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Housing in Switzerland: Geneva agencies charging tenants ‘hundreds of francs’ to view apartments

Housing in Switzerland: Geneva agencies charging tenants 'hundreds of francs' to view apartments
The sign reads "for rent". Photo: FRED DUFOUR / AFP
Several agencies in Geneva are telling potential tenants to pay hundreds of francs to visit homes for rent, Swiss media reports.

Reasonably priced apartments are scarce in Geneva. When one becomes vacant, it is quickly snapped up, even before it is advertised for rent.

As demand is much higher than supply, some relocation agencies are reportedly taking advantage of this trend by charging home seekers 350 francs to visit vacant properties.

This practice came to light when one potential client recounted his experience to RTS public broadcaster.

The man said he replied to an ad posted by a relocation agency, which told him he could visit the apartment only after he paid the 350-franc fee. The employee added that the fee would increase the man’s chances of getting the flat.

“I can’t imagine paying even a franc to visit a flat “, he told RTS.

The broadcaster has investigated the man’s claim and found that the apartment was first advertised online by the tenant who occupied the premises and wanted to hand over her lease.

The woman, identified as Carole, said that within 15 minutes of placing the ad, “I was approached by a relocation agency. They told me they could find a tenant for me”.

But when she found out about the 350-franc fee the agency charged to visit her flat, “I was outraged. I contacted this company and ordered them to withdraw their ad”, she said.

 “According to our research, hundreds of apartments are affected by this practice”, RTS revealed.

READ MORE: In which Swiss canton can you find a rental bargain?

“These scandalous practices flourish in areas where there is a housing crisis”,  said Christian Dandrès, a lawyer for the tenants’ rights association, ASLOCA.  

Guillaume Bédat of the the Swiss Association of Relocation Agents said that while such practices are not illegal in a free market, “the goal of the relocation is not to make people pay to visit an apartment”.

RTS noted it contacted the agency in question, as well as others who engage in this practice, “but none of them wanted to speak in front of the camera”.

“Over the phone, they let it be known that they don’t see any problem with the way they do business, and that tenants are free to agree to these conditions or not”.

RTS didn’t provide the names of the agencies it interviewed and didn’t indicate whether this practice is commonplace in other parts of Switzerland as well.

READ MORE: This is how much it costs you to change apartments in Switzerland’s cities


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