Know what housing options are there in Finland
In a country that praises itself on social justice and equality, this is also reflected on what choices exist when looking for a rental home
Renting an apartment or house is, more often than not, a stressful event. Usually the places we like are over budget or the ones within budget are not that great (not a good neighbourhood, old house, too small, not enough connections to public transport, etc).
It can be specially stressful when done in a foreign country where we don’t know the language, laws, rules, where to go or who to talk to. Yes, Google can help. But it can also offer so much varied information that makes it all even more confusing. To help with this matter we are going to show different ways to rent an apartment or house in Finland and what to do with each option.
There are several ways one can find a rental home in this country: private-owned rentals, rental companies, municipality housing and student housing.
First of all, when renting in any kind of situation foreigners must be aware that companies and private owners alike can legally look online through your records. This means, to confirm the information given by the applicant, they can check, through legal channels created for this exact purpose, to see if a person applying to a house/apartment has:
- A job (if it is permanent or is possible to be in the near future).
- Any kind of debts.
- A criminal record (and of what kind).
- Is studying (to make sure their school information is up to date and correct).
- Other personal information (where they are from and if legal documents are in order, if they have married or not, if they have kids or not, etc).
This is, of course, to make sure the information given by the applicant is truthful and to see if one will be able to afford the rent for the foreseeable future. All this information will be asked of every person moving into the home and is done for anyone applying, whether they are Finnish or foreigner.
Another thing to be aware of is: when a person goes to see an apartment or house, they have to apply to get it. Meaning there can be several people interested in the same rental, but who gets it depends on who is (or seems to be) most reliable according to the information given by the applicant and also by the interaction between the interested parties when going to see the house (particularly in private-owned rentals). It is not a “first come, first served” basis decision.
Considering this, when applying -particularly for a company rental, city or student housing- a person has to provide:
- Working contract (or student information, if student).
- Proof of salary (last 2, 3 or 6 pay slips depending on the company/private owner and what they ask for exactly).
- If foreigner, all official documents proving that one is living in Finland legally (Police, Maistraatti, Kela, Migri and so on).
All this information and documents are required from every person moving into the house and not just the one who’s name is on the rental contract. So, for example, if a family of four or a group of friends wants to rent a place, this information will be asked of everyone moving in.
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The housing allowance
Another important aspect to be taken into account is the fact that Kela offers housing allowance, whether the home is a rental, owned or partially owned homes as well, that are used year round.
The general housing allowance is provided to low-income persons or households and it can amount up to 80% of reasonable housing expenses (rent, separately paid water and heating charges).
To apply, all personal information, of every person moving into the home, needs to be provided and which household gets what and how much, is decided by Kela, by calculating incomes and assets per the entire household and not per person. So, for example, if a couple is applying for a housing allowance, their incomes are going to be taken into account together and not separately.
There are different types of Kela housing allowances and supplements: General Housing Allowance; Housing Allowance for Pensioners; Housing Supplement for Students and Housing Assistance for Conscripts.
For more detailed information and to see which one is directed at one’s particular situation, we advise to go to the local Kela offices. You can also get some additional information if you click HERE
Now, how much the rents and deposits are, obviously depends on the area, city and who is renting. But here are different options with different prices for the same type of housing.
As previously mentioned, one can mostly find a home through rental companies like Asuntosäätiö, Sato, Forenom and others of the type or through private owned houses. Some are more expensive than others, even for the same area, but that also depends if the homes the company is renting are state-subsidised or not, meaning if they are valid for a Kela allowance.
The applications can be done online or in person, by stating what kind of home is needed, where and within what budget. How long the application is valid for and how much are the deposits needed to secure a rental, depends on each company’s parameters, so always check each company’s website thoroughly.
Private owned or state-subsidised rentals
As for the private owned rentals that depends also on who is renting and not necessarily always the area or type of house. To find such homes, there are websites like Vuokraovi, Oikotie or Asunnonvuokraus that have a national wide range of people looking for a rental or who have a home to rent. These websites gather information from several landlords, and also have ads for private-owned, state-funded and municipal rental dwellings.
But there is also the options of council housing and student housing which are both subsidised by the government and cheaper, known in Finland as 'ARAVA dwellings'.
When it comes to council housing this means that city halls, across the country, also have rentals available for comparatively cheaper prices than companies or private-owned homes. However, such rentals are available only to people in more need. Which means that the applicants are chosen depending on their social and financial need, assets and urgency of housing.
The criteria for selection is decided and specified by the government, annually, and priority is given to homeless applicants or those in desperate need of housing, such as victims of domestic abuse, youth kicked out from their homes, refugees, and people in similarly dire situations. The waiting period for these homes can be up to two years or more, if in the Helsinki area.
When it comes to student housing there is HOAS and SOA. HOAS is an organisation created by a group of students about 45 years ago in the Helsinki region and specifically designed to help students find an affordable rental home in the Uusimaa area. Typically they are much cheaper and the way to apply is basically similar to the other platforms. The difference is that this is for students only and the waiting period can be up to 1 year or more.
The applicants have to be full time students, a degree student, someone entitled to student financial aid and if the school is in Helsinki or the surrounding municipalities. However not all schools and types of study fit this criteria, so it is best to contact the HOAS offices directly for more specific and detailed information. Underage people can also apply if they have their guardian's consent and fill in their information on the form.
In this particular platform the credit information of an applicant and the guardian of an underage applicant is always checked automatically by Suomen Asiakastieto, when an application is submitted, so make sure all the information given is correct.
In the case of SOA (Suomen Opiskelija Asunnot SOA RY) this is the Finnish Associations of Student Housing Organisations that lists all student organisations across Finland that work the same way as HOAS but operate in other cities of the country outside the capital area.
Always bear in mind
Moving forward, always bear in mind the following:
- In any of these platforms there is always a waiting list, specially in the Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa region.
- In all of these platforms there are people who have priority, for example: a family with kids, single-parent families or pregnant women take precedence over someone who already has a home, is single and is in no hurry to move right away.
Also remember that, when applying for a rental home, whichever a person's situation or whichever housing platform being used, always make sure the information given is up to date and correct as the validity of the application depends on this.