For members


Tenant or landlord: Who pays which costs in Switzerland?

Renters in Switzerland are only liable for some of the costs associated with the property. Here's what you need to know.

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

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. 

Finding a flat in Switzerland: How to stand out from the crowd

Swiss property site 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. 

Member comments

  1. This is great information, thank you. We have rented from Livit for over 10 years and they do not hold up to their end of the contract. They only do the minimal maintenance and we need to collectively complain to get anything done. They have painted the walls in our hallway once in 10 years. We have demanded that they steam clean the carpets in the hallway, which has only been done twice in 10 years. Our shade awnings on our balconies are old and falling apart. Our play structures in the common garden area are old and the wood is so dry it gives the kids splinters. When we write letters, they don’t respond. One must follow up with a call and demand that they answer the email. It’s horrible!! In English, Livit would be known as a slumlord. You should do an investigative report about that! I would be happy to invite your journalists to our building to support your evidence.

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For members


Where to find property in Switzerland for under CHF 500k

Switzerland is not known for being a cheap country and property prices are higher than in other European countries, but it's still possible to find property bargains, some for even under CHF 100k.

Where to find property in Switzerland for under CHF 500k

Property prices are rising in much of Europe and Switzerland is no exception. As the average salary is high in Switzerland, finding homes for under CHF 1 million in some parts of the country becomes almost impossible.

Even when you do find cheap properties, they are sometimes quite literally too good to be true. For example, Switzerland’s famous one-franc home scheme had to be scrapped after nobody signed up. The cheap homes were, actually, too expensive when considering the costs for renovation or even how remote they were.

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

Some of the properties in the scheme weren’t connected to the electricity grid, sewer system or even roads.

So, where can we find cheap(er) homes in Switzerland – that are still liveable or could be excellent investments for those who enjoy fixer-uppers (or huge DIY projects)?

Not an easy search

To find these gems, we used a property website that allowed us to search for real estate in the whole of Switzerland (instead of just a few main cities) and showed us homes with at least three rooms.

The price limit was set at CHF 500,000 (while our colleagues in Germany had theirs set at €100k, but, hey, this is Switzerland).

As of August 2022, we found 203 houses and 80 apartments following these criteria on sale.

Most of these definitely need some fixing up, but you can still snatch a home for under CHF 500,000 with lovely views of lakes and mountains or big terraces and gardens.

Going through the addresses with some of the properties, some things stand out:

Head for the border – most of the most affordable places are in Italian-speaking Switzerland. However, you can also find some of them in the French regions. In both cases, they are located very near the border with France or Italy.

Forget about cities – All the properties we found are quite far from the major cities of Zürich, Bern, and Geneva, which makes sense as the cost of living tends to rise in those regions. If you’re looking for a cheap home, you’re highly unlikely to find one in city centres.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why is Switzerland so expensive?

Consider property type – It is also worth mentioning that there seemed to be a distinction between the homes in the west and those in the south. In the French region, there are more apartments and newer properties, with some outstanding options.

While in the Italian south, most of the properties are houses – and you need to inspect well because some will need a lot of work.

Research services – You should definitely check carefully the property’s location – some are not connected to basic services or even roads.

Renovation costs – Almost all of the properties we found were ‘renovation projects’. Some can turn out to be very good investments, but it takes time and work to renovate. Before buying, get an estimate of the likely works so you can see whether the property really will save you money in the long term, and be honest about your level of DIY/building skills and how much work you are willing or able to do.

Extra costs – Besides renovating costs, you must be mindful of property taxes and other living costs and how much they are in the region where you are buying property. Prices can vary quite widely depending on the canton, so research well.

You can check all our Property in Switzerland stories here.