Renting accommodation rather than buying is a smart move when you first move to Norway. Here's what you need to know.
We strongly advise all new arrivals to rent a place to live for at least their first year or two. It's best to rent somewhere small on a temporary or short-term basis, for a number of reasons.
Firstly, you can keep costs low while you adjust to your new lifestyle and figure out where you would like to live on a longer-term basis. Secondly, life in Norway may not suit you after all! In these circumstances, you won't be locked into a long lease that costs you a small fortune to break.
Finding a short-term rental in Norway can be easy or it can be a real challenge. There are many variables, not least the location. Here's our guide to the main things you need to consider.
Read more: Buying a house in Norway
Stong rental market in cities
The rental market in the main cities is buoyant, driven by students, young professionals and foreign arrivals. The market isn't so strong in smaller towns, but it should still be possible to find something that meets your needs and your budget.
Speaking of budget, your accommodation will take up the biggest chunk of your cost of living in Norway, so care should be taken to get the best value.
Don't automatically assume cheaper is best. Be very aware of what's included and most important of all, what's not included, especially if you don't speak Norwegian.
Paying for hot water, electricity and an internet connection on top of rent can increase your expenditure significantly.
High deposit typically required
You should also be aware of the high deposit requirements in Norway. Make sure you're sitting down before you read this.
Typically, a deposit equal to three months rent is required together with the first months rent paid in advance. So that's an amount of money equal to four months rent before you even get your key, something that many new arrivals are unprepared for.
Remember that the three months rent money is a deposit, and this doesn't count towards your ongoing rent. So while you will eventually get your money back, it doesn't help your cash flow in the short term.
This isn't a hard and fast rule particularly if you find accommodation by asking around, but it is the starting point for most landlords.
Types of rental accommodation include:
Studio apartments in Norway
A hybel is more commonly known in English as a studio apartment or bedsit.
Typically the cellar of a large detached family home, a hybel is usually one-room with a small kitchenette and a sofa bed, although some can have a separate bedroom. A separate small bathroom is sometimes shared with an adjoining hybel, depending on the size of the property.
They are popular among students as a value alternative to student accommodation or a shared house. Many new arrivals often choose a hybel as they are the lowest cost option for living alone. My experience of living in a hybel was not great. Only you will know if they are for you.
Room in a shared house
A shared house or kollektiv is a popular living option among students and twenty-somethings in Norwegian cities, but increasingly professionals are turning to collectives as a way of saving money and plugging into a social life.
You will be expected to play a full part in the household, from cleaning to social events. The admittance of a new housemate is typically decided by the group. Some are open to foreigners, others are less so.
A rom i kollektiv is not for you if you are shy, introverted, or are the type of person who draws lines on the milk carton to check if anyone is taking any!
A leilighet (apartment or flat) is a very common way of living for young professionals and foreigners who have been in the country for a while.
They range in size and quality so much that it's almost impossible to generalise here, but expect a large living space with corner kitchen (or less commonly, a separate kitchen, at least one bedroom and at least one bod, a storage cupboard outside the main apartment.
As with a hybel, check what's included. There will be shared costs for the apartment building (lighting and cleaning of common areas etc) but these are paid for by the landlord, which drives your rent up in the first place.
Not the cheapest way of living, but a preferable choice for many once they have decided upon a location.
Finally, houses range from rekkehus, a terraced style townhouse that often resembles an apartment, to large multi-room detached houses (enebolig) with gardens. This is the most expensive option and only one worth considering if you are committing to Norway long-term with a family.
This is a big difference in culture from the USA to Norway. Many Norwegian families are happy to live in the smaller space of an apartment rather than a detached house.
Where to find rental accommodation
If you're are moving to Norway as a university student, taking a student housing option if one is available is highly recommended. If none are available, ask the international office of the university for a list of local landlords and/or housing options.
It costs a lot for the landlord to advertise on these marketplaces so they often try to find a tenant in alternative ways.
Rights of tenants in Norway
Your most important rights as a tenant are stipulated in your lease agreement and are subject to the laws of the Tenancy Act.
Perhaps the most important right provided by the Tenancy Act is a protection against sudden rent hikes once you are living somewhere. Once you sign a lease, the rent can only be increased in step with the consumer price index in the first three years, and not in the first 12 months of the agreement.
Some other important rights to note include:
- Tenants do not have to pay rent for more than one month in advance
- The landlord cannot enter the dwelling without the tenant’s consent
- The Tenancy Act includes a prohibition against discrimination in tenancy situations
A lease can run for a specified period of at least three years, or for an unspecified period. If n notice period is given, it is automatically three months. While as a tenant you can terminate a lease in writing without reason, a landlord can only do so with justifiable grounds.
What other questions do you have about finding somewhere to live?