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Tenant or landlord: Who pays which costs in Switzerland?

A couple covered in paint after renovating a house
What costs is the landlord liable for in Switzerland - and what do you need to pay yourself? Photo by Roselyn Tirado on Unsplash
Renters in Switzerland are only liable for some of the costs associated with the property. Here's what you need to know.

As the only European country where more than 50 percent of people rent rather than own their home, Switzerland is a nation of renters. 

As a result, many of the rental laws are more heavily in tenants’ favour than elsewhere, particularly English-speaking countries. 

READ MORE: Why do so many Swiss prefer to rent rather than buy their own home?

When paying your rent in Switzerland, you may be liable for a range of additional or associated costs in addition to your actual rent. 

If you’ve just arrived in Switzerland, many of the costs will be known to you, while some others might be surprising. 

These can include everything from heating and electricity costs, to less common fees for caretakers or doormen. 

While you will be liable for many of the costs yourself, some of them will be the responsibility of the landlord. 

What are some examples of associated costs and how are they paid? 

Associated costs, otherwise known as ancillary costs or service charges, relates to any costs associated with living in the flat. 

In German these are known as Nebenkosten, in French as frais accessoir and in Italian as costi aggiuntivi. 

Some bills will have up to 15 different line items. 

READ MORE: Can foreigners buy property in Switzerland?

These can include: heating, hot water, electricity in common areas, snow removal, garden maintenance, parking, lifts and stairwell, sweeping and cleaning common areas, laundry room costs, cable TV/TV costs, water, sewage and caretaker fees. 

Note that we have not included other costs associated with renting, such as internet, phone or electricity. Generally speaking, these will be paid separately by the tenant and will not be a part of the rental charge, although in certain instances (i.e. student accommodation) they may be included. 

Generally speaking, there are two different types of additional costs: those which are paid by the tenant and those which are the responsibility of the landlord. 

Who pays what? Which costs are tenants liable for in Switzerland?

Generally, anything related to maintaining the house or the facilities will be the responsibility of the landlord. 

Repair work will be the responsibility of the landlord, for instance the replacement of a heater or new electricity wiring. 

On the other hand, costs associated with actually living in the house will tend to be the responsibility of the tenant. 

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Swiss property site Homegate.ch notes that anything the tenant actually has control over – i.e. by using more or less – should be paid by the tenant, although this will not be true in every case. 

The following lays out the costs which should be paid by tenants and landlords, although this is not an exhaustive list and there are sometimes exceptions. 

Costs that must be paid by tenants

  • Heating costs
  • Hot water
  • Sewage
  • Electricity*
  • Phone and internet costs*
  • Caretaker and doorman fees
  • Cleaning for common areas (such as stairs, hallways and lifts)
  • Electricity for common areas
  • Repair for common areas
  • Normal garden care
  • Laundry charges (i.e. shared laundries)
  • TV fees
  • Contents insurance
  • Snow removal
  • Administrative costs associated with the apartment

Anything marked with an asterisk will be the responsibility of the tenant, although these are not typically considered within the definition of ‘ancillary costs’, i.e. those which are paid to your landlord.

Instead, they will usually be part of a separate contact or agreement between the tenant and a service provider. 

READ MORE: What damage do tenants have to pay for in Switzerland?

Costs that must be paid by landlords

  • Repairs to the flat 
  • Repairs and replacement of components and parts, for instance pipes, electricity systems, wiring etc
  • Repairs to furniture or appliances which are provided by the landlord
  • Renovations (see below)
  • Property taxes
  • Other taxes and fees
  • Building insurance
  • Remodelling or significant alterations to gardens and courtyards

What about renovations?

Renovation work will also be the responsibility of the landlord, although in this case you may be liable for an increase in rent. 

While the rules are put in place at a cantonal level and some cantons like Basel City have restrictions on what landlords can charge in relation to renovations, generally speaking where the tenant will have an additional comfort or benefit then an increase in rent is justifiable. 

Swiss property broker Immoscout24 provides some examples of renovations that may lead to an increase in rent, including new windows, a new bathroom or a new kitchen. 

Other improvements such as new installation may also result in a rent increase, as these are likely to benefit the tenant with regard to heating and electricity bills. 


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