I just moved to a new city for my master studies. I met a man via a social website who is already living here and he offered to rent me his two room apartment for a year while he was studying abroad, then there would be a possibility to extent my stay until the end of my studies but we would share the living space.

Original price seemed very reasonable since it was a private full apartment for myself. Just some weeks before I was supposed to move in he told me he was cancelling his year abroad because of lack of funds. The price did not change, but given the market prices of the region it was still a reasonable amount so I didn't say anything. Now upon coming here I realized he is living in a student apartment (the place is subsidised by the government so rent is much cheaper). Looking at the price lists on the official student dorm's website I suspect he pays around 420€/month for the full apartment. I am paying 480€/month for my single room with furniture, so he is basically paying negative rent.

According to the law of the region (Sweden), it is illegal for you to sublet your apartment for more than 10% above the set price (and I'm just renting a single room). Also I do suspect that subletting a room goes against the student dorm's community rules. So in fact what he is doing is illegal, and possibly against the student housing rules.

The problem is that we have become quite good friends in the short time we have been living together, also the housing situation in the city is quite tough. Waiting lists for students are long and looking for an apartment in the middle of the semester would be quite a nightmare. Also I do prefer living in a quiet two room apartment and not in a dorm, since I want to focus on my studies.

I don't think I am ready to give an ultimatum of "either you lower the rent or I move out", I think it is highly beneficial for both of us to live together, I just want to reach a better price. He said himself that he is very happy with me as a roommate, and I suspect it would be quite hard for him to get another person who would be comfortable living with him and also with the irregularity of the situation. I still have not signed a contract but we have talked about it and he agrees that we should do it ASAP.

How should I approach him about this so I get an optimal price and it does not escalate into an argument?

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    Wouldn't I be the "victim" in this case? Since im not getting any benefit from it but im getting ripped off. I feel it is highly improbable that this law penalizes the tenant, since its whom it is supposed to protect. Do you have any legal knowledge to support that? Also as long as he lowers the price I think everything should be within the law. – h3h325 Sep 10 at 12:36
  • It is perfectly legal to sublet and sublet rooms in your own apartment, there is just a cap on the benefit you can get from it. Community rules are most likely not enforced unless student appartments are classified under swedish law differently from normal ones, which would sound very strange to me. – h3h325 Sep 10 at 12:43
  • The rent for student flats in Sweden are not subsidized. Furthermore, there are most likely no rules against subletting a room. However, subletting a whole flat needs permission but as long as you (the tennant) live there personally you can do whatever you like. – d-b Sep 10 at 18:39
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    Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes. – Arwen Undómiel Sep 11 at 19:47
up vote 108 down vote accepted

New parameters = new deal.

When he first offered to sublet his apartment, it was the FULL room/space with all amenities at your OWN benefit. Which is obviously not the case anymore.

No matter what the law says (and IANAL), you can still nicely ask him what's the new deal. And see how he'll react. Don't make a fuss about it. But explain that, as the apartment is now "shared again", how do you (both) reach a deal to share expenses?

I would wait for a meal time, when both of you are in the kitchen, then talk to him:

By the way, Bob, I was wondering... When we agreed that I would move in in here, you set the price at 480€. I thought that was nice because I had the whole room and conveniences just for me. Now that you're back, how do we proceed?

This way, you show him that the inputs have been modified, and that it should lead to a new result. You ask for his proposal. You don't force anything. You don't even talk about the price at first sight, but also about the room, about the whole thing. Let him understand that things have changed since your agreement, and that you're willing to re-negotiate.

When he shows one card, you adjust your argument, and show one of your cards. Be nice, and don't argue. That's the way a negotiation has to go.

If you see that he's struggling or can't answer, just tell him that you'll both take time to think about it, and set a new informal meeting within some days.

And, depending on his answers, you may have to come back to ask another Q.

But your goal is to keep the room at the lowest and fairest price. So you should not upset Bob. On the other hand, you also have to set boundaries. Nicely :)


This is based on experience about commercial discussions. I haven't rent any room like this with someone, but had to negotiate with professional agencies about new deals when renting. It's more or less the same way to go. Smoothly, and slowly. Just try to show how unfair the new deal is for you, and how it makes it hard for you to stick with it....

