Sweden’s first case against an overpriced rental goes to court – two years after law change

For the first time, a Swedish landlord has been prosecuted for overcharging their tenant and subletting their apartment without permission from their own landlord.

Sweden's first case against an overpriced rental goes to court – two years after law change
The tenant was charged around 3,000 kronor more each month than the price allowed by law. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Sweden tightened its rules on subletting in October 2019, introducing a maximum two-year jail sentence for people found guilty of overcharging their tenants.

The landlord who is first to be prosecuted under the new laws is a man in his 40s, according to Hem & Hyra which was first to report on the case.

He was paying 6,527 kronor in monthly rent for the apartment in Hässelby, northern Stockholm, and the law states that a secondhand tenant or subletter should only be charged around 10-15 percent more than this (to cover bills and furniture). Instead, he allegedly charged at least two tenants 10,500 kronor.

The rules for people who own their apartment and sublet it are slightly different, since the base amount can be calculated based on what it would cost to get a new mortgage on the apartment, which means that subletting from someone who owns their apartment is often more expensive than subletting from someone who rents.

The case in Hässelby came to light after neighbours informed the property owner last winter that there were a lot of non-residents coming to and from the apartment. 

Then, the company that owns the apartment asked one neighbour to keep a log of who was living in the apartment and when moving companies were seen, which they then provided to police. Additional evidence included the advert for the sublet on classifieds site Blocket as well as text messages between the subletter and his tenants. The man denied the allegations when questioned by police.

As well as overcharging for the monthly rent, the charges allege that the landlord had not requested permission to sublet from the housing company, which is compulsory in Sweden. Secondhand tenants should always ask to see proof of this permission being granted, as well as a breakdown of the costs, to guard against illegal sublets.

The punishment for illegal sublets can include fines or even a jail sentence for the landlord, of up to two years.

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Why foreigners in Sweden are falling victim to fake police phone scams

Several English-speaking foreigners in Sweden have reported scam calls where victims are told they are wanted by the police.

Why foreigners in Sweden are falling victim to fake police phone scams

English-speaking foreigners, including several international students, have fallen for the scam, which starts with a phone call in which a computerised voice informs the victim that someone has been arrested and that they need to contact the police on a certain number. 

“We have received nearly 380 reports during February 2024, and in 25 of these cases the victim paid out money to the perpetrator,” Lotta Mauritzon, an expert at the National Fraud Centre, told The Local.

“The victims have different ages but most are in ages between the age of 21 and 40 years old. In several cases, they seem to be foreign students.” 

The recorded calls are in English, and come in two variants, she said, with callers claiming to be either from the Swedish police or from the international crime agency Interpol.  

There are two main scams used by fraudsters at the moment:

The ID theft scam

The perpetrator claims your ID has been stolen and that you are now accused of a crime like narcotic, weapon or other offences.

“In several cases they say that the narcotics were found in a vehicle that was rented out in your name, with your ID,” Mauritzon said.

She said the scammers tell you that “you have to secure your money and transfer it to an account in another bank”.

The ‘arrested in absentia’ scam

In this scam, the perpetrator claims you have been arrested in absentia and been accused of different crimes. Pending the trial, the victim has to secure his or her money. 

In two different reports, the precorded computerised message was as follows: 

“This is from the Swedish Police. You are arrested in your absence. If you want to speak to a police superintendent, press one.”

What is the Swedish Police doing about the scams (aside from contacting The Local)? 

Sweden’s National Police have set up an English language website to try to prevent additional foreigners falling victim to the crime, and have also created a poster in English

“Right now, fraudsters are calling with automated computerised voices,” the website reads. “They can say that there is a warrant for your arrest and that you are wanted. The police will never contact you with an automated voice in English. Hang up and don’t trust the caller.” 

“The fraudster may call and request personal data or ask you to identify yourself with your bank eID, or share codes from a bank token or bank card,” the poster warns. 

Do not do this. Police will never ask you to perform a BankID identification. 

If you suspect you may have fallen for one of these phone scams, you should immediately contact your bank to freeze your accounts, and then you ring 114 14 to make a police report.