How to avoid rental scams in Switzerland

The French-speaking media in Switzerland reported at the end of 2020 on illegal practices used by building owners to overcharge their tenants. Here's how to avoid these scams.

Are you the victim of a rental scam?
Photo: Loic VENANCE / AFP

The trick is the same in the two cases in question

Tenants in Switzerland are legally entitled to challenge their initial rent within 30 days from the beginning of the lease. The challenge can be based on the increment made on the previous rent by the owner.

Reader question: How do I challenge my rent in Switzerland?

Therefore, in two different cases, the building owners prepared fake lease agreements with real or fictitious tenants to make the new tenants believe that there was no increase in the rent.

However, the new tenant was effectively being cheated by paying a substantial increase in his rent which he was unaware of.

Some practical tips to avoid falling in such a trap:

1.Know the owner of your apartment 

On the land register site, by entering the address of your apartment, you can find out the name of the owner of the building free of charge.

This will allow to ensure that you are dealing with the real owner (a private person, an insurance company, etc.). You may want to google the owner to see if he has been subject to complaints for fraud published in the media.

2.Make contact with the former tenant by asking for their identity and asking them specific questions about the apartment

Prefer an apartment for which you may have had contact with the former tenant.

Indeed, when you visit the apartment, you will have the possibility to ask what the current rent is.

By doing so, you will know which rent must appear in the official form that you must be given (see  point 4a) below).

3.Find out about the rent of other apartments in the building 

If you have just arrived in Switzerland, find out about the rental prices in the city you have just moved to.

READ MORE: In which Swiss canton are rents highest and lowest?

Indeed, the price of a three-room apartment in Geneva is not the same in the Jura nor in St. Gallen.

Also, depending on the districts of the same city, rents can vary.

4. Know your rights 

a) Official approved form: When you sign the lease contract, you must be given a form that mentions the rent paid by the former tenant.

This form is mandatory and your rights are listed on this form.

b) Challenging the initial rent: you have 30 days from the handing over of the keys (art. 270 CO) to contest the initial rent with the Lease and Rental Commission.

The rent can be contested for an abusive increase in rent compared to what the former tenant paid, but it is also possible to contest an unchanged rent.

Find out about your rights during the first 30 days after the keys are handed over, before it is too late.

Some landlords insist on providing you with the lease agreement in original only after 30 days to prevent you from using this right.

Insist on getting the agreement, if they refuse, seize the lease and rental Commission. 


We realise that in many cases because of the shortage of apartments or the difficulty in finding your “dream” apartment, you may not have the time to take steps 1-4 because they may not be realistic options because of the shortage of time.

However, remember, between the time you apply for the apartment and the time taken by the agency to make a choice between the potential tenants (which often needs to be approved by the owners), you may be able to at least check some of these points.

There is also no obligation to take the apartment even if you have applied for it, until and unless you have signed the lease agreement.

Finally beware of the conditions of some real estate agencies that charge you a fine if you apply for the apartment but don’t take it when your tenancy has been approved.

This advice was prepared by Renuka Cavadini and Angela Carvalho of Page & Partners 

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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. 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. 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

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

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?