Brick by Brick: Beware the Danish rental market!


The thing about foreigners, like myself, is that they need somewhere to live while they are here in Denmark.

And that, unfortunately, is where it all falls apart for many. I have been super-fortunate, but in solidarity with others I feel I should put pen to paper … or at least finger to keyboard.

Financial rape
At the international organisation where I spend most of my working days, incoming staff lament in unison about the shortage of decent rented accommodation.

Outgoing staff tell tales of retained deposits and extortionate charges for repainting and sanding floors in flats that were in perfectly good condition. One colleague said she felt she had been “financially raped”.

According to June Persson of Relocation Scandinavia, it’s not just our imagination: renting in Copenhagen really is a nightmare.

The market is übercompetitive and she warns there can be in excess of 300 people interested in a nice rental property. “It’s like window shopping at a store that never opens,” she joked.

A renter’s market
If that wasn’t bad enough, the next step is the contract and it’s in Danish legalese.

“The only legal leasing contract is in Danish. We translate everything for our clients, and of particular concern is paragraph 11.

It states all the things you have to do when you leave – if the walls should be freshly painted and the floors sanded, and how the apartment should have been maintained.”

“We take more than 100 photos and submit them to the landlord for agreement. A thousand people move to Copenhagen every month and there just aren’t enough apartments.

Five years ago my clients would have had a choice of five or six apartments to rent,” she explained. “Now we spend all our time searching for accommodation.”

Renting at high risk
It’s not a cheap undertaking. To afford between three and six months rent as a deposit and then pay a month’s rent in advance, you might need to have as much as 80,000 kroner in your back pocket to move to Copenhagen.

For student Christine Morgan that was something she could simply not afford when she arrived as a PhD student at Copenhagen University.

She now faces an anxious wait to find out whether she will retrieve the deposit she badly needs to secure accommodation in New York where she plans to take up a post as a researcher.

“I daren’t just move out because once I’m out of the country I won’t get my money back. That’s why I’m moving in with my boyfriend for a month before I leave. I took lots of photos, but I have nothing in writing from the landlord accepting them.”

Careful who you pay
Christine’s rocky road to getting settled in Copenhagen began with a flat that turned out not to exist.

“I found a great flat online. When I called the contact number I was told I could view the flat only by going over there and looking through the windows. The guy said he lived in London and couldn’t show me round. Luckily I was suspicious, so it didn’t go any further when they asked for a deposit.”

And what about the Danish rental lease? Christine’s was explained to her by the rental agent: “It described bedrooms with double glazing that didn’t exist, and after two freezing winters, I won’t be sad to leave.”

So, if you can afford a relocation agent, get one. If you’re looking at a rental property that just looks too good to be true, it probably doesn’t exist.

And if you’re renting out property in Copenhagen, well you can just laugh all the way to the bank.