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    Don't forget that before you have this discussion you should have a clear idea of what rent you would like based on the situation that now exists. Don't start any negotiations until you know what you want to achieve. – DJClayworth Sep 10 at 14:15
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    The best way I've found to check what sort of rent to expect is to look for alternate accomodation and examine what you get for the rent you'd pay. This has the fringe advantage that you're now looking at alternative places to live and may come across something you like at the same time.. I've done this when looking at places myself, and even applied it when working out what money to expect from jobs. Works quite well. – Ruadhan2300 Sep 10 at 16:00
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    I agree with the answer and that you have to set boundaries. I advise being "friendly", but don't become best friends with your landlord. The man acts as your landlord and charges you rent. Friends don't charge friends excessive rent, especially if they change the conditions and don't proactively factor you into it for your benefit. In other words, friends are supposed to look out for the well-being of fellow friends. There is also the friend versus landlord relationship. Friends and money don't mix well, and finances and unpaid debts tend to ruin many friendships. – Zorkolot Sep 10 at 16:05
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    Because OP said that "housing situation" is quite critical and they expect keeping the rent, as it's quiet. Even the price could be considered fair if alone in a standard student accomodation. I think OP has a clear goal: "stay there, but cheaper if possible". Therefore, involving laws or anything above the level of a quiet discussion that could lead to a gentlemen agreement, with "equal" (if possible) benefits for both sides, is risky IMO. – OldPadawan Sep 10 at 16:12
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    I began thinking you totally do have some arguments. The more you post, though, the more I think you don’t. You’ve mentioned that the current situation, as is, is still competitive in the market. In order to successfully negotiate in the manner @OldPadawan correctly suggests, you always have to have objective standards or benchmarks to measure against. In this situation, according to you, you’re paying market value. When his plans changed, you definitely lost out on a sweet deal, but unless what he is charging you now is unfair, on what basis can you tell him he should lower his price? – A.fm. Sep 10 at 22:06

I am faculty in a Swedish university, so I have at least some passing knowledge of the student housing situation.

I would strongly encourage you to keep the legal angle out of the picture, even though you say in a comment that this is your "strongest point". As you say yourself, your entire living arrangement is highly dubious. Students are not allowed to sublet their apartments, and if your deal becomes public the effect will be that either (1) you are forced to move out, or (2) both of you have to move out because your friend's lease gets cancelled. Queues for student apartments are very long, so option number (2) is a real possibility, which may allow you to put some pressure on your friend, but keep in mind that you lose either way. What legal limits the law sets for apartments that can legally be sublet seems fairly irrelevant here, especially since there is a pretty big grey area in practice (if you go on Blocket, you will find that people have a pretty wild idea of what 10% of the market rate is, and given the housing situation they seem to get away with it). The best you can do with these 10% is to use this number as a baseline for negotiating a fair price (half of his apartment price plus 10%).

Fittingly enough for this Stack Exchange, this leaves you with having to find an interpersonal solution. Your friend is, clearly, ripping you off. You were not friends when he started, but given that you are now, he should be willing to re-negotiate your terms to something more sane over coffee. I don't think you need to beat around the bush too much - tell him that you are unhappy about your deal and want to re-negotiate it. As you say yourself, your friend has to be aware that your deal is all but fair, so if he is reasonably smart he has to be expecting this discussion to come sooner or later.

If he is completely unwilling to give in, he is either financially unable to give in (maybe he depends on this money and his free housing?), or maybe he just isn't such a good friend and would rather have you leave and try to rip off the next person. In both cases, your options are pretty limited - accept this terrible deal, or move out as soon as you have found something else. That said, the equivalent of 480 EUR per month is still quite cheap if you live in a major Swedish city, so it may be hard for you to quickly find something better. In any case I suggest keeping your eyes open for another apartment, because I see a real danger that the association managing the house somehow becomes aware of your arrangement and makes you move out on a fairly short deadline.

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    I said the legality shouldn't be my strongest point. Im living in Uppsala! I just moved in but taking everything into account and knowing how much other people I met pay, I belive it is actually not that much of a bad situation for me, even if im being clearly overcharged. If he is unwilling to renegotiate I think my best option is to start looking for something and move at the end of the semester. – h3h325 Sep 10 at 15:49
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    Debatable whether he's being ripped off, given that he's paying fair-market rate for the apartment, and accepted the offer to begin with. The reason this can happen is that student housing is subsidized, (and almost certainly has a shortage of supply). OP can leave out of some notion of "fairness" but what's the point if he has to just go and pay the same price elsewhere? – John K Sep 11 at 15:24
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    @JohnK : "and accepted the offer to begin with". That was a whole different offer what the OP accepted. After the bait-and-switch it's a whole new thing. – vsz Sep 12 at 6:29

If I had to guess then this is not the first time that this person has offered their 2 bedroom apartment for rent and then change the terms.

I understand that you two have become friends but I suspect that I too would be 100% best friends with the person paying 110% of my mortgage and getting only 1 bedroom out of the deal.

The best thing you can do is to shop around for other apartments right now; shop for at least a week.

Once you have a fallback plan in place then you can try opening up the discussion about how the current price you are paying is not reflected fairly in the current living arrangements.

Since you have not signed a contract yet, make sure to semi-secure new living arrangements just in case the roommate is not willing to reach an amicable agreement in regards to the rent.

