SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

PROPERTY

Checklist: What documents do I need for an apartment in Switzerland?

Looking for a flat? You need to have your documents in order. Here’s what you need to know.

Switzerland really loves paperwork (OK, perhaps not this much). Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash
Switzerland really loves paperwork (OK, perhaps not this much). Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

Finding a flat in Switzerland is incredibly competitive, even if you are not looking in the larger metropolises of Zurich and Geneva. 

Landlords will often get hundreds of applications for each flat offer. 

One way to get ahead is to make sure you have your documents in order early – in many cases even before you see the apartment in question. 

While this will sometimes lead to some unnecessary printing, you will ensure your completed documentation is on top of the landlord’s pile when the big decision has to be made. 

If you aren’t handing the documents in in person, put them all together in one PDF file when you send it over to make it easier for the landlord to read. 

Here are some of the important documents you will need to find a flat in Switzerland. 

Overview

There are two broad categories of documents you need to move into a flat in Switzerland: the need to haves and the nice to haves, although things are so competitive these days that many of the nice to haves are getting a little more essential. 

The need to haves include identification, application form and residence permit (if you don’t have a Swiss passport). 

The nice to haves are a cover letter, freedom from debt statement, employment information, references from employers and from previous landlords and additional information about the nature of your employment, i.e. a contract showing the duration of your employment. 

All of the documents should be provided in the language of the canton in which you apply. Often it will be no problem to apply in English, particularly in larger cities, however an application in the local language will always be looked upon positively. 

Finally, while the following is a guide as to the commonly requested and required documents in Switzerland, it does vary from place to place. 

Sometimes you will need to register with a particular property company, for instance, or provide other specifics related to the accommodation, i.e. student accommodation. 

Landlords are however restricted from asking certain questions, including those related to health. More info on this is available below. 

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

Identification

This one is relatively self-explanatory, as not even the most trusting landlord is likely to allow you to move in without proof of who you are. 

For foreigners, a passport is likely to be required, although your Swiss identity card will also suffice. 

Application form

The application form is the centrepiece of your request, so be sure to include it. 

It will guide you through the process, showing you which information you need to provide and generally what the landlord considers necessary. 

Generally speaking application forms will be available online, or at the very least will be available at the apartment viewing. 

If you can, fill it out online and hand it in at the viewing – it will put you ahead of the competition. 

Employment status 

Generally, your application will ask for your profession and for your employer. 

They will also ask for a salary estimate and sometimes proof of salary, or at least a ballpark figure of what you earn. 

Real estate agencies tend to run by the loose rule that your rent should not be more than a third of your wage, so keep that in mind when applying. 

Residence permit

As we outlined here, landlords cannot as you about your nationality or other potentially associated characteristics such as religion or race, but they are permitted to ask for proof of your residency status. 

Specifically, a landlord is allowed to ask whether you are Swiss or not and to provide details of your citizenship or residency details, i.e. which type of permit you have to live in Switzerland. 

Again, while this may appear to be a personal question and may result in discrimination, landlords will want to know you have a right to live in Switzerland and are therefore likely to stick around for the long(ish) term. 

Freedom from debt statement 

There are two statements here – a general certificate saying you are not in debt (from organisations like CRIF, ZEK, IKO or Bisnode) and one which highlights you are not in debt to your previous landlord. 

Generally speaking, neither of these are required in Switzerland, although you will be making your life more difficult if you don’t provide them. 

In Germany and Austria, landlords will often ask for a Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung (pronounced meat-shool-den-fry-height-bee-shine-ee-goong). 

Switzerland loves paperwork. Photo: Christa Dodoo on Unsplash.

Switzerland loves paperwork. Photo: Christa Dodoo on Unsplash.

Literally translating as rent-debt-freedom-certificate, the Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung is a document which confirms you are not in rental debt for your previous properties. 

Keep in mind that in Switzerland the previous landlord is under no obligation to provide this certificate – and a tenant is also under no obligation to show it. 

Tenant or landlord: Who pays which costs in Switzerland?

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. 

Generally speaking you should not be charged more than 20 francs for such a statement. 

