8 tips to avoid being swindled as a tenant

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8 tips to avoid being swindled as a tenant

Written by: Adrian Broch Jensen, BT (in English by Study Bergen)

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This article was originally published in Norwegian by Bergens Tidende, and has been translated by Study Bergen with the permission of the newspaper.

The original article may be found here: http://www.bt.no/nyheter/lokalt/Atte-tips-for-a-unnga-a-bli-lurt-som-ny-leieboer-3644045.html

Eight tips to avoid being swindled as a tenant

-        The Landlord and Tenant Act gives many rights to tenants, since they are considered to be the weakest part in a rental agreement, says the manager of Leieboerforeningen (The Tenants Association)


Lars Aasen is the manager of the member and interest organisation, Leieboerforeningen (The Tenants Association). (Norwegian only). He explains that their lawyers and associates receive many questions about what tenants should do when lessors make demands they do not understand. 


- The last few years, we have had many enquires in particular regarding damages at the end of a rental agreement and increases in rent.

Aasen points out that the Landlord and Tenant Act is comprehensive, but he encourages everyone looking for a place to live to read it, and to search the internet for rental tips before they enter a rental agreement.

- The Landlord and Tenant Act gives a number of rights to tenants, since they are considered to be the weakest part in a rental agreement.

Here are eight tips to help you avoid being swindled as a tenant.  

 

1. Make sure you have a written contract – without any dubious extra agreements

According to Norwegian Law, oral contracts are as binding as written ones, but unless you use a voice recorder, it can be difficult to document an oral contract

You have the right to have a written contract, and your lessor ought to use one of the standard contracts from Huseiernes Landsforbund (The National Federation of House Owners, Norway),  Forbrukerrådet (The Norwegian Consumer Council),  or the Tenants Association says Aasen.


He points out that these contracts follow the The Landlords and Tenants Act, and don’t include any dubious extra stipulations.


2. Make sure you have the right to end the rental agreement

There are two sections in the Landlord and Tenant Act, where the lessor and tenant are free to define their own terms.

In theory, a lessor can demand that you can never give notice. Aasen maintains that it is becoming more common to make it impossible to stop the contract during the first year, in addition to stipulating three months as the minimum termination of notice.

-  As a student, it is especially important to carefully consider the terms before you commit yourself to living somewhere for a longer period of time. Remember that a lot can happen in a short space of time. Maybe you will want to change where you study, or maybe you find a partner? Maybe you will find a more attractive place to rent?


3.  
Read the section about maintenance carefully, and create a sensible agreement

Maintenance and the condition the property is returned in at the end of the rental agreement, is the second section of the Landlord and Tenant Act where the parties are free to agree their own terms.

- You can end up with a contract where the lessor practically requires you to redecorate the property before you move out.

Aasen describes a case the Tenants Association has been involved in, where a lessor demanded that a tenant paid 60 000 NOK for hammering nails in a wall.

-The Lessor maintained that he had to get a firm to fill the holes in the wall, repaint the wall and that he didn’t receive any rent in the redecoration period, so that the total cost amounted to 60 000.


4.
Before you move any furniture in: Go through the property thoroughly

It is very important to document what the property looks like before you move in. You should also take pictures of any damages.

- If you have photos you can say – “Yes, there were nail holes in the wall before I moved in”. We have examples of lessors that try and demand compensation for the same damages again and again. If you don’t have documentation, you can end up in a difficult situation

He also points out that if you do discover serious damages that need to be fixed, you are responsible for informing the lessor as soon as possible


5.   
Rent can only be increased once a year

The amount you pay in rent can’t be increased before a year has passed since you moved in. Generally, it is the Retail Price Index which should form the basis for an increase in rent.


6.
Be aware of illegal extra expenses

A lessor has to include all expenses in the rent. The only expenses that can legally be added in addition are those for electricity, heating, water and sewage


7
Transfer the deposit to a separate account

A deposit account is a special type of account that a lessor cannot access freely, and where the lessor has to pay the fee for opening the account. Only student welfare organisations are exempt from this requirement. They can require that you place a deposit in a normal account.

Aasen notes that suspended prison sentences, have been given to some lessors which broke this term of the law.


8.
Flat share? Make an internal rental agreement

The best thing to do is to have your own contract with the lessor, but there are very few lessors that are interested in doing this explains Aasen.

- Living in a flat share can create many difficult cases legally. A useful tip is to create an internal rental agreement which stipulates the terms of the flat share. Who pays in, when, what to do when someone moves out, who is responsible for cleaning and so on. It is important to think about this in advance.

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