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The responsibilities of a tenant in the Finnish law

The Finnish law concerning apartment rentals gives the tenant two major responsibilities: 1) they must pay the rent on time and 2) they must take good care of the apartment, which basically means that the apartment must not be in a worse condition when the tenant leaves than it was when they arrived. Some wear and tear is okay, but outright damage is not.

What is considered good care?

The tenant must follow the house rules, keep the apartment clean and safe, only use it as their home and take reasonable care in their everyday life to prevent damage to the apartment, which remains the landlord’s property. The tenant is responsible for accidental damage and damage caused by neglect or ignorance as much as they are responsible for any intentional damage done on purpose inside their apartment or elsewhere on the property. This applies even if the damage was caused by the tenant’s children, other family members or guests. For this reason it is a good idea to get home contents insurance for the duration of the tenancy, so that one is covered for damages that could not be avoided. That way most of the costs of fixing any unexpected damages will be paid by the insurance company.

It is worth noting that for full cover, the insurance company also expects the tenant to be careful and avoid hazardous activities – we recommend that you read the terms and conditions of any insurance agreement carefully so that you know what is expected from you by the insurance company and in which cases they will refuse to pay.

The apartment must be used for normal living as a home, as opposed to using it as a bed and breakfast or another type of business property. This is because the apartment is intended to house only a limited number of people, and a stream of non-residents in the flat can be expected to create a lot more wear and tear than the tenant’s family or the occasional friend would. This is also why the landlord asks for the details of all the people moving in to the apartment in the rental application, as well as information about pets and smoking – to get an idea of how many people will be using the apartment, and what level of wear and tear can be expected, since it all influences the scale of repairs required at the end of the tenancy.

Normal wear and tear arising from normal living mainly covers some scuffing of floors, small markings on the walls and lightening or yellowing of surface materials as they are exposed to the sun. As noted, the tenant must take care that they do not cause damange to the apartment on purpose, by accident or as a result of neglect.

What is the difference between the different causes of damage?

  • Accidental damage: You were carrying in a new shelf to the apartment with your friend, your grip slipped and one end of the falling shelf created a big dent and a long scratch as it was dragged along the floor for a bit.
  • Neglectful damage: You left the dishwasher on, unsupervised, when leaving home. A blockage occured because food or an etiquette label came loose and blocked the drain. This caused the dishwasher to overflow, so the soapy water from the machine got on the floor and went under the cupboards and appliances. To prevent permanent moisture damage, the kitchen must be inspected and fixed by the maintenance company, which naturally costs money.
  • Damage on purpose: You had guests over, one of them got angry and punched a wall – only then realising it was a lot thinner than they thought, because a hole was created. The tenant is responsible for any damage caused by their guests, for any reason, as though it was their own doing.

Also: If you, at any point of your tenancy, detect any faults in the apartment or its appliances, report those to the maintenance company’s helpline where the staff are ready to receive calls around the clock and they will also try to help you in English if that is needed. The failure to report issues can also constitute neglect, if the failure to act causes the problem to escalate and more damage occurs.

Reporting emergencies

Where the problem forms an immediate threat to safety, people’s lives or property, first phone the emergency services (112), go to a safe place away from danger and alert others if possible. Only then report the issue to the maintenance team. The emergency services call centre has staff who speak English and they also offer a 112 mobile application by Digia which has an English text interface and the sharing of GPS location as options so that you do not have to worry if you are not sure about the address or what to do. We recommend downloading the app and familiarising yourself with it.

Insurance cover during tenancy

The rental contract does not include automatic house contents insurance and we recommend that all tenants find themselves a voluntary insurance policy to cover their apartment. This will help the tenant in cases where there is extensive accidental or neglectful damage to the apartment, as the insurance company will help with the costs if the insurance terms and conditions have been followed. When comparing insurance offers, it is good idea to carefully check at least the monthly or annual premium (insurance charge payable by the insured customer) as well as the deductible amounts of different policies and providers. The latter are the sums that the insurance company will not cover and which is the responsibility of the tenant.

