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HOUSING

MAPS: New tool reveals cheapest places to rent an apartment in Sweden

Rory Crean, a British postdoctoral researcher at Uppsala University, has developed an interactive website to compare rent prices throughout Sweden. The Local got in touch with him to find out how the site can help newcomers navigate the rental market.

Rory Crean next to graph of Swedish rent prices
Rory Crean, originally from the UK, has developed a web application to visualise how rent prices differ across Sweden. Photo: Private

Rory developed the web application using national number-crunching agency Statistics Sweden’s data on rent prices across the country, which stretches back to 2016 and covers almost every region (previously län, now region) and municipality (kommun) in Sweden.

“I mainly wanted to improve my programming skills. It’s best to decide on a topic and learn as you go along – so it made sense to pick something I was interested in,” he told The Local.

The data he used shows the median rent price in the area, divided by the area of the apartment in square metres. He chose to use the median value rather than the mean as skewed data is badly represented by a mean, thus enabling a better comparison.

His graphs are interactive, meaning that users can easily compare how rent prices differ across the country as well as how prices have changed in the past five years by hovering their mouse over different areas.

RENTING IN SWEDEN:

Sweden’s rental market is notoriously competitive, especially in the big cities, where renters are forced to either wait for years in the public housing queue or pay markedly higher rents for sublets (despite Sweden’s housing laws banning overpriced rentals).

Meanwhile in more rural areas, rents are often much lower and waiting times shorter.

Rory hasn’t had much trouble finding housing himself, despite living in busy university town Uppsala – his decision to develop the tool was built on curiosity. “It wasn’t too bad really – I was just curious to see how they differ and to see if it really is all located in the cities,” he said.

“It was interesting to see how in certain places, median rent has shot up – mainly in Stockholm – in comparison to other parts of Sweden. Eight out of the ten most expensive municipalities were in Stockholm.”

Rather than drawing his own conclusions on the data, he aimed to make the data accessible and enable people to look at it for themselves. His figures also make it possible to easily see which areas of Sweden are generally cheaper to rent in, which could be useful for people planning a move to Sweden and trying to figure out where to live if they want to save money.

Even though renting is more expensive in the big cities, there is still price variation. The application also enables users to see the ten most and least expensive municipalities to rent in – only two of the most expensive municipalities are not located in Stockholm county, these are Lomma in the southern county of Skåne and Uppsala, north of Stockholm.

Vallentuna in Stockholm county is now the most expensive municipality in Sweden to rent in – rent prices there have increased by over 20 percent in the last year – overtaking nearby Täby which was number one last year.

Editor’s note: The maps we had originally embedded in the article have hit their maximum amount of views, so we had to remove them. You can still look at all the maps and charts HERE. Any programmers interested in seeing the underlying code and raw data used to generate the web application can take a look at the GitHub repository here.

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PROPERTY

Nudity to BBQs: What you can (and can’t) do on your balcony in Sweden

What better way to enjoy summer in your apartment than by making full use of your balcony? The Local spoke to Henric Gartz, a lawyer who specialises on issues related to housing, to find out how to stay on the right side of the law.

Nudity to BBQs: What you can (and can't) do on your balcony in Sweden

“You should look at your rental contract to see if there are any special rules in regards to what you can and cannot do on a balcony”, Henric Gartz, lawyer at Fastighetsjuristerna Göteborg, a legal firm specialising in housing issues, told The Local.

“If nothing is specified, then you should follow the general rules and be considerate towards your neighbours.”

The three common issues that arise during the summer when Swedes take to their balconies are grilling, smoking and nudity, he said.

Barbecues

The summer season is perfect for grilling, and although many residential areas in Sweden have communal grills in the garden, this is not always the case. Even if they do, some people prefer grilling on their balcony to be closer to the kitchen.

“If you grill, it will smell of meat, fish or vegetables and it could smell bad for a neighbour”, said Gartz. 

Electric grills are often more suitable for balconies. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

It’s also important to check with your housing association or your landlord to make sure they allow grilling on the balcony before you get started.

“A housing association has a lot of freedom to choose whether barbecues are allowed or not,” Maria Mati, property lawyer at HSB, Sweden’s largest cooperative housing association, wrote on their website.

“Therefore, you need to check to find out what applies in your association. But even if it’s allowed, you need to make sure that you grill in a fire-safe way.”

“And respect your neighbours,” she added.

Smoking

So, is it legal to smoke a cigarette outside on your balcony?

“You are allowed to smoke on your balcony,” Gartz said, “But if neighbours don’t like the smell of cigarette or cigar smoke, then be considerate.”

According to HSB, there’s no general ban on smoking in apartment blocks, and a housing foundation can’t ban you from smoking on your balcony or outside space.

“But you should also make sure you show consideration here,” Mati said, warning that you could end up on the wrong side of the law.

“The Residential Tenancies Act’s rules on disturbances in the property, or the Environmental Code’s rules on nuisance could be used in cases involving tobacco smoke,” she said.

“However, in one case, the district court in Falun decided that smoking on a balcony was permitted to a reasonable extent, even if irritated the neighbours,” she said.

Again, it all boils down to showing consideration for your neighbours.

“Maybe if you see that they are drinking coffee and you know smoke annoys them, wait until they finish before smoking”, Gartz said.

Just because your balcony is small doesn’t mean you can’t try your hand at growing your own vegetables. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Can I have plants on my balcony?

Flower boxes are a great way to liven up a balcony or even try your hand at growing vegetables during the summer months – just make sure they’re hanging on the inside of your balcony so they can’t fall down and injure someone, and try to avoid water and soil raining down on your neighbours below when you water your plants.

Is it legal to sunbathe naked on my balcony?

It depends how you do it.

Stripping off on your balcony isn’t necessarily forbidden. However, you do need to consider whether the neighbours might see more than they want to while you’re catching some rays. 

As is generally the case with rules for what you can and can’t do on your balcony, the law says that you’re more than entitled to take off your clothes in your own private space – but this shouldn’t impact your neighbours. 

To get around this, you may want to put up a screen between you and your neighbour’s balcony (you may have to ask permission from your housing foundation if this involves drilling any holes in the wall), or even go full Adam and Eve with a strategically placed plant or two.

Another option is position your parasol so it blocks your neighbour’s view – just watch out for any gusts of wind that may strike at an inopportune moment.

If, however, people see you from the street this could be more problematic, and in some cases end up in court depending on the gravity.

Similarly, you can’t have sex on your balcony where others could see or hear you – this could lead to a police report for förargelseväckande beteende (disorderly conduct).

In a nutshell:

Apartment living is often about compromise, and this also applies to what you do on your balcony. Speak to your neighbours and make sure they’re not irritated by your behaviour – similarly, let them know if something they’re doing is irritating you and see if you can figure out a solution which works for everyone.

“It is important to respect each other and talk about issues, if you live close to other people”, Gartz said.

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