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Things that surprise foreigners who move into a housing cooperative in Norway

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
Things that surprise foreigners who move into a housing cooperative in Norway
Foreigners who choose to purchase a co-owned apartment in Norway are often taken aback by certain aspects of living in a housing cooperative. Photo by Gunnar Ridderström on Unsplash

Depending on whether you're renting or buying a co-owned apartment in Norway, your experience is likely to be very different. Some aspects of life in a housing cooperative in Norway might even surprise foreigners.

Looking to move? Find your next rental apartment here.


If you're renting an apartment in a housing cooperative in Norway, you won't be in for many surprises. By Norwegian law, all the costs and services need to be included in the price of your rent, and your rental contract should give you a predictable framework to follow.

Then, landlords can raise rent on multi-year contracts in line with the changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Still, if you're on a one-year contract, you are exposed to the risk of your landlord hiking up your price once your initial contract expires or when the new contract is signed.

You can find out more about the details that apply to renting in Norway in our explainer here.

Norwegian housing cooperatives 101

In Norway, purchasing a home in a housing cooperative (called a borettslag in Norwegian) is pretty common. Generally speaking, there are two types of home ownership in Norway – self-owned homes and co-owner homes.

Self-owned homes refer to properties that individuals privately own. On the other hand, co-owned homes are properties owned by a housing cooperative, where multiple co-owners or unit holders collectively own the property.

READ MORE: The key things you need to know about Norwegian housing associations

Despite the shared ownership, each co-owner enjoys exclusive rights to use their individual home.

While the concept of self-owned homes is well-established in Europe, the cooperative housing model may be less familiar to some individuals.

However, housing cooperatives are a prevalent and widely accepted method of property ownership in Norway.

Still, the fact that such cooperatives are common in the country doesn't mean that they are not characterised by a few quirks that newcomers to Norway might not be used to.



We're starting our rundown of borettslag peculiarities by explaining the concept of dugnad.

Each year, all the co-owners in a housing cooperative get together and do voluntary work in the communal areas, most often in the spring, in April or May.

This usually involves intensive gardening, fixing fences, small painting jobs, trimming hedges, and similar activities. An entire day – or weekend – is usually set aside for dugnad.

OPINION: Why you should get involved with ‘dugnad’ instead of skiving off

Once the chores have been completed, a lot of cooperatives host a common meal or barbeque (note that the participants also provide the food, so this also falls within the remit of dugnad).

As many a guidebook to Norwegian culture will tell you, Norwegians tend to be the friendliest while meeting up for dugnad. Neighbours you barely talk to throughout the year start calling you by name, smiling a lot, and engaging in small talk… a memorable experience.

Shared debt (fellesgjedt & felleskostnader)

In order to maintain the property, the housing cooperative takes out credit lines, which means that it takes on shared debt (fellesgjedt).

As a co-owner, this will directly affect your finances, as the repayment will be divided among the co-owners and stated as monthly shared debt/expenses (felleskostnader).

Even in a country as wealthy as Norway, there is no free lunch. If your borettslag decides to undertake the major project of, for example, redoing the facade of an entire building, expect your monthly shared debt expenses to soar.

Usually, such major projects are voted on during the cooperative's annual general meeting (more on that later). Just keep in mind that big proposals accepted at these meetings directly affect your wallet.

What is a reasonable level of monthly shared costs one can expect to pay in a borettslag, you ask? Unfortunately, it's hard to give a one-size-fits-all answer, as these expenses depend on the credit lines that individual cooperatives have taken out.

However, when buying a home, many people will try to aim for a home where shared costs amount to less than 5,000 or 6,000 kroner a month.


The cooperative's board (styret)

Each housing cooperative has a board (styret) consisting of several members (styremedlemmer) and a leader (styreleder).

The board and its leader manage the housing cooperative and look after the residents' common interests.

It's charged with keeping track of the finances, collecting shared expenses, paying bills, handling different maintenance tasks, and holding board meetings.

The board is also tasked with implementing the decisions made at the general meeting and managing the property ​​for the benefit of the residents.

Generally speaking, the board is elected by the co-owners of the housing cooperative for a period of two years.

As a co-owner, you can contact the board with any questions that fall within its responsibilities, such as those involving repairs or just complaints or suggestions.

Note that the board members usually receive a fee for their work. You can expect this fee to be moderate, that is, around 1,000 kroner per month.


Annual general meetings (årsmøtet)

A cooperative's annual general meeting (årsmøtet in Norwegian) is its highest governing body, and all co-owners have the right to appear at the meeting and voice any concerns or comments they might have.

Housing cooperatives in Norway hold an annual general meeting before the end of June. Typically, you'll receive a notification a week or two in advance.

During the meeting, co-owners review the previous year's financial accounts and reports and discuss relevant topics that need attention.

READ MORE: Your essential guide to housing cooperative general meetings in Norway

You can also submit your own proposals during the general meeting. Once all the agenda items are discussed, the general meeting is concluded, and the next step is to vote on the submitted items.

Keep in mind that accepted proposals, particularly those involving expensive projects like significant renovations, can impact your monthly payments and shared debt.


Shared common areas

Many housing cooperatives will have common areas, including laundry rooms, storage spaces, recreational spaces, and other shared facilities. Usually, such common areas are accessible to all co-owners.

The specific rules regarding access, scheduling, and usage of these areas are usually outlined in the cooperative's bylaws or regulations. Often, you'll find a list of rules that apply posted close to the entrance to these areas.

Note that co-owners usually bear the costs of the maintenance, cleaning, and repairs of common areas – this, too, is something often voted on during general meetings.

Some common areas, like laundry rooms, may require booking or scheduling to ensure equal access for all co-owners. Different cooperatives have different systems in place to manage reservations.

Co-owners are typically expected to respect and take care of the common areas. This includes respecting rules for their use, keeping the areas clean, and reporting any damages or issues to the board.

Make sure to familiarise yourself with the specific rules and guidelines in your housing cooperative regarding common areas to avoid conflicts and misunderstandings.


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