  • Not just the mortgage, but also the renovation, upkeep and utility fees. Also, if he has e-mail/text exchanges stating the terms of the lease, those are highly likely to be considered a valid contract. – Rogem Sep 11 at 19:33

There are two major factors that can swing this:

  • Illegal rates
  • Supply and demand

Before I come back to this, here are a few suggestions:

  • First off, you can sit with him and suggest a reasonable rent. Ask him if he can afford to lower the rent. Be simple and straightforward. Simply ask for lower rent.

  • Compare your living situation with comparable situations and show the rent is too high. He may not realize he's overcharging.

  • Appeal to his sense of reason. Ask if he could lower the rent and you could use the money.

  • Lie. If he's really unwilling to budge, you can say something like "I love living here but it's eating up all my money. I found this place across town that I might be able to get into for a cheaper price." He may hear about this competitive rate and be willing to lower his as you offer him as a friend, a solid tenant, and a filled vacancy. It would be much better if you actually found a place that you can use as leverage but the empty threat of moving might get him to renegotiate.

  • Negotiate services for rent. Maybe offer to clean more, mow the lawn, shovel snow, wash windows, take care of his dog, whatever he may need you to do. Of course this will only help if he takes off a good chunk of rent.

  • Finally, bring the law into this. Show him the numbers how he's charging too much. Of course, I'd consider this as a final option as it's most likely to create the most amount of tension. If he doesn't budge and you insist on paying less, do whatever means necessary to legally force him to comply.

Now to go back to what I was saying at the top, illegal rates are your leverage. If your end goal is to get cheaper rent, this is your ultimate tool. He can't argue with the law but it may end up destroying your healthy friendship and tenant/landlord relationship. There, he may try to sabotage you. Take your stuff, lose your stuff, offer a less-than-stellar experience, not perform maintenance, and generally underperform. Best case is he complies and he has no hard feelings, but I imagine if that were the case, he would've renegotiated your rate without bringing in the law.

As for supply and demand, even though he law dictates that your rent shouldn't be so high, the fact is you have a good deal and it's hard to get housing for students. You are happy with what you have. Sure you're overpaying in the eyes of the law but don't compare yourself to other people. Do you think you're getting a good deal? Yes? If so, you can ask to renegotiate but don't press to hard to ruin your relationship. If your deal isn't good, you don't have too much to lose.

Can you afford the rent but don't want to pay more than you have to? Well then again, don't ruin what good deal you have just to save some money. If you can't afford it, then you have to do what you have to do to pay less, even if it means not being friends.

Your speculation that he pays 420 Euros/month is only speculation. So if you paid a max of 462 Euros/mo, it would be legal. Is it worth arguing over the 18 Euros? If you're paying 480 and he's paying ~437 or more per month, that's also legal. Is it possible he's paying 437/mo? The monetary margins seem pretty low. You're paying 14% more than you speculate he's paying, only 4% above the legal limit. Granted it's illegal but since you're speculating, there is no evidence he's ripping you off, unless you can prove his rent.

One more thing to keep in mind. Are you getting benefits any other way that is unusual? Do you get free covered parking, pets allowed, all utilities included, ultra high-speed internet, a home gym, luxury kitchen with stainless steel appliance and granite counters? Remember to factor this in. Maybe he renovated the place and needs to recoup some costs.

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    I think the legality of it shouldn't be my strongest point. Since I dont think it would save me that much money. The current situation is that Im sharing an apartment and im paying 115% of the bill. Which is ridiculous even taking into account supply and demand. The legal issue stands for subleting your entire apparment, then you would be legally able to charge 110% of the price. Im only subleting a room, and even If I was renting the entire appartment It would be still too high. That goes to show how much im being overcharged. He defenitely knows that he is overcharging me. – h3h325 Sep 10 at 14:03
  • Okay, I gotcha. However then, my other points still stand. It's amazing how oblivious some people are honestly so I'd give him the benefit of a doubt and maybe he realizes he's overcharging but doesn't realize by a ridiculous amount. Appeal to his sense of reason and state that you're subletting a room for over the appropriate cost for an entire unit. – Greg Sep 10 at 16:14
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    -1 for the 4th bullet point - a lie like that is a really bad idea, if he turns around and calls the bluff it would not work out well for the OP. – motosubatsu Sep 10 at 16:15
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    Call it a lie, call it an empty threat. OP says "hey I'm gonna move out to some cheaper place over here". If he gets caught, what happens? Landlord is gonna hate him for wanting to move but doesn't? – Greg Sep 10 at 16:22
  • @Greg well it's both a lie and an empty threat. And yes I'd probably expect it to sour the Landlord's opinion of the OP. After all would you like a roommate who lied to you to try and reduce the rent they were paying? Sharing a two-bed apartment with a landlord who no longer likes/trusts you doesn't sound like fun and the OP specifically mentioned looking for solutions that didn't escalate the situation into an argument. – motosubatsu Sep 11 at 12:23

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