Switzerland

Property Problems and the Termination of Your Swiss Lease

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Property Problems and the Termination of Your Swiss Lease

If you have just moved to Switzerland and are beginning a lease, don’t assume it’s the same as everywhere. There are details in Swiss tenancy law which most expats ignore. InterNations member Renuka offers you a few practical tips concerning your lease to help you avoid common traps and pitfalls.

Problems during the Tenancy

The rule under Swiss law is if there is a problem with your rented home which prevents you from using it as per the lease agreement, you need to prove the existence of the problem (images, videos, witnesses) and the damage caused by the problem.

As a tenant, you are entitled to the use of the apartment for the purpose for which it was rented. For any inconvenience which is not repaired and persistent, you are entitled to ask for either a reduction in the rent (retroactively from the beginning of the problem) or, in case of a serious problem, an early termination of your lease agreement (rarely granted by courts).

The first thing you need to do is to inform your landlord in writing (email or registered mail) and give him a reasonable deadline to resolve the problem. If it is not resolved, you have the right to repair the damage at the landlord’s cost or request a reduction of the rent.

If the payment of your rent is due and the problem has not been resolved within a reasonable deadline, and/or if the problem has been pending without any progress and prevents you from an appropriate use of the rented home, you can pay your rent into an escrow account of the court. I recommend that you seek legal and financial advice for before doing so.

If you do pay into the escrow account, you have 30 days from the due date of the rent to file a request for reduction of rent before the court. Otherwise, the rent deposited with the court will be paid to the landlord.

If you have suffered financial damages which you can prove as a consequence of the problem you faced (e.g. purchased an electrical radiator because the heating was not working), you may also claim these damages.

Renovation in the Building

If the landlord decides to make improvements in the building which are obviously going to cause a certain disturbance to the tenants, they need to be informed well in advance of a) the starting date of the construction or renovation work, b) the duration of it, and c) the nature of it.

Case law provides that certain renovation work needs to be tolerated, especially if it will improve the use of the building by the tenants.

However, you can still request a reduction of rent under certain circumstances.

Termination of the Lease Agreement by the Tenant

If you want to terminate the lease agreement before the end of your lease, you need to find a reasonable tenant who is willing to take over your lease or cover the rent yourself until the end of your tenancy.

The landlord can only refuse a new tenant you have suggested if he has good reasons to do so.

Termination of the Lease Agreement by the Landlord

A termination of the lease by the landlord can be considered “abusive” under the following circumstances:

a) The tenant has raised good faith claims and it is the revenge of the landlord.

b) He tries to force the tenant to buy the rented home.

c) The termination takes place within three years from the end of a procedure before the tenancy court in which the landlord lost his claims or a settlement was reached between the parties.

Basically, the rule to remember is, don’t ignore your mail — even when you’re on vacation, ask someone to collect your mail for you. If the landlord informs you of a termination, you have 30 days which start from the day after you received of the yellow slip in your mail to contest the validity of the termination.

The landlord may also notify you of an increase in rent during your vacation. The deadline of 30 days to contest this runs from the day you have received the notice.

Once you have the termination letter or the letter increasing your rent, seek advise on your rights from an association of tenants or a lawyer.

Returning the Rented Home

Before the landlord comes to inspect the tented home, make sure it has been cleaned inside out, and that any thumb tack holes or nail holes have been closed with plaster.

You should have the “Etat des lieux de l’entrée” with you when the landlord comes to inspect the rented home, as well as the pictures of the defects from the beginning of the lease.

If the landlord makes any claims, contact your civil liability insurance to intervene for the discussions.

Most importantly, don’t sign the “Etat des lieux de sortie” unless you understand what is written and what you are being held liable for.

If there’s a problem with your landlord or your tenancy agreement, don’t wait to react. Be polite and cordial but be firm about your rights.

 

Make sure to always correspond with the landlord by email or registered mail, and keep a copy of not only the correspondence but also the evidence that it was mailed or received.

Finally, don’t hesitate to consult an association of tenants or a lawyer to help resolve a conflict — after all it is better to be safe than sorry!


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