No matter where you’ve come from, all expats face similar challenges when moving to Denmark. From learning the language and understanding the culture to knowing your rights as an expat and coming to grips with the Danish rental market. These are all seemingly simple tasks that have tripped up many an expat.
Laura Wintemute offers up some first-hand advice on one of the first hurdles expats are faced with – finding a home.
Denmark is repeatedly rated as one of the most “livable” locations in the world. It is then no wonder that every month over 1000 people move into the Greater Copenhagen region alone. Unfortunately, cities like Copenhagen are struggling to keep up with this high influx, and subsequent demand for housing – causing much stress for those just arriving.
In my personal experience working alongside thousands of international expats moving in and out of Denmark, the most common challenge faced is the Danish rental market. Limited property options, high monthly rentals, property size differences and a fast-moving market all make this experience quite possibly the most stressful one. Regardless if it’s a house or an apartment you are looking for, understanding your rights as a tenant are imperative. Rental contracts, house rules, tenant and landlord responsibilities, move in inspections, termination clauses… the list goes on. And all in Danish!
When you’re searching for a property, the first thing to bear in mind is that the market is likely much different from what you may be used to back home. The chances of finding a three bedroom, two bathroom apartment with an elevator and balcony for under 10,000 DKK, oh and it has to be a 10-minute walk to the office, is basically impossible.
Expanding your search areas to Greater Copenhagen, greatens your options. The further you go out from the city center (Østerbro, Vesterbro, Nørrebro, Amager, Islands Brygge) the bigger the properties get and the less expensive they become. Depending on where you live in Greater Copenhagen, you can expect a maximum commute time of approximately one hour. This would be a treat for people living in New York or Singapore.
Three things to expect
From personal experience and through interactions with other expats on the search for a property in Copenhagen. I’ve come up with a list of things to look out for when on the hunt for your ideal home.
#1 Where to look: private or public websites
There are numerous websites advertising rental properties, both private and public. Public websites meaning a certified and authorised rental property agency. Private referring to those which you must pay to be a member. I would however caution the use of private websites. I know of numerous instances where people have found properties on the private websites, paid the rent and the deposit and shown up on moving day to find other groups of people also waiting to move into the same property. Unfortunately, scams are out there. Just be sure to do your homework on any service provider before you sign up.
If you find a property on a private websites be sure to:
◗ Never pay cash in advance. Always have a signed rental contract in hand. You will have to sign before the owner, but this is normal.
◗ Check that the person claiming to be the owner is the actual owner, you can ask the Municipality.
◗ If it’s an Andelsbolig, make sure to get proof of permission for the rental.
◗ Read and understand your lease contract before signing. Have it translated.
◗ Conduct a move-in report to document the state of the property. Pictures are worth a thousand words, the more the better.
If it’s too overwhelming to find a property on your own, you could always hire a company to help you find a selection of properties based on your needs. They will even arrange the viewings, drive you around to see the properties, assist you with lease contracts and move in’s etc. Charlie’s Roof for instance comes highly recommended. You can also go online and find a property through a Danish Rental Property Agency yourself. They would ensure things are done by the book and they don’t charge for their services (this is borne by the owners of the properties). They do however screen owners and ensure things are done as per the Danish Rental Act. If this sounds more feasible to you, I’d suggest giving Danish Homes a try. If you ever have questions or concerns, feel free to contact me. Homestead offer affordable consultancy services for all aspects of settling in. Visit www.homesteaddenmark.com to find out more.
#2 Maintenance responsibilities
In Denmark landlords take general maintenance and cleaning of their properties very seriously. They expect you to take care of their property as if it were your own. Lack of maintenance can become extremely costly when you move out. I’ve heard many horror stories of Danish landlords taking entire deposits when it comes time to move out. The property owners in Denmark are just following the Danish rental Act. They only expect things to be as they contractually should be done. Be sure to know what it is you are signing when you sign your lease contract. The norm is three months deposit and your first month up front. Although it’s not uncommon for owners to also request an extra three months of pre-paid rent. Regardless of how your property was taken over, as seen, newly painted or nyistandsat (newly refurbished) you are expected to leave it in the exact same condition when you move out. Regardless if you’ve lived there six weeks or six years. Wear and tear is rarely taken into consideration. However, its not all bad, especially if you expect never to see your deposit again, you may be pleasantly surprised when you do get some of it back. If you properly document the state of the property when you move in, there should be no questions when the time comes to move out. Things like airing out the property, using rinse aids in appliances, removing lime scale from the faucets are just a few examples of things that could cost a great deal when you move out if they’re not taken care of during your stay.
#3 Furnished or Unfurnished
It’s one or the other. Literally. Furnished properties are fully equipped. Down to your knives and forks, bed sheets and bath towels. All you need to move in with is your toothbrush and your undies! Unfurnished properties on the other hand are like empty shells. No lights, no wardrobes and no window coverings. They do however include most appliances like a fridge, stove, dishwasher and sometimes washer and dryer. There is, of course always exceptions to both.
The Copenhagen bathroom
Another big difference for me was the size of bedrooms. Coming from North America, where everything is BIG, this took some getting used to. Danes say it’s because all they do is sleep in them so why make them bigger. That’s why you find many properties with very large open kitchens and living rooms. This is where they spend most of their time, having “Hygge” with family and friends.
If you’re renting in Copenhagen I’m sure you’ve heard about them. “The Copenhagen Bathroom”. Where you’re sitting on the toilet and the shower is above your head. Talk about killing two birds with one stone. My first apartment in Copenhagen was a 47 m2 cozy little 5th floor apartment in Amager. This apartment was built in the late 1800s, when you used to have to go outside to shower and use the toilet. We did have a toilet and hand sink – but no shower! Every morning, I’d have to go down the back-fire-escape, down five flights of a steep rounding staircase in my housecoat and flipflops. Toiletry case and towel in hand all the way down into the dark cold basement. The worst was when I forgot my soap. I would have been thankful for the Copenhagen bathroom. Finding your ideal home will come with many challenges, but with the right approach (and some compromise), it can be done.
Text: Laura Wintemute – www.homesteaddenmark.com