Cover letter

A cover letter will usually not be a requirement, however it is perhaps the best chance you have to explain a little about yourself, why you want to live in the region (and in the specific flat) and what your long-term goals are. 

Generally speaking you will not get to meet the landlord personally (unless its a private rental), so the cover letter is your best chance to give an indication as to who you really are. 

When writing a cover letter, be sure not to simply repeat the information on your application form – use it to tell a story about yourself and why you are captivated by the flat (remember that landlords will be able to smell a generic cover letter a mile away). 

Like resumes, cover letters in Switzerland generally include photos. 

Recommendation letters

Recommend letter of recommendation from your former landlord or from your employer are definitely in the nice to have category and may not be looked at at all, however a landlord may be swayed by the positive opinion of a previous landlord. 

Renting in Switzerland: Can a landlord ask if I am vaccinated? 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

READER INSIGHTS

‘Curate your messages carefully’: Our readers on dating in Switzerland

In June, we asked our readers for their tips for what to do - and what not to do - when dating someone from Switzerland. Here’s what they had to say.

'Curate your messages carefully': Our readers on dating in Switzerland

Finding love – or pursuing lust – can be tough at the best of times, but a new cultural environment will undoubtedly throw up its own challenges. 

These differences can be fun, surprising or downright shocking. 

We asked our readers about their dating life in Switzerland. We wanted to know if they’d had any struggles or challenges – and how they could avoid them. 

Half had an ‘odd experience’

We had just over 30 responses to the survey, which is a relatively strong result for any Local Switzerland poll not focused on Covid measures. 

Approximately half – 53.1 percent – said they’d had an odd experience when dating someone from Switzerland. The rest – 46.9 percent – said they had not. 

‘Cold’, ‘closed’ and ‘cheap’

For those who said they had an odd experience, we got a full spectrum. Some of the responses were similar to previous reader callouts, while others were somewhat surprising. 

Jessica, who lives in Lucerne, said the Swiss – perhaps the richest country in Europe – can sometimes be cheap dates. 

“He claimed he forgotten his wallet and (on the) second date, the same excuses”. 

Several readers said the person they dated was “cold” and would not open up. 

READ MORE: Are the Swiss really unfriendly – or are foreigners to blame? 

Mariah, who lives in Zurich, said Swiss men can be closed and may not want you to be a part of their lives. 

“I am Brazilian and come from a very open and affectionate culture. I was dating a Swiss-French guy for 2 months and one day he organised a trip to the mountains. 

“He was during the whole way in the train talking about how amazing his birthday party would be in a few weeks and “everyone” would be there but he was never mentioning to invite me.”

“I mentioned to another Swiss friend and she said this is normal.”

Another reader, from Zurich, agreed, saying anyone making themselves vulnerable could mean they get hurt.

After telling a Swiss German man relatively early on that she loved him, the relationship changed permanently. 

“As soon as I had sent it, I realised “OMG, that is not what I meant to send…”, she told The Local. 

READ MORE: Great salaries but ‘no human warmth’: Your views on living and working in Geneva

 “It was not the way I had felt (yet), but the previously very cheeky and chatty (by Swiss German standards) guy suddenly started responding in typical very polite Swiss style, and only when I messaged him.” 

“This might have scared off someone from another culture, but as the Swiss Germans typically take their time to get to know people it was obviously unforgivable.”

Simon, who lives in Nyon, said he struggled with Swiss women. 

“Be careful, they are very feminist and can be domineering.”

What advice do you have for dating a Swiss?

Mariah said it was important to have a clear conversation about boundaries and expectations. 

“Don’t assume you will be part of their life without talking openly about it and don’t assume the relationship status either.”

Another, from Zurich, said you should think twice about what messages you send as the Swiss can be quite literal. 

“Curate messages carefully. Things can be taken very literally, and not easily be laughed off as a slip of the tongue / Freudian slip!”

Claudia said some cultural norms can be surprising at first. 

“They are super comfortable getting changed (naked) in public”, she said. 

She did however say that foreigners criticising the Swiss for being closed minded should take a good hard look in the mirror first. 

“Actually they are more fun than we think! Be open minded!”

SHOW COMMENTS