Survivor’s guide to finding housing in Aarhus

Congratulations, you are moving to Aarhus… without having actually a place to call home, yet. Aarhus is an amazing city—it has earned the liking of writers from New York Times, Forbes, Lonely Planet, Telegraph, Conde Nast Traveler and many other publications; surrounded by gently rolling hills and sitting by the sea of Kattegat; enointed as one of the two cultural capital of Europe for 2017; and hailed as the exporter of the Danish concept of hygge.

Sunrise from Guldsmedgade, from a penthouse apartment unit that very luckily got into my hands by dumb luck.
Despite being rated one of the happinest city in Europe, finding housing in Aarhus can be frustratingly difficult.

Being a predominantly student town, Aarhus faces an acute housing shortage like many of its similar counterparts, ranging from Cambridge that is just across the North Sea to Perth that is halfway across the globe. The search for accommodation is a daunting task even for locals, let alone for international students and expats alike moving into the city.

I have written this guide, based mostly by my previous experience with house searching experience, and by talking to my peers about the issue. This article is by no means a legally binding document, nor does it constitute legal advice. It is a collection of personal advice that is not authoritative. In other words, use your common sense—even though I tried my very best to impart as much of what I have into this article.

Disclaimer: this is an opinion piece based on my personal experience, and does not constitute legal advice.

For the less initiated

A list of quick links if you don’t want to go through the entire guide:

Housing search

Home ownership and address validation

Information and legal help


The search: Sites and portals

You are a student

  • Student Housing Aarhus (http://www.studenthousingaarhus.com) is your best friend
  • Expect a rent of between 2,500–4,000DKK, depending on room type (single room, with/without en-suite bathroom and/or kitchen)
  • Apply early!

If you are a student looking for house, the trick is to start looking early. In fact, once you have been accepted by an institution to study, or receive an education, in Denmark, you are typically automatically eligible to apply for student housing. Student Housing Aarhus (“Ungdomsbolig Aarhus” in Danish) is the only organisation that distributes and manages allocation of student housing in the city of Aarhus.

Student Housing Aarhus allows you to create an application up to 6 months before the start of your education, but you need to be able to provide proof showing that you have been accepted by one of their approved educational institutions (most people I know are either enrolled in Aarhus University or VIA University College, both of which are accepted).

The only exception is that if you are an exchange/Erasmus student: that means you are likely be in the talks with the international student services of your respective institutions, who will have a pre-allocated but limited number of rooms to give out.

I was lucky enough to be given a room in Børglum Kollegiet in Risskov, during my stay in Aarhus as an exchange student
There is no guarantee that the international student services of your educational institution will provide housing for you.
However, trust me that they are really trying their very best.

When I was an exchange student with Aarhus University back in 2011, I was lucky enough to be given a room in Børglum Kollegiet in Risskov. It’s 15-minutes by bike from the university, close to amenities, and have non-square rooms (so you can go all funkytown arranging furniture in your rooms).

The trick to secure an apartment without toiling forever in the waiting list is simply to aim low. You can register for popular dorms, but be sure to include few of the less popular ones (those that are further out), which have shorter waiting list. Your modus operandi will be to secure a roof over your head first, and then worry about travel distances and conveniences later. When you are already in a dorm, you can still keep your application, remove the lower ranking dorms, yet remain on the waiting list for “nicer” ones.

The legend goes Rose waited for an apartment-type dorm in Aarhus…
One-foot-in-the-door trick: Take advantage of “internal moving” in dorms that offer units of different types (rooms & apartments)

Some dormitories offer a mix of housing units, such as standalone apartments (en suite kitchen and bathroom/toilet) and dorm rooms (common kitchen, but bathrooms/toilets may be en suite). Standalone apartment units typically have exorbitant waiting times close to the expected heat death of the universe (joking, but they’re often >5 years) and the truth is, you never get to wait it out. Internal residents get priority to “upgrading” via internal movement, meaning that the to-be vacant units are often snapped up by pre-existing residents before outsiders even get a chance. In other words, internally moving residents are always pushed to the top of the waiting list. In lieu with the “aim low” philosophy, gun for the dorm rooms first—then apply for internal movement at a later date.

