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Can you really be fined for skipping 'dugnad' in Norway?

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
Can you really be fined for skipping 'dugnad' in Norway?
Some housing associations have been dishing out fines to residents who skip dugnad. However, this isn't allowed. Pictured is a wheelbarrow in a garden. Photo by Jörg Hofmeier on Unsplash

Skipping the seemingly voluntary act of 'dugnad' has seen some residents in Norwegian housing associations fined. But is this allowed, and what do the rules say?


Dugnad is the Norwegian act of pulling together for the greater good, and covers a number of acts an individual or group of people can undertake. 

While the closest English translation is 'voluntary work', it can mean anything from school kids raising money for a school trip by selling toilet rolls, to the residents of a housing block meeting up to clean the communal areas. 

The latter example has proved controversial, as even though dugnad is supposedly voluntary, residents have been fined for not partaking in unpaid work. 

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

This issue seems to pop up every spring in Norway, so can you expect to be fined if you skip dugand

While some housing associations may decide to try and issue fines to those who skip dugnad, this act is illegal, the Co-operative Housing Federation of Norway (NBBL) has said.

"Outdoor areas are the responsibility of the housing association or condominium as a community , and no resident has a special duty to volunteer. The boards have no authority to punish those who stay at home, even though it may feel unfair that some sit at home, while others stand up for the community through work," Line Bjerkek, head of the legal office, at the NBBL said. 

She also said it is completely fine for those who do not wish to volunteer to drop it. 

"It is allowed to drop the hard work. This applies no matter what kind of reason you have - there is no legal obligation to work on a voluntary basis," she said. 

READ ALSO: What to do if you have a disagreement with a Norwegian housing association

However, she said that participating was recommended, not only because it was a good way to get to know the neighbours but also because it could help cut down on joint costs that all residents have to pay. 

Furthermore, while housing associations can't punish those who sit dugnad out, they can reward those who do decide to take part or who choose to undertake work on a voluntary basis. 


In some cases, housing associations can offer lower costs for those who participate. If enough volunteers undertake a job, professional services aren't required, and the savings are passed on to the participants. 

"An example is where the painting of one's own garage is done on a voluntary basis. Then, the person who does not paint their garage must pay the painting costs. In practice, this is solved by having the owners who have participated in the service receive a reduced joint cost for the month in question. The amounts must correspond to a normal remuneration for this type of work," Bjerkek said. 


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