Living in Finland

Responsibilities of a tenant in Finland

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Are you renting a flat in Finland? Do you know what are the responsibilities of a tenant in Finland? Do you know them especially with regards to the apartment upkeep and maintenance? In a previous blog post, we explained the general gist of apartment ownership in Finland. In this blog post, we’ll go through the responsibilities of a tenant in Finland. We focus especially on upkeep and maintenance although we cover other areas as well.

Checking the apartment at the start and at the end

When the landlord gives you the keys and allows you to move in, the apartment should be empty and clean. The apartment should be like that also when you give up the keys at the end of your lease period. 

You may suggest to your landlord that you two inspect the apartment together at the beginning of the lease period. You should document any possible larger marks or dents in the surfaces or fixtures. This way you’ll both know the actual condition of the apartment at the start of your lease. You can use these to compare it to its condition at the end.

It may be a good idea to document the apartment with photos. At the end of the rental period your landlord may want to withhold a part of your security deposit as compensation for damage. If you have done no damage, the landlord should return the deposit to you fully. 

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Responsibilities of a tenant: normal wear and tear

Clearly if you live in an apartment for a long time, the surfaces will wear to some extent. Normal wear is allowed. Tenants are not expected to have the apartment painted at the end as they are for example in Germany.

Sometimes a landlord has a different definition of what normal wear is than the tenant. This may give rise to disputes. There’s really no way to give a clear and finite definition of normal wear. A person living alone won’t normally produce equal amount of wear and tear to a family of five. Normal wear is what happens to the apartment as time goes by, and as the apartment is properly used.

Usually landlords allow ordinary, normal nail holes in the walls for hanging pictures and such. Remember, you cannot paint or put new wallpaper on the walls unless your landlord gives a permission for it.

Often landlords don’t allow pets, such as dogs or cats, in the apartment. They may damage the flooring or door frames with their claws. But even if your landlord allows pets, claw marks on walls, floors, or door frames are not normal wear. Nor are broken fixtures, tears in wallpaper, children’s drawings on the walls, heal marks on hardwood floors, etc. You will be responsible for those.

Responsibilities of a tenant in Finland: maintenance 

Every apartment in Finland comes equipped with a stove, an oven, and a refrigerator. Some come with a dishwasher and/or a freezer. No matter what equipment there is, you are responsible for their proper maintenance including cleaning them regularly.

The landlord should equip you with the manuals so that you know how to use and maintain them properly. If the apartment has a ventilation system which requires filters being regularly changed or cleaned, the landlord should give you instructions as to how to do it. You are also expected to follow these instructions. Same goes with any other type of fixture or appliance that is in the apartment when you rent it. 

One important fixture or appliance are fire detectors. Make sure the apartment has them in proper places and make sure that you change their batteries at regular intervals.

You have to notify your landlord of any damage that occurs or if something belonging to the apartments breaks down. If you neglect this duty and something more serious happens as a result, you may be held accountable. For example, make sure you notify your landlord if the dishwasher makes funny sounds. It may be broken and this might result in water damage.

If you travel for an extended period of time, let the landlord know in case something happens and he/she needs to get into the apartment. 

Responsibilities of a tenant in Finland extend beyond the four walls of the apartment. They also extend to the common areas of the building.

Responsibilities of a tenant: the apartment building

The apartment building itself most likely has its own rules and instructions relating to recycling, trash disposal, parking, use of bike sheds, sauna and laundry rooms, etc.

The apartment building probably also has instructions about where you can smoke. Landlords these days quite rarely allow smoking in apartments. Some apartment buildings have also forbidden smoking on the balconies. Instead they may have designated areas outdoors for smoking. 

The apartment building most likely has designated quiet times. These can be for example from 10 at night to 7 in the morning. This means that you should refrain from making noise during those times in your apartment and in the common areas. You can do normal things such take a shower, flush the toilet, watch tv, etc. You should just not have the tv blasting, have your kids play loudly, play a musical instrument, use the vacuum, move furniture around, ect. 

The landlord should give you the apartment building rules. Your responsibility as a tenant is to follow these rules. 

Towards the neighbors

When living in an apartment building there’s always noise coming from the yard, the corridor, the street, and even from apartments around yours. That’s part of living in an apartment building. But normal noise can turn into noise that’s bothersome and even be a cause for an eviction: a dog barking non-stop, playing the piano for hours on end, or continuously listening to music at full blast. 

Although Finns are usually direct and straightforward communicators, this stereotype might not hold among neighbors in a Finnish apartment building. You may see or be a target of an anonymous note on the hallway notice board. Such notes usually detail some fraction or another that a neighbor feels he/she may have suffered. You may even receive a note like this through your mailbox. 

Although you may have lived according to every possible rule imaginable, you may still receive such a note. One reason for that is that it is notoriously difficult to trace the origin of a disturbing noise in an apartment building. Other reason might be just that we humans are very different and our tolerance for different type of behavior varies a great deal.

To lower the likelihood that anything of this sort happens to you, you may at the beginning of your tenancy post a short note on the notice board introducing yourself. You may for example tell your neighbors that you are moving in on a certain day and apologize in advance for any possible noise and inconvenience this might cause your neighbors. You can do the same when you are having your housewarming party or any other noise-producing festivity. People tend to be more understanding of the behavior of people they know, or if they know the reason for the noise and when they know they can expect the noise to end.

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