Some helpful notes:

  • Renew your application once a month, to accumulate seniority which will place you higher on waiting lists. Create a calendar notification for this monthly ritual—all you need is to log in every month, no matter what day it is.
  • You are only allowed to reject housing offers 3 times before your account is deactivated (read: you lose all accumulated seniority).
  • Student Housing Aarhus is typically always swamped with requests, and stand by stipulated rules. Request of leniencies & exceptions and etc. fall upon deaf ears.

You are employed (or if you’re a very desperate student)

  • BoligPortal (http://www.boligportal.dk) is your best friend. You can also try these two Facebook groups: Housing in Aarhus and Lejligheder til salg og leje i Aarhus (“Apartments for sale and rent in Aarhus”)
  • Expect a rent of between 3,000–5,500dkk for a single room in a shared apartment
  • Expect a rent of between 6,000–10,000dkk for a two-room apartment; 8,500–15,000dkk for a three-room apartment. Prices are dictated mostly be location, not amenities. Studio apartments are uncommon to come by.
  • Avoid the peak periods of November–January, and July–September. These periods coincide with the start of university semesters, which means very impossibly stiff competition at price points that students go for, between 2,500–5,500dkk.
  • Try your luck, send applications in Danish (whenever possible), and to as many places as you want
  • Watch out for scams (see section below)

Unlike the sheltered existence of a student, you’re out and about in the adult world. That means that you don’t get curated listings that are guaranteed to be run by unscrupulous landlords or truthful, honest folks.

Typically, posters are swamped with a motherload of messages and are quickly overwhelmed by requests when their listing goes live. In other words, they do not have the time nor the incentive to process and reply every single message they receive.

The modus operandi is straightforward.
Pick the first 25 respondents, interview those who made the second pass, and settle for the one special roommate whom they’ve made a personal connection with.

Finding themselves knee-deep in requests, posters usually resort to picking the first dozen or so of respondents, and wither the list down to a few, and settle for one thereon. unless they’re hit by an unlucky stroke of 25 completely untenable applicants. Write a quick, concise, and courteous message—but not overly intimate, we all know Scandinavians are uncomfortable with invasion of personal space and strangers in general.

Yup, this is good enough for me.

An alternative tip towards securing housing if you have a slightly padded wallet/bank account is to actually rent an entire share-friendly apartment (“delevenlig” in Danish), and then either (1) sublet the rooms to, or (2) find co-signers to the same contract with, other people by posting ads on the aforementioned Facebook groups or housing sites.

Typically you will never have an issue finding someone to occupy the rooms. The only drawback is that for going for the first option (which is more convenient), is that you have to pay a hefty deposit and prepaid rent upfront, which you can only recover after finding subtenants to your apartment.


Be smart

I can understand the desperation that overwhelms you when you realise that you are facing the prospect of being homeless in Aarhus. However, that does not mean throwing caution to the wind. Watch out for the following signs that you are being scammed:

Devil is in the details

  • Overly generic descriptions. The listing information mentions things like “centrally located”, “quiet neighbourhood”, “close to grocery stores” (Which part of Aarhus? Where? What neighbourhood? Most landlords are keen to show off where the listing is, if in a decent neighbourhood), “rent is 500 euros” a month (Denmark rejected adopting the currency back in 2000, so there’s no reason why we would quote prices in euros), and the likes.
  • Factual discrepancies. “Gas and electricity included in the rent”—welp, most homes in Aarhus are not fed by gas lines.

