Things you need to know when renting a home
Many students are heading out to find housing before starting their studies this fall. But what are the rights and rules that apply when you’re going to rent?
Thousands of students across the country are looking for housing before starting their studies this fall. But what are the rules for putting down a deposit? Who’s responsible for maintenance and repairs? And who’s responsible for the lease if one of the people living in a “collective” wants to move out? Tekna attorney Anna Elisabeth Nordbø tells you what you should think about before signing a lease.
What kind of lease should you have when renting?
– First, a lease should always be in writing. What usually happens is that the landlord presents you with a lease. Otherwise, I recommend using the standard leases drawn up by The Consumer Council and The Home Owners Association.
Can my landlord increase the rent at any time and by any amount they want?
– No, the rent amount can be changed at most once a year in accordance with the consumer price index. Your landlord must give you at least one month’s notice before any rent increase can take effect.
What about rules for a deposit?
– A landlord has the right to demand that security be provided for the renter’s obligation to pay rent, damages and any other demands the landlord can make against the renter. This normally happens by creating a deposit account; the most a renter is required to deposit into this account is six months’ rent. Also, a deposit account is a special type of account that is set up in the renter’s name; so it’s illegal for your landlord to require that you make a deposit into their own account.
Who’s responsible for paying for necessary maintenance and repairs?
– The renter is obligated to keep the dwelling and property looking the same as when they moved in – both outside and inside. But the renter is also responsible for maintenance in accordance with the following rental law:
«If nothing else has been agreed upon, the renter is obligated to maintain door locks, faucets, bathrooms, electrical outlets and switches, hot water tanks and inventory and equipment in the dwelling that is not part of the real estate. The renter is also obligated to undertake necessary functional control, cleaning, battery changes, testing, etc. of smoke alarms and fire extinguishing equipment. If objects belonging to the landlord must be replaced, the landlord is obligated to do so if nothing else has been agreed upon.»
If the renter damages a rental object or inventory belonging to the landlord, the renter must naturally replace this item. This is why I advise you to take a thorough look at the rental property when you move in and document any errors and deficiencies you see. Anything that deviates from what has been agreed upon should be reported to the landlord as soon as possible. Feel free to take photos in order to be able to document the rental property and inventory’s condition when you move in. Of course, damages or wear-and-tear that were present when you moved in are things you won’t have to pay for at a later date.
What about necessary safety equipment and emergency escape routes?
– The landlord’s required to make sure that all necessary safety rules are followed. I strongly advise people to check the home’s level of fire safety. Does the rental property have an emergency escape route, smoke alarms and fire extinguishing equipment? If the answer’s yes, wonderful. Remember that as a renter, you’re responsible for maintaining all fire safety equipment. Change the batteries in the smoke alarms, turn on powder extinguishers regularly, etc.
We often get questions from renters asking if they can demand a rent reduction because there’s no emergency escape route. We in turn ask them, “Do you really want to live there?” In these cases the renter must make sure that fire safety rules are followed and shouldn’t just accept a rent reduction in this situation. The same thing applies when the rental property must be approved before being rented out; this is the landlord’s responsibility.
How long does a rental relationship last? How long is a notice period?
– A rental relationship can in theory last forever; it can also be terminated by having a three-month notice period, although shorter or longer notice periods can be written into your lease if desired.
The fact that the notice period is three months long means that your lease continues from the month you give notice until three months later, unless the lease states that the notice period runs from one specific date to another – but this is very unusual. You don’t need to justify why you’re giving notice. But if it’s the landlord who’s terminating the lease, they have to give a justifiable reason for doing so. For instance, the reason might be that the landlord’s selling the home or building that contains the rental property; or perhaps the landlord wants the rental property for their own personal use.
Please note: A landlord doesn’t need a justifiable reason in cases where they’ve rented out their own home because they’ll be gone for a certain period of time or they’ve rented out just one room (excluding kitchen or bathroom) with access to either their/another renter’s property.
Leases can also be fixed-term, meaning that they run up to a specified date and then end without any notice period. Fixed-term leases can usually be terminated within the specified time period.
The main rule is that leases can’t be limited to time periods shorter than three years. But if the rental property is a basement apartment or loft apartment in a detached house, or part of a duplex in which the landlord themselves lives, the lease period can be limited to one year. There can also be other justifiable reasons for limiting a lease even more; but if this is the case. written notice must be given in advance, for instance if the house is going to be sold or completely renovated during a certain period of time.
But is having a fixed-term lease allowed?
– Having a fixed-term lease isn’t unusual. This means that the lease can’t be terminated until after a specified date; say for example that your fixed-term lease runs for 12 months. If you want to move out during this time, you do have the right to sublease your home to someone else. Your landlord can only refuse you to do this if they have a justifiable reason for objecting to it.
If you find out that you have to move out before your lease allows it, this doesn’t automatically mean that you have to rent for the duration of your fixed-term contract or notice period. The landlord’s obligated to limit their losses, and this means that they have to try and rent out the property as fast as possible after you’ve moved out. From the time a new renter is in place, you don’t have to pay anything; of course, this is because a landlord’s not entitled to receive double rent.
Are there special rules when renting in collective living quarters?
– First, you have to find out if one or more leases have to be signed, because practices differ on this point. The best thing from a renter’s perspective is that everyone has their own lease. Yet landlords don’t often offer this alternative. A landlord might want a lease where every roommate is a renter. Then everyone’s jointly liable for paying the rent and fulfilling other obligations in the rental relationship. It means that if one roommate doesn’t pay, the landlord can look to the other roommates to make their payment for them. At the same time, the roommates are collectively liable for paying their share of the rent; these shares might be different amounts (for example, because the bedrooms are of different sizes).
In cases where only one lease has been signed for the collective and only one of the roommates is named as the renter, it can be a good idea for the roommates to sign an agreement that ensures this individual’s right to be named as the renter. It’s an especially good idea for everyone to agree on how to divide the rent and when the one person is to make the rental payments every month to make sure that the rent gets paid on time.
What if one roommate in collective living quarters wants to move out before the others do?
– It’s sensible to state this in the lease agreement. In cases of fixed-term leases, renters have the right to sublease their room to someone else, or in other words find someone else to take up their part of the lease agreement for the rest of the rental period. The landlord can only refuse to accept this sublessee if they have a good reason for doing so. But you should note that even if you sublease to someone else, you’re still financially liable according to your lease agreement. This means in practice that if your sublessee fails to pay the rent, you yourself have to pay it. You can of course try to get your money back from your sublessee afterwards if this situation does occur.
The Tenancy Act is a student’s best friend when it comes to renting
What kind of legal protection does a renter have?
– The Tenancy Act has many set rules in place to safeguard all renters. The fact that these rules are «set» means that they can’t be renegotiated in a lease agreement. Any points in the agreement that conflict with these set rules are invalid.
That’s why The Tenancy Act is a student’s best friend when it comes to renting – it comes to the rescue and takes care of illegal lease agreements. It’s also why it doesn’t matter quite so much if, after reading this article, you understand that (parts of) your lease agreement are illegal.
When should you contact Tekna Private Law (Privatrett)?
– When conflicts arise that you can’t solve, contact us at Tekna Privatrett. If you’re in a dispute with your landlord, you can also send an appeal to The Rent Dispute Committee (Husleietvistutvalget), which provides a simple and reasonable procedure for conflict resolution.