Landlord overcharged tenant 230,000 francs

Landlord overcharged tenant 230,000 francs
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
A Geneva landlord has been ordered to pay back 230,000 francs ($246.000) in rent to a tenant who was over-charged for a renovated apartment over a period going back to November 2005.

The case was reported by François Zutter, a lawyer for Asloca Romande, the tenant’s rights association for French-speaking Switzerland, in the association’s latest monthly journal.

Switzerland’s highest court recently ordered the landlord to pay the tenant 2,583 francs a month retroactively to November 1st 2005 after finding that the four-room apartment in the city’s banking district was renovated  without cantonal approval, Zutter reported.

The landlord violated Geneva laws governing renovations and demolitions, the lawyer said.

These require landlords to seek a permit and authorize the canton to set rent levels for three to five years.

In the Geneva case, the landlord renovated the apartment without approval and then charged a monthly rent of 3,800 francs, well above the legal level of 1,216 francs set by the law, the Asloca lawyer noted.

This amount should have been applied for three years, Zutter said.

After that, under federal law, the landlord was required to notify the tenant of an increase according to a formula based on the existing rent.

Because the landlord did not do this the rent charged for the period subsequent to the three-year period following renovations was not valid above the 1,216-franc rate.

The apartment had rented for 1,019 francs a month before the renovations.

Asloca noted that other Swiss cantons, such as Vaud, have laws like Geneva's that require landlords to seek approval for any renovations to an apartment.

The supreme court ruled that it would be unfair to give special treatment to landlords who flouted the law on apartment renovations over those who respected the regulations. 

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