The Icelandic housing market differs substantially from the other Nordic countries. Icelandic housing is charecterised by home ownership, although a significant rental sector has emerged in the last years, especially in reaction to increased tourism, which in turn may make it more difficult to find reasonable renting options. Rental Housing in Iceland is generally in short supply and it might prove quite a challenge to find suitable accommodation that fits your budget.
- Arranged by host. Some Icelandic host organisations help arrange housing for their PhD students and guest researchers. The institutions cooperate with local agencies to find temporary residence for their guests.
- Private rental market. Private rentals are usually the first choice for incoming researchers as they tend to be preferred for short-term stays by foreigners temporarily living in the Iceland. Most landlords ask for a residence permit and for a deposit of 1-2 months’ rent. Private housing can be expensive in the Iceland.
When looking for accommodation to rent there are few things you can do.
- Advertise in the newspapers - In the newspaper you will find ads from homeowners who wish to rent out their flats.
- Use the internet - Most rental agents, for a fee, offer an Internet service. Applicants must supply information about what kind of housing they are looking for, which is then compared to the li st of available housing on their database. If they find a flat that matches your descriptions you will be contacted.
- Word-of-mouth - Tell everyone you know, even people you work with that you are looking for an apartment. Often apartments for rent are not advertised in the papers as they are rented through acquaintances.
- Social media. Try using social media venues such as Facebook to recive information about available renting spaces.
Signing a lease of contract of apartment
When you have found the right apartment and both parties have reached an agreement you will be asked to sign a contract called a "leigusamningur". As with all legal documents it is advisable to make sure that you know exactly what you are signing. This lease is a special form that you and the owner both must sign. It must also be witnessed. After signing, this contract is registered or notarised (þinglýst) at the district commissioner's office (Sýslumaður). This is necessary when applying for Rent Subsidy (Húsaleigubætur).
All those who are renting an apartment, who have signed a lease for at least 6 months, and have a legal address in Iceland may apply for compensation. Applications are in the reception areas of your local Social Services office (Félagsþjónustan). Each application is valid for one calendar year; therefore applications must be renewed at the beginning of each year.
- Assisted by a company. There are several relocation companies in Iceland that specialize in assisting PHDs, researchers or other employees moving house and all the issues connected with it. Many of them offer a free consultation so you can see if their services are right for you.
- Buying:. You also have the option of buying a house. It can have its benefits if you are planning to stay for a longer period of time. Loans for housing are available from the banks, the Pension funds (Lífeyrissjóðir) as well as the Icelandic Housing Financing Fund.
The Ministry of Social Affairs implements laws and regulations on housing, and is in charge of policy-making. These are the Act on housing affairs, No. 44/1998, which makes provisions for the administrative structure in the housing sphere, under which an independent state body, the Housing Financing Fund, handles the control and administration of housing issues on behalf of the minister.
Each local authority is responsible for meeting the housing needs of those of its inhabitants who need assistance in securing housing, and is to take the initiative on doing so. For this purpose, the local authority is required to monitor the housing needs in the area. Housing committees in each area are in charge of the management and co-ordination of measures taken on housing by the local authorities.
The Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for applying the Rent Act, No. 36/1994 and the Rent Supplements Act, No. 138/1997. The minister appoints a rent tribunal, which gives opinions on disputes between the parties to a rental agreement on how it is to be applied. The local authorities pay housing allowances, with the social welfare committees generally processing applications.