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PROPERTY

Renting in Switzerland: What financial info can my landlord ask for?

Landlords have the right to ensure prospective tenants can afford the rent, although there are certain questions which are off limits. Here's what you need to know.

A small wooden house on the grass
Does it make sense to buy property in Switzerland? Image: Pixabay

Anyone wanting to secure a rental property in Switzerland will have to jump through several hoops before they get into their new home. 

Simply finding a flat is difficult enough – particularly in larger cities – as you will need to stand out from an ever-growing crowd to prove you should be the lucky one to move in. 

Renting in Switzerland: The questions your landlord can and cannot ask you

It might sound relatively obvious, but a landlord can only ask for information related to the person’s stay in the flat. 

This is not properly defined, but Switzerland’s Immowelt describes this as “information a landlord needs to actually select a tenant based on objective criteria”. 

Can a landlord ask me about my income? 

Your landlord does not need to receive a copy of your annual earnings, however you can be asked your rough earnings – i.e. a bracket like CHF90,000 to 100,000.

Landlords can also ask for a percentage figure as to how much your rent comes to out of your total earnings.

Landlords will be able to ask for proof of income, but only for the purposes of clarifying the financial circumstances of the tenant.

Generally, landlords will not want your rent to be higher than a third of your earnings, although the ultimate decision rests with the landlord him/herself.

EXPLAINED: The hidden costs of renting in Switzerland

Landlords can also ask for debt certificates from the previous two years from independent agencies which determine an individual’s credit rating.

Landlords can also ask for information about how your previous tenancy ended.

Information on financial information not relevant for the apartment, i.e. contracts and ownership of other properties and anything else not related to a tenant’s capacity to pay the rent.

Can a landlord as for a confirmation of having no debt from a previous landlord (Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung)?

In Germany and Austria, landlords will often ask for a Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung – which is the German name of the certificate from a previous landlord which says you don’t owe them any money.

While this is relatively common place elsewhere, in Switzerland the previous landlord is under no obligation to provide this certificate – and a tenant is also under no obligation to show it.

However, as with everything in this list, such a certificate is likely to help convince a landlord that a tenant is trustworthy.

A landlord looking at two identical applications is likely to decide in favour of the tenant who has provided a Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung rather than the tenant who hasn’t.

If your landlord will not provide you with one – or asks for a large sum of money to get it – you can provide this information to your prospective landlord.

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PROPERTY

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.

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