If you have house contents insurance and you wish to submit a claim for example for theft or malicious damage to your property, your insurance company may need you to submit a copy of a police report regarding the incident as evidence. We recommend checking the terms and conditions of your insurance for details. You can report an offence to the police (opens in a new tab) either at the nearest police station or online. The Finnish police website does offer English as a language option.

Non-payment of rent

It is the duty of the tenant to pay rent on time as per the law regulating apartment rentals in Finland. Should they fail to do so, a reminder will be sent to them. If the tenant still does not act and pay the outstanding amount, recovery of receivables will be initiated and a surcharge is applied to the outstanding amount by the debt recovery agency.

If the tenant fails to pay their rent for two consecutive months, valid grounds for terminating the rental contract exist and the landlord can ask the tenant to vacate the apartment after notifying them of the intent to terminate the contract. A court order for eviction can also be sought, compelling the tenant to move. If the deposit does not cover all the financial losses caused by the tenant, the extra amount will be billed to the tenant. Recovery of receivables will be pursued also for those amounts, and where the amount is overdue for over 60 days or the debt recovery officer has found the tenant insolvent, the information regarding payment default can be entered to the credit information register, resulting in a negative credit rating.

What the security deposit can and cannot be used for?

The apartment is inspected at the end of the tenancy the same way it was checked in the beginning of the tenancy. If everything is okay with the apartment and it is ready for the next tenant to move in, the deposit will be returned to the departing tenant. If there are any major repairs that have to be made, payments are still outstanding or the cleaning according to a set checklist is not satisfactory, the costs for remedying any of those issues can be deducted from the deposit.

The security deposit does not mean that the tenant would not have to pay rent for two months at some point of their tenancy, as it is not meant to cover rent. The landlord cannot use the money during the tenancy and the rental security is held separate from the company’s business account to ensure that the funds are not used for everyday expenses. If there are damages that have to be fixed during the tenancy and which the tenant is liable for, they will be invoiced to the tenant – they will not be routinely deducted from the security amount.

Bad credit – so what?

A bad credit record showing payment defaults has practical consequences: unsettled debts and payment defaults indicate to companies basing their operations on trust that the person they are dealing with does not intend to honour their commitments, financial or otherwise. Many companies are also small and all revenues are important for their business, and therefore they are likely to take action early in the event of non-payment to receive the funds owed to them and avoid landing up in financial difficulties themselves, since they do not have the cash reserves of large international corporations.

Companies running credit checks include a) local banks offering home loans and credit cards, b) shops where items can be paid in instalments or invoiced, c) phone companies, d) landlords, both private and public. Even social housing providers who have received funding from the government are not required to accept a housing application from an applicant who has outstanding debts with them and has no intention to pay, as evidenced by the lack of a settlement agreement or a repayment schedule.

Renting a flat with no intention to pay is a very poor strategy indeed; such cases have been successfully prosecuted as fraud in 2020, and thus the act can not only stain one’s credit record, but also create a criminal record. If one is not a Finnish or EEA national, two or more criminal convictions from Finland or a guilty verdict concerning a crime which carries a sentence of imprisonment can influence one’s residence permit extension or permanent residence permit application at Migri (Finnish Immigration Service). Running up a tab and then running away is a bad idea even if one didn’t expect to return to Finland later on, as nowadays many countries exchange information on overseas conviction history and convictions in absentia, so that the person is not present in court, are possible in Finland.

Lastly…

The fact of the matter is that most people pay their rent as agreed and look after the space in which they live with great care. After all, it is their home, located in their neighbourhood. All the information provided to our tenants aims to create a shared understanding of what is expected from everyone, whether they’ve lived in Kauhajoki for 7 months or 70 years. A common code of conduct also helps even out any differences in people’s ideas about what they can expect from their landlord and their neighbours.

Mistakes, misunderstandings and unexpected things can happen, but we hope that a lack of information about the apartment rental process does not contribute to any problems along the way. For this reason we also welcome all tenants to contact our customer support team if they are unsure about anything, if they are unhappy about something related to the property, or if their circumstances change and they for example experience difficulties with organising rent payments. Letting the company know about issues in advance or as early as possible is always better than only addressing things after problems have escalated.

We as a company hope you enjoy your time in Kauhajoki, feel that this is a place that you can call your home and welcome you to explore everything that the city and its surroundings have to offer.

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