Renting and banking Norwegian style

On Monday I was taken to view a few properties around Oslo. Christine and I then spent hours trying to decide whether we should go for the seventh floor apartment in the city centre with views over the fjord or the low-rise apartment in the suburbs within walking distance of the woods. We knew that the latter was more “our cup of tea” but the question was whether we should be taking the opportunity to experience something difference whilst we had the chance. In the end we decided to go with the great outdoors and this morning I signed a contract on a two-bedroomed apartment overlooking the T-bane station at Slemdal (so we can still be in the city centre in under 15 minutes).

At least, I assume that’s what the contract was for – it was in Norwegian. Slightly bizarrely (at least to me), the landlord had bought the contract in a bookshop the previous day. My understanding is that Norwegian law is pretty strict about what can and cannot be in a rental contract and hence ticking a few options on a standard contract is pretty much the norm. I was offered a Norwegian/English contract but as the English stated that, in the event that the translation differed, the Norwegian was legally binding, this didn’t seem to offer me much benefit! One distinct improvement over the British system is that the deposit is held by a bank in an account under my name and from which I receive the interest but paid for by the landlord. The account, however, requires the landlord’s signature to release the money.

Whilst in the bank I also opened a current account. As in the majority of countries, there is annual fee for the account (about £15). There is also a charge for each use of the debit card (about 25p) and withdrawing cash is only free if I use a cash machine inside the bank during opening hours! I passed on the credit card which would have incurred a further charge. I already have a Nationwide credit card from the UK which doesn’t incur fees overseas and I’m now in the process of extending that to a current account which would enable me to withdraw cash for free.

This still didn’t conclude my business in the bank. Under farcical circumstances I’d managed to pick up a parking fine. I had extended my stay in the hotel but failed to do the same for the hotel car park (or at least the car park that is in the basement of the hotel which apparently isn’t quite the same thing). Unfortunately the fact that I had already paid for seven days parking, and that the ticket in the car clearly indicated that I was a guest at the hotel and my room number, didn’t seem to help. There were no instructions for how I should pay the fine but the page containing the word GIRO provided a clue that I was expected to do so by bank transfer. Well, I did now have a bank account but it had no money in it. I could, however, pay the bank cash and they would pay it on my behalf. At which point my cash card refused to give me any money so I had to get a credit card advance at even more expense! Most frustrating though is that IBM saves on paying for two night’s parking which is more than half of the fine!

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