte under certain circumstances. In such cases, the boligstøtte is a loan and not a subsidy, however.

The size of the subsidy – the amount of money you receive each month – depends on the overall income of the household (the total of the incomes of all wage earners at the address), the number of children and adults who live at the address, the amount of rent and the size of the house or apartment.

Boligstøtte is paid out on the first working day of each month.

How do I know if I’m entitled to boligstøtte?

Most people can apply for boligstøtte if they live in rented housing. There are a few living situations that can disqualify you, such as if you live with the owner of the property (including as a tenant) or if you own the property yourself and rent part of it.

You can, however, apply for the subsidy if you live in a property owned by your parents and pay rent to them (known as a forældrekøb – “parent purchase” – in Danish).

You can also apply for boligstøtte if you are sub-letting your house or flat, although the person sub-letting to you might have to change their address in order to avoid their income being taken into account in your application.

People who own their homes can receive bolistøtte (as a subsidy, not as a loan as detailed above) if they receive the state pension folkepension, or disability pension, førtidspension.

How and where do I apply?

You can submit an application via the borger.dk website at this link. The application platform will ask you to submit a rental contract and other documentation for your claim to be processed.

If you’re applying after moving to a new address, you must have registered your change of address with the national personal registry prior to applying. This can be done here. If you apply within 30 days of moving, the subsidy will be effective from the date you moved in. Otherwise, it will count from the first day of the following month from when you submit your application.

The processing time for the application can be up to seven weeks. You’ll receive a confirmation of your application via your Digital Mail inbox, and you will also receive notification here once the application has been processed.

By how much can I reduce my rent?

This depends on the various factors on which your eligibility is calculated – for some, you will not qualify to receive any subsidy at all.

There are five criteria upon which your eligibility – and the amount you receive – is calculated. They are the income of the household; the savings or fortune of people in the household; number of children and adults living at the address; size of the home (in square metres) and amount of rent paid.

You will receive more money if you have more children. For example, people who live in rented homes and are not receiving the state pension can get up to 1,039 kroner per month if they have no children; up to 3,654 kroner per month if they have 1-3 children; and up to 4,568 kroner per month if they have 4 children or more.

The borger.dk website has a tool on which you can estimate your boligstøtte here.

Source: borger.dk

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