This was a lot easier than we thought. Websites like vuokraovi.com even offer an English-language user interface. For the actual apartment descriptions, using Chrome’s built-in translator helps a lot. Additionally, Expat Finland has a list of common terms you’ll find in Finnish real estate listings.
A typical rental contract in Finland can be terminated within one month but has a minimum duration of 12 months. Deposit is either one or two month’s rent. Unlike for example on the German market, the rent listed includes heating cost.
Documents landlords typically ask for before signing a contract are a subset of:
Copy of work contract
Copy of ID
Proof of rent payments for last three months (We guess a German “Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung” would suffice)
You will be expected to list a lot more personal data than in Germany on your apartment application form. This includes stuff like your employer (and their phone number), your income, or the age of your kids. While this felt awkward especially since there is a lot of talk about discrimination on the job market in Finland, we did not feel any discrimination in the end. Especially with smaller real estate companies and private landlords, e-mail communication about applying to rent apartments is instant and helpful. We ended up with several successful applications to choose from.
There are some minor caveats, though - it is common in Finnish e-commerce to use one’s online banking ID as a login (just as other nations use “Log in with google/Facebook”). If you are just moving to Finland and don’t have an apartment yet, it will be hard to open a bank account. So needing one to apply for an apartment rental looks like a classic Catch-22. But there is hope: In our experience reaching out directly to real estate companies via e-mail reveals a secondary workflow using PDF application forms, which works just as well. But keep in mind that different apartments on offer from the same company might be handled by different brokers, who may or may not be individually incentivized. So moving from website applications to e-mail potentially means dealing with several people at the same company in parallel.
Calling their service phone number led to a woman speaking immaculate English. She very politely told us that no, she had no insights into application statuses, no, she could not transfer us to someone who has, and no, there is no way to find out whether the application already was rejected or still is under consideration.
In the end, we ended up renting from a private party landlord (Aapo, if you read this: Hi!). Communication via Google Meet and e-mail was swift and on point, contract matters were easily solved using google translate, and our cats were accepted as part of the family as well without hesitation.
We are waiting for any reply from Keva Kodit to this day (this will be amended when we hear back, if ever).