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RENTING

How to negotiate a rent reduction in Switzerland

Unlike some other countries who have put in place measures to help renters, Switzerland has asked tenants to try and negotiate with landlords themselves. Here’s how to ‘get to less’.

A sign saying 'for rent' against a blue sky background. Photo by chris robert on Unsplash
A sign saying 'for rent' against a blue sky background. Photo by chris robert on Unsplash

The coronavirus crisis and now the flow-on impacts of Russia’s Ukraine invasion has hit the Swiss economy hard. Tenants who have seen incomes disappear or cut dramatically are finding it harder to meet their rent obligations. 

Unlike some other countries who have put in place financial assistance measures to help renters, Switzerland’s steps have been comparatively modest. 

READ: Switzerland offers relief for those struggling to pay rent 

While the deadline for paying rent in arrears has been extended from 30 to 90 days, the Swiss Tenants Association has said this measure only serves to saddle tenants with further debts into the future. 

Instead, Swiss authorities have encouraged renters to negotiate with their landlord in the hope to pay less rent. 

In an interview with Swiss media outlet 20 Minutes, the Tenants Association laid out a plan that concerned tenants can follow in order to have their rent reduced. 

Have you found paying your rent difficult during the Covid-19 crisis? Photo: Philippe HUGUEN / AFP

Open up a dialogue with your landlord

As there is no legal mechanism to compel your landlord to agree to a request to lower the rent, whether or not you’ll be granted a rent reduction will be completely up to your landlord. 

This means a good relationship is key.

For those who already get on well with their landlords this might not be such an issue, but for anyone who’s relationship with their lessor is strained, it may be a bit harder. 

READ: Zurich nightlife venues and landlords clash over plan to not pay rent 

For some, appealing to a landlord on compassionate grounds by highlighting the difficulties faced in paying rent will be enough for a temporary reduction. 

Building a relationship between tenant and landlord is particularly effective for people in private rentals, rather than those who rent from large conglomerates or companies. 

This is unlikely to help everyone, but may provide some hope of building a more constructive relationship with your landlord – both now and in the future.

Appeal to reason

Rebecca Joly, from the Tenant’s Association, told 20 Minutes that any appeal to a landlord to have the rent reduced should be based on compassionate grounds as well as reason.

Landlords know that terminating a lease agreement and finding a new tenant is a difficult process at the best of times – and is even more so in this economy. 

“If I have been living in the apartment for tens of years and have always paid the rent on time, the landlord will have a hard time terminating my apartment in the crisis,” Joly said.  

Simply allowing a temporary reduction in rent for a few months would be much less hassle for a landlord – while it is also likely to make financial sense, particularly of the property is set to be vacant for months following a termination. 

The Swiss Tenants Association is concerned about evictions due to Covid-19. Photo: Philippe HUGUEN / AFP

Provide an organised plan

While some landlords might be reluctant to agree to a broad commitment to pay less rent, they are more likely to agree if you present them with a structured plan on how and by how much the rent will be paid – hey, it is Switzerland after all.

Presenting your landlord with an instalment plan for how the rent will be covered – including percentage reductions each month – may encourage them to comply. 

Although the Tenant’s Association says it is best to reach out informally at first – particularly for private landlords – a written instalment plan may work, particularly if it is drawn up with the help of an expert. 

Play the long game

If appealing to compassion and reason do not work, tenants can use the law to give them more time to meet their rent obligations. 

While the usual time period of 30 days has been extended to 90 for anyone affected by the crisis, those looking for more than three months may be able to go to court in order to contest the termination. 

In many cases, even the threat of court action may encourage a landlord to lay down their guns and agree to a rent reduction. 

Is help for tenants on the way? 

If the above doesn’t help, one final step may be to apply for social assistance from the Swiss government. 

READ: Who can apply for coronavirus financial assistance in Switzerland? 

As yet, the Swiss government has disagreed over how to help residential and commercial tenants, with several ideas failing to gain sufficient support. 

The Tenants Association has indicated its support for a parliamentary initiative being put forward from National Councillor Christian Danders which would allow the period where someone couldn’t be terminated to be extended to six months. 

Under the plan, anyone who pays the rent again within two months of giving notice should be allowed to stay in the apartment for another six months or to be able to rent the premises again. 

After six months, the termination would lapse and the rental agreement would come into force again as long as there were no further arrears.

More information is available here (in French). 

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For members

COST OF LIVING

Six no-gimmick websites that help you save money in Switzerland

Sure, there are many adverts on the internet that claim to offer cheaper this and that, but more often than not, clicking on the link could cost you even more money (and time). However, there are also credible sites in Switzerland that will actually help you spend less.

Six no-gimmick websites that help you save money in Switzerland

When you live in an expensive country like Switzerland, getting more bang for your buck (or franc) may seem like an impossible feat.

Some residents of border areas save money by shopping for groceries in France, Italy, or Germany, where most products are much cheaper.

But not everyone in Switzerland has access to these stores and some people may actually prefer to support their own economy, even if it costs more.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about the cost of living in Switzerland

These six sites will not help you save money on everything, but they will help you in that direction.

Comparis.ch is an independent comparison platform that provides well-researched and impartial information on best deals in a variety of areas.

They include lowest prices for insurance (health, life, travel, car, and others); properties (including loans and mortgages); vehicles; and mobile phone and internet plans.

You can also find price comparison for various electronics; toys; beauty and wellness services; car and motorcycle accessories, and other products and services.

Moneyland.ch is another, though similar, cost comparison website, where lowest prices for banking, insurance and telecom services can be found.

Like Comparis, Moneyland will often produce reports ranking certain products and services, such as healthcare and insurance plans, which can give you a valuable insight on how to save in Switzerland. 

We can’t tell you which of the two resources is better; visit both and see which one fits your needs. Both have a English-language pages, as well as producing reports in Switzerland’s national languages. 

Cost of living: How to save on groceries in Switzerland

Toppreise.ch

This comprehensive portal also lists prices for hundreds of products in a wide range of categories, including electronics; household items, and appliances; clothing and jewellery; and even wine.

You can get good deals on wine if you look around. Image by Holger Detje from Pixabay

Bonus.ch

This site compares prices of items ranging from foods to body care products at Coop, Migros, and Lidl.

The prices may not always be up to date (and may change as the war in Ukraine and inflation progress), but the site will nevertheless give you a good idea of which products are cheapest where.

READ MORE: 13 things that are actually ‘cheaper’ in Switzerland

Consumer sites

While these websites aim primarily at protecting and defending consumer rights, they also have some useful information on how to save money on various purchases.

For instance, the Swiss-German chapter, Stiftung für Konsumentenschutz has advice on how to save on customs taxes when purchasing goods online in foreign countries.

In the French speaking cantons, Féderation  Romande des Consommateurs has information on where in the region you can pick your own strawberries and save money while doing so, and in Ticino, Associazione consumatrici e consumatori della Svizzera italiana has similar information.

If you visit these consumer sites regularly, you will find helpful advice on how and where to spend less on certain products and services at that particular time.

Find out where picking your own strawberries will save you money. Photo: Anna Tarazevich / Pexels

And then there is this…
 
If you want to know how much the price of communal services such as water and waste management is in your commune and how it compares with other Swiss municipalities, you can check it out on this official government website.
 
It doesn’t tell you per se how to save money on these services but it is a useful resource nevertheless.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why is Switzerland so expensive?

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