There is allegedly a shortage of housing available for rent in Malmö at the moment , but you’d never know it based on our experience over the past week.
The weekend before last Dr. Darling filled out an online form with one of the larger private rental management companies in town. (Not to be confused with the one that manages city-owned buildings.) The following Monday I got a phone call inviting us to take a look at a large, two-bedroom apartment in the city center. We made an appointment with the current occupants to see it the very next evening.
We knew it was within our budget and was ideally located for commuting before we got there, but we had heard so many horror stories from other people looking for decent apartments that we purposely kept our expectations pretty low. But within minutes of walking through it we both knew we could be very comfortable living there.
First off, it’s nearly twice the size of our current place. It’s also on the top floor of the building (six stories total) so there are no apartments above it and just one neighbor on the same landing. The kitchen has a dishwasher installed that the current occupants are willing to sell, the laundry room has two washing machines and is located just an elevator ride down to the basement. There is also indoor bicycle parking (though not quite as conveniently located as the laundry room…but hey, you can’t have everything). And perhaps best of all, a balcony.
So we headed home talking about how neither one of us could believe that the first apartment we’ve seen is actually one we would want to live in…and then immediately begin strategizing for how best to pursue the opportunity. We knew we were one of three couples that had been invited to see it…and the lease would probably go to whomever could move in closest to March 1.
This is where the drama really begins. Swedish contract law regarding rental property requires tenants to give an interminable THREE MONTHS notice of their intention to move out…meaning you can leave whenever you want but you’re legally obligated to pay the rent for three months unless the landlord has someone else who can move in before the notice period is up. Even more ridiculous is that this three month period of indentured servitude does not begun until the month AFTER you’ve given formal notice.
This meant that we had to be prepared to possibly pay double rent for up to two months in order to get the new place. It also meant that we had to be offered the lease, pass the financial/background check and give formal notice to the Landlord From Hell by January 31st or else we could be stuck with double rent for three months…and neither one of us was sure we wanted to spend our savings that way.
The last couple did not actually see the apartment until Thursday night, so Friday morning was the earliest that the lucky winner would be decided. When I got the call that the apartment was ours if we passed the background check, I was thrilled and sick all at the same time. I knew we’d breeze through the financial end of it, but part of the routine is to get a reference from the current landlord…and ours is not exactly thrilled with us. Furthermore, the leasing agent couldn’t even start the background check until we came into her office in Malmö and signed a form on Monday morning. (The office closed at noon on Friday so that was not an option.)
So we appeared at her office bright and early yesterday morning (Jan. 30th) to sign the form, warn her of our landlord’s well-documented prejudice against gays, foreigners and people who expect to have acceptable levels of fresh air circulating through their homes (“strike three, we’re out!”), and then hold our breath that she could get the information she needed in the ensuing 24 hours.
To our amazement, she called just after lunch to say that not only had we passed the background check with flying colors and she was willing to sign a lease with us beginning March 15 instead of March 1, but the landlord’s common law wife AKA Cruella DeVille had actually said nice things about us as tenants.
This can only mean one of two things: 1) that against all evidence to the contrary, Cruella is actually smart enough to realize that a bad reference will only keep us in their airless apartment longer, or B) Hell Has Frozen Over.
If I were a betting person I’d take odds on the latter.