Validity of address and viewing opportunities

  • Invalid address or address that is not on official records. Verify the address/unit with OIS.dk, Boligejer.dk, or Krak.dk (the former two of which are likely to contain more up-to-date information). Invalid addresses, even if they physically exist, suggests that the place has not been legally inspected and approved for occupancy, therefore will never allow CPR registration. It pays to do your homework. However, note that this does not stop potentially shady landlords from offering the same legitimate unit to multiple people.
  • No chance to view, or difficulties in arranging for viewing, the place in person. A segue from the previous point. Con artists will come up with a myriad of excuses, ranging from vacationing to living abroad, to discourage you from viewing the apartment. You have to do it—either yourself, or have an acquaintance to it on your behalf.
  • No possibility of CPR registration (see next section)

Money transfer & payments

  • Reluctance to accept bank transfers. Landlords that insist on wired transfers are shady as hell. Money is not traceable, and when it leaves your hand, it leaves you for good.
  • Any, I mean ANY, mention of money transfer before seeing the apartment. This is it. If the landlord asks you to transfer any kind of money (typically via Western Union or MoneyGram), then run. RUN, and never ever look back. Any transactions should be performed through bank transfer (so that the money can be traced, although there’s no guarantee on recovery).
This is the only sensible thing to do when your “landlord” instructs you to send money before ANYTHING. They’re the equivalent of demogorgons.
Never transfer money until you have received and signed the contract. If you do, insist on a bank transfer.
  • A sublease is priced higher than the original lease. Most, or virtually all, housing organisations (that includes Student Housing Aarhus) forbids subletting at a rent higher than what the tenant is paying. In other words, it is illegal to profit for subletting in almost all dormitories, and in some private residential units (depending on who owns them). If you are being offered a sublet of a dorm room, double check the price on the dormitory’s webpage—Student Housing Aarhus has a list of all the dormitories it manages. The only exception is when the housing unit is not administered by a housing organisation and does not have a clause in the contract forbiding profiteering through subletting.

CPR registration

This issue is so persistent that it warrants its own section and a very declarative, stern warning on my behalf.

Do not settle for a place without possibility for CPR registration. A legal and legitimate rental unit will ALWAYS allow for CPR registration.
A small collection of many postings on a Facebook group for housing opportunities in Aarhus, showing that some listings do not allow CPR registration.

I have come across so many examples when scouring through Facebook groups and postings about rental contracts without the possibility to “register your CPR”. Before I double down on this nasty piece of cake, a brief introduction to what CPR is: it is a civil registration number that is given to every single person who has the legal right to reside in Denmark. You will get one even if you’re just an exchange student.

A simple motto to live by: no CPR registration, no go.

CPR registration is crucial because it requires you to provide a valid address. By registering your CPR with Aarhus municipality, you will be able to access all services available to legal residents of Denmark, such as (and not restricted to):

  • access to free healthcare
  • getting any kind of insurance
  • opening a bank account
  • receiving salary (through NemKonto; “easy account”)
  • entering a contract with your utility (heating, water, electricity), mobile phone, or Internet service provider

Without a CPR registration, none of the above is possible. CPR is a legal requirement for all residents of Denmark (defined as anyone residing in the country for longer than 3 months, or are paying taxes to the coffers).

You are severely handicapped and uninsured if you have no CPR registration. Never settle for “no CPR registration” as an answer from a housing ad!

A proper residential unit must allow you to register your CPR with it. If you cannot register your CPR at the address, it is very likely because:

  • it is not a legal residence unit, e.g. have not been approved by the municipality for residential occupancy due to safety reasons; the address is at maximum capacity and cannot legally accommodate another tenant; the address simply does not exist; or that it is an office/commercial space that has been illegally repurposed for residential occupancy
  • your landlord is not allowed to rent his/her unit out. This is often the case when the he/she is not allowed to sublet under the conditions of the contract. I have seen one too many cases where students in from the International House attempting to sublet their room, for example (and this is explicitly prohibited)
  • you’re getting a phony contract, likely to be not legally binding and therefore does not offer the chances of CPR registration

If you are found to be residing at an address that you are not registered to, you risk immediate eviction by the municipality or relevant authorities, and will have no place to return to. I hope that this does not happen to anyone—and the best prevention is not to take up a shady unit at the first place.


Let’s talk money: Deposits & prepaid rent

Most rental contracts offered in Aarhus include a 1- to 3-month deposit and a 1- to 3-month prepaid rent, in any combination thereof, or in values in between whatsoever.

