International Students Struggle with Housing Problems: Shortage, Sky-high Rental Price, and Abuses

Copenhagen – Many international students in Copenhagen are having trouble finding a place to live. Except the high rental price, they are also bothered by weird expectations of landlords and complicated housing rules.

By Lydia Koon and Lea Kestel

More than 7000 international students come to study in Denmark yearly, but the number dropped from 2011 to 2015. The president of Copenhagen Business School admitted that the lack of student housing affects the number of international students coming to study.

Unaffordable rental price

 According to a study by Nested in 2017, Hong Kong is the third city with the highest rent, and Copenhagen ranked 14th in the scale. However, the housing expenses of students in Copenhagen are far ahead of Hong Kong.

The annual hall fees of universities in Hong Kong are around 10,000 to 15,000 HKD (7,947 to 11,921 DKK), but the monthly rent of a dorm in Copenhagen can cost more than 10,067 HKD (8,000 DKK).

Aneta Lenard, a student from Poland is currently studying a master degree in University of Copenhagen, gave up the room offered by the Housing Foundation with a monthly rent of 8000 DKK, as it was too costly.

Easy and cheap ways to find a room are not available

When the housing options offered by the school are too expensive, students have to use alternative ways to seek for a room: real estate agencies, housing portals, Facebook groups, or wait for the residence halls offered by accommodation offices.

However, the queuing time is more than 2 years, even longer than the duration of a master program. “I didn’t know I will be here 2 years ago, so for me it’s pointless,” says Lenard.

Malou Björnslätt, administrator of Student and Youth Accommodation Office Copenhagen (KKIK) says: “We experience both international and Danish students who unfortunately have to move back home because they couldn’t get accommodation.”

Unfortunately, the shortage problem of student housing cannot be solved in short run. “It looks as if a few investors are planning to build new dorms here, but it will still be quite some time – maybe even years – before these dorms will be ready to move into,” says Björnslätt.

The housing portals are not the most secure choice either. Lenard says: “You can see the offer, but you can’t see the details to contact the landlord and you must pay for it. And still you don’t have any safeguard that that person is real.”

There are only expensive and troublesome options left for international students who gave up the offers by Housing Foundation.

“It’s all about luck”

Biró Norbert from Hungary studies Web Development in Copenhagen School of Design and Technology, he moved 10 times within the 3 years since he arrived.

“I am not the only one, every time when I talk to my friend, they have the trouble.”

“Usually the landlords don’t rent out the places for more than 2 years because there is a weird rule: if you live in a house for more than 2 years, then they cannot kick you out that easily.”

They came to the same conclusion when talking about the housing problem, “you really have to be lucky.”

International student Biró was lucky to find an accommodation with a reasonable rental price.

 

Weird Expectations and Abuses of Landlords

Finding a room through Facebook groups or the housing portals seem to be the only option left, but many of the landlords have weird expectations and would even abuse the tenants.

“The weirdest thing is that roommates should have proper smell and should use nice perfumes.” Lenard says.

“Or that roommate should be British or German because they say: ‘my daughter is learning German so roommate should also be German so she could practice it’.”Sexual inequality adds difficulties for men to rent a flat. Norbert says, “People who rent out the place they usually want people who doesn’t smoke, doesn’t party, doesn’t have an animal, and women under 24.”

He even experienced sexual harassment by a landlord who was gay. “If we didn’t go with the game, he just used the contract saying you can’t live here anymore because according to something inside the contract.” The contract was in Danish, but he had no time to translate it, as the landlord required him to sign it “right here, right now”.

Universities and the government should do more

“I think universities should do more, and offer rooms at more reasonable prices. There should also be some financial support,” Says Lenard.

Norbert suggests the government to building more student houses financially support the international students with the housing.

 

Student Biró Norbert talks about sexual harassment by landlords

This article is written for audience in Hong Kong and could be published on http://www.scmp.com/frontpage/international.