Renting an apartment or a house can be a tedious work in Iceland. There is a lot of information that potential renters need to provide to landlords who advertise their properties for rent.
Rental properties are owned both by individual landlords who own one or two apartments and big property management companies with hundreds or even thousands of units.
Where can I find rental apartments?
Most of the rental space available on the market is listed online. It's not worth the time to look for rental units in newspapers. There are a few websites where you can find most of the listings at any given time:
Igloo Rental Platform (free, the largest platform)
Leiguskjól - Leiguvefur, now Igloo (free, has marged with Igloo)
Leiga á Fasteignir.is (free)
Leiga á Mbl (free)
Leigulistinn (paid subscription)
Leiga.is (paid subscription)
There are many Facebook groups where people list apartments for rent but most of them use the biggest one which is simply called Leiga which simply means "Rent" in English. We do know of approximitely 50 groups across Facebook offering rental space, but to save you time, joining the biggest one, Leiga, will save you a lot of time ("one-stop-shop").
Leiga (60k+ members)
Húsnæði til leigu / Óska eftir (20k+ members)
Leiga Hfj/Gbr/Kóp (20k+ members)
Leiga í Breiðholti, Árbæ, Selás og Bryggjuhverfi (109,110,111) (10k+ members)
Húsnæði Til leigu/Sölu/Óska eftir á Akranesi og nágrenni (5k+ members)
Property management companies
A few big property management companies exist in Iceland. The biggest one is Heimstaden (previously Heimavellir) which owns around 1,800 apartments and ALMA owning roughly 1,200 units. To name a few others there is Bjarg (limited to low-income individuals) and Vellir 15.
What do I need when renting?
When renting in Iceland, you will have to have:
- Kennitala (Icelandic personal identification number) (All information with the Registers Iceland (Þjóðskrá))
- Bank account
- Insurance / Guarantee / Deposit (most often 3 months rent but can vary from 0 - 3)
- Electronic ID (not required, but will make everything so much easier). You can activate your phone as an ID once you have "Kennitala" with your bank (Information about electronic ID)
If you have stayed in Iceland for more than a few months, you will be eligible for applying for a credit score from Creditinfo which is the credit bureau in Iceland. That score is used by banks and other lending instutions and landlords to determine one's creditworthiness.
A great way to start your house hunting in Iceland is to build a rental profile on Igloo and apply for a rental guarantee with Leiguskjól.
Insurance / Guarantee / Deposits
Most landlords ask for some kind of insurance which can be a deposit or a guarantee for an amount worth up to 3 months of the monthly rent. Most landlords are respecatble people but we have seen too many cases in Iceland where tenants have had propblems getting their deposit back.
The most preferrable form of insurance when renting is a third party guarantee which can be with or without a deposit. If you want to pay deposit but do not want to get a guarantee or an insurance, we do recommend that you keep the deposit with a third party company but not with the landlord himself.
You can apply for rental guarantee or escrow service for rental deposit with Leiguskjól which is owned by Arion bank, one of Iceland's three largest banks.
Good to know
- Never pay anything to a landlord unless you have physically been to rental space and signed a legal contract.
- Take pictures as soon as you get the keys and keep them safe for furture references if the landlord makes a claim to your insurance or deposit.
- Inform the landlord as soon as possible if something breaks
- The landlord has 4 weeks to make a claim to your guarantee or deposit and must return it within that period
Housing benefits in Iceland
Everyone who rents in Iceland can apply for housing benefits but the amaount is limited to salary and the number of people renting together. You can only receive housing benefits for official contracts (in Icelandic we call it "þinglýstir leigusamningar") but you can register the contract with the District Commissioner and then apply for housing benefits online with "Húsnæðis og mannvirkjastofnun" (Housing institution in Iceland).
The institution that handles registration of rental contracts ("þinglýsingar") is called Sýslumaðurinn but unfortuantely they do not have their website in English: Sýslumaðurinn Website but if you call them (phone number 458-2000) and ask for "þinglýstir" rental agreements they should be able to assist you.
Legal stuff and housing benefits
The most important thing about rental agreements is the term: When does it start and when does it end. All rental agreements begin at designated date but they can either end at a designated date or have no specific termination date.
If the contract has a designated termination date or ending, it is not possible for either the landlord or the tenant to terminate the contract unless they have mutual agreement on that. For example, 12 months rental agreement cannot be terminated after 9 months unless both parties agree upon that.
If the contract has no specific termination date or ending, the contract automatically has 6 months buffer. For example if you have a contract which does not state an ending date, you could have to pay up to 6 months of rent if you want to close it unless the landlord accepts that you leave earlier. The same applies to the landlord; you can stay up to 6 months in the apartment if he or she decides to terminate the contract (but of course you have to pay the monthly rent until then).
The renting act is from 1994 and is very straight forward for both landlords and tenants. If you have any questions about your rights, you can approach Leiguskjól which will answer your questions.
When renting in Iceland and when you look for apartments, you will see those words or phrases frequently:
- Leiga (for rent): Rent (for rent, to let)
- Leiga á (Location): Rent in (Location)
- Leigueign: Rental property / Rental space
- Leigusamningur: Rental contract
- Íbúð: Apartment / Flat / Condo
- Hús: House
- Fasteign: Real estate
- Fasteignir til leigu - Rental properties
- Herbergi: Room/s
- Trygging: Insurance / Guarantee / Deposit
- Fyrirfram: First-month (literally "before").
Fun fact: When we say two room apartment in Iceland we mean one bedroom. So don't be confused if you see advertisment indicating two rooms and then show up and only see one bedroom. The other room is the living room, hench two rooms apartment.