The deposit is to protect the homeowner/landlord against damages incurred by the tenant(s) (although they can pursue further payments for extensive damages, such as smashing a gaping hole on the floor, or a collapsed ceiling—all of which I have heard of), and as some form of prepayment for refurbishment at the end of your stay. Landlords are prohibited to restore the apartment to “as new” conditions according to the new housing regulations signed into law in July 2015, but can still restore damages from normal wear and tear. William Birgisson has written a rather comprehensive and easy-to-understand guide towards the changes in the housing law.

The summarised gist:

  1. Landlords cannot make you pay to refurbish your unit to be “as new”. They can only fix damages due to normal wear and tear.
  2. Landlords cannot stipulate a fixed increment in rent per annum, also known as a staircase rent (older contracts usually stipulate rent increments of 100–300dkk per year). This increment is only to be within the range of the inflation of the consumer price index.
  3. Landlords have the right to terminate your contract, but have to (1) provide at least a year’s notice; (2) intend to move into the unit him/herself; and (3) must have resided in the aforementioned unit previously

The best case scenario is typically paying 1 month deposit with no or 1-month prepaid rent. The worst case scenario, which is annoyingly common (and exorbitantly expensive) but perfectly legal, is a 3-month deposit and 3 months prepaid rent. Considering that you also have to pay the first month’s rent upfront, that means up coughing up to 7 times the rental price upfront.

Understanding your rental contract and obligations

If you have secured a rental contract, and are confident that you are dealing with an apartment/room that actually exists, make sure that you understand it before signing it. You are most likely provided with the standard Danish housing contract—remember that if you also receive one in English alongside, it is a “good to have” but a non-legally binding version, in the event of incorrect/inaccurate translations.

The dreaded §11

Susan didn’t read §11 properly. Susan is horrified when she finds out about the extra clauses. Don’t be Susan.
Watch our for §11, the catch-all section where the landlord has the freedom to ammend any of the declared statements in previous sections.

Check out §11. That is the catch-all section that houses all the nasty little bits of details. All statements in this section can override any other statements previously declared in the statement. For example, if the landlord enforces that all tenants in the building to be jointly responsible for cleaning the common corridors/stairwells, it will probably end up in there. This section will either:

  • reduce your rights, or
  • increase your responsibility,

to statements found in §1 through §10.

Moving in

It is compulsory for the landlord to check the apartment with the tenant. Photograph and enumerate all damages, no matter how small or insignificant you think they are, and submit them to your landlord within 14 days of moving in.

Terminating your contract

Your prepaid rent might not coincide with the period of advanced notice you need to give your landlord before moving out—e.g. you may have only paid 1 month of prepaid rent, but is contractually required to give 3 months notice prior to moving out.

Make sure you inform your landlord in ways that can be timestamped and documented. That can be done by sending an email, or a dated letter to your landlord—use these to complement any verbal communications between both parties.

Moving out

Most contracts require the tenant to evict the premises before the actual termination of the contract (e.g. 10 business days before), because the landlord needs the extra time to carry out repairs on, or to refurbish, the apartment. Therefore, it is often necessary to have another place to stay during this period, and most people have two weeks to a month of paying double rent. Make sure that you have accounted for this additional expense in your finances.

Before these works are carried out, make an appointment wiht your landlord and have him/her come by for a visit. Agree with him/her on all the repairs that has to be carried out. The repair/refurbishment costs are usually deducted from your deposit, and the remaining will be transferred back to you at some point after the contract expires.


The Bottom Line

At Bellevue beach, in the height of Danish summer.

Finding housing in Aarhus can be a very trying experience. However, things are getting a little better—the redevelopment of Aarhus harbour (Aarhus Ø) means plenty of additional housing options for people moving to the city.

Keep trying, and don’t give up. With that, I wish you all the best in your search for housing in Aarhus. Held og lykke!


Terry first came to Aarhus in 2011 as an exchange student, and subsequently stayed in the city of smiles from 2012 onwards a PhD student and post graduate researcher. He is still very much in love in the city.