One of the first things that strikes foreigners in Switzerland are the (sometimes very) long lists of rules governing life in apartment buildings in the country.
Known as the ‘Hausordnung’ in German or the ‘règlement de maison’ in French, these dreaded house rules are usually pinned up in a prominent position and can cover everything from whether you are allowed to keep a pet in an apartment to an obligation on tenants to clear snow away in winter.
These rules are included in the contract and you should read them closely before signing a lease as they are a legal obligation.
In addition, the rules often include a mention of so-called ‘rest periods’ (Ruhezeiten/ temps de repos).
Such quiet times are set by local authorities around Switzerland and differ slightly depending on where you live.
In Zurich, for example, the legal quiet times are from 10pm to 7am, although on Fridays and Saturdays, and during summer, the rest time is from 11pm to 7am. According to the by-laws, “disruptive behaviour” should be avoided during these hours.
In addition, people are also expected to avoid unnecessary noise from 8pm in the evening, and on Sundays, although there is more leeway here during night-time hours.
But none of the above stops people from flushing a toilet at night.
Swiss rental law is not specific
In fact, the idea of a national ban on night-time toilet flushing doesn’t mirror the Swiss legal situation at all.
Thomas Oberle, a lawyer with the homeowners’ association HEV, points out that contrary to popular belief the rental law in Switzerland is not very specific. This means that landlords can interpret the law as they see fit.
In short, there are no blanket Swiss house rules that apply to all tenants.
So what would happen if a landlord decided to ban toilet flushing at night?
Well, that wouldn’t stand up in court. According to Swiss Tenants Association (MV), house rules are only binding when they have a practical basis and when they are proportionate.
The MV adds that house rules cannot impose too much of a limit on people’s personal freedom.
In short, you can take a quick shower after 10pm during the week even the house rules ‘forbid’ this.
But taking baths at odd hours is another matter.
“I wouldn’t recommend running a bath at night as the noise would be inconsiderate,” Oberle of the HEV told The Local.
Morven McLean contributed reporting to the original version of this article.