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Swiss red tape: court rules against retirees' 'flashy' orange house

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Swiss red tape: court rules against retirees' 'flashy' orange house
File photo of colourful houses in Zurich: Depositphotos
10:59 CEST+02:00
When Willy and Marie Zysset decided to liven up their house by painting it orange in the spring of 2014, they spoke to authorities in the Swiss city of Biel to find out if they needed permission to replace the original “dirty brown” paint job.

An official told the couple that they were free to choose what colour they painted their house and that no permit was required.

“I thought verbal advice from that official would be enough,” retired electrical engineer Willy Zysset told Switzerland's Blick newspaper.

But after the couple had completed the 27,000-franc paint job, the city's building commission send a letter ordering them to either repaint the building or get a retrospective permit.

Read also: here's what annoys people about their neighbours in Switzerland

The Zyssets then filed for that permit only to be turned down – a decision Willy Zysset described as absurd.

“There are a lot more colourful houses around here,” he said, adding feedback from neighbours had been positive.

Then in February 2016, the couple received a second letter ordering them to repaint the house within six months. Failure to paint the house a different colour would result in a 40,000-franc fine, while repainting it orange could see them landing a 100,000-franc fine. 

In that letter, authorities said the house clashed with the surroundings and contravened local housing codes.

Ascona in the canton of Ticino has a rather different approach to colourful houses.

The Zyssets appealed but two years later a cantonal court has told them the original decision stands. The bright orange house is directly on the street and is therefore too conspicuous, the court said in its ruling.

“My wife and I have had enough of the regulations here in Switzerland. I want to enjoy my retirement in peace,” Willy Zysset told Blick, adding he was sleeping badly.

“Our house is for sale as of right now. We are moving to Africa,” he said.

Marie Zysset is originally from Cameroon and the couple are looking at relocating to the town of Ngoulemakong, south of the capital Yaoundé.

Read also: Swiss rental crisis - Zurich apartment owner demands 27,000-franc deposit

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