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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It can be daunting to rent a place for the first time (or even second or third time), especially if you are new to the city.
Here are some useful tips for you to consider when renting:


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:

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. Nowadays, it is common to bind the contract for a certain amount of time (ex. 1 year) and stipulate a few months (ex. three months) as the minimum termination of notice. You still need to pay during the termination months, which start from the first month after you have terminated the room/apartment. 

As a student, it is important to carefully consider potential changes to your studies and lifestyle. Will you end up changing study places, move in with a partner, or find a more attractive place to rent later? Make sure to take into consideration those factors before committing yourself to living somewhere for a longer period of time. 

 

3.  View and go through the property thoroughly before moving in

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

Lars Aasen, the manager of the Tenants Association, describes an incident 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. We have examples of lessors that try and demand compensation for the same damages again and again. If you don’t have documentation ... [that] can say – “Yes, there were nail holes in the wall before I moved in” ... you can end up in a difficult situation.


4.  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 Actwhere the parties are free to agree their own terms. If something is missing or in bad state, make sure to discuss before signing and state them in the rental contract. As a tenant, you have to return the room/apartment in the state it was delivered.

If you discover serious damages that need to be fixed during your lease, you are responsible for informing the lessor as soon as possible. You have the right to demand the damage to be fixed, hold back the rent, request for renegotiation of the rent etc. In very serious cases, you might terminate the lease. 

 

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

 

7Transfer 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. The deposit is usually around 2 or 3 times the monthly rent. When the leasing period is over, the deposit and the interest rate of the depsit are returned to the tenant. If there has been damages to the room/apartment during the leasing period, then the lessor can demand that those are to be covered by the deposit. 

Only student welfare organisations are exempt from this requirement. They can require that you place a deposit in a normal account.

 

8. Flat share? Make an internal rental agreement

The tenant does not have the right to bring another tenant into their rented room/apartment without agreement with the lessor.

- 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.


Excerpts from this article was originally published in Norwegian by Bergens Tidende and has been translated and edited 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

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