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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

REVEALED: What is included in this Swiss city’s time capsule?

Lausanne officials have buried “treasure” under a bridge, to give future generations a glimpse into life in this Swiss city at the beginning of the 2020s. What do they want future generations to know?

REVEALED: What is included in this Swiss city’s time capsule?
Some of the 'treasures' buried in Lausanne's time capsule. Photo: Mathilde Imesch, Ville de Lausanne

The ‘Lausannois’ living in 2122 will be able to learn about their city’s past not just from whatever search engine will replace Google, but by a far more traditional method. 

To make sure no stone is left unturned (literally and figuratively), Lausanne authorities saw the renovation of the city’s Grand-Pont bridge as an apt opportunity to bury a time capsule whose contents symbolise what the early 2020s are all about in Vaud’s capital city.

The “burial service” took place on Thursday, when a municipal delegation placed a metal box in a specially dug hole.

The burial is about to begin. Photo: Mathilde Imesch, Ville de Lausanne

READ MORE: Swiss town ranked the ‘world’s best small city’

“The objects and documents found there are intended for future generations, who will discover them during the next renovation of the bridge a hundred years from now”, Lausanne mayor Grégoire Junod  in a press release.

The box contains items that are representative of the modern-day life in Lausanne; all were selected by city officials, as well residents:

  • Map of Lausanne
  • Photos of the renovation of the Grand-Pont
  • Covid auto-test with instructions
  • Mobile phone with charger
  • A bottle of water from Lake Geneva
  • A stamp showing the cathedral’s watchtower
  • A recording of the city noises on USB key
  • Aerial photos of the city
  • Bus ticket and map of the public transport network
  • 5-franc coin
  • An issue of Lausanne daily newspaper, “24 Heures”
  • A copy of the city’s legislative projects from 2021 to 2026

“These objects are intended to be both symbolic and representative of the times in which we live, with its legacy, challenges, and hopes for the future”, Junod said.

READ MORE: After 600 years of night watchmen, Lausanne gets first watchwoman

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HOUSING

Can a Swiss landlord charge a fee if you renounce to rent an apartment?

Say you signed a registration for a flat in Switzerland, but then changed your mind. What, if any, fees are you liable for if you decide to withdraw your application?

Can a Swiss landlord charge a fee if you renounce to rent an apartment?

In some areas of Switzerland, good and reasonably priced rental properties are difficult to come by, so once you find one, you hold on to it for dear life.

But it can also happen that you change your mind for whatever reason and no longer want to proceed with the rental.

What happens then?

Some rental agencies’ registration forms include a clause stating that if you cancel after a contract has been prepared, you have to pay between 150 and 200 to cover administration costs — even if the contract hasn’t yet been signed.

This is ostensibly for all the time and effort that went into preparing the lease.

If you are unfamiliar with Swiss laws, you may feel a duty to pay these fees, believing that if you don’t, Swiss rental police will knock on your door.

But you can relax: apart from the fact that there’s no such thing in Switzerland as “rental police”, you don’t owe the agency or landlord anything.

That is because registrations and applications of any kind —  including those for rental properties — are non-binding until both parties have signed them. Up to this point, an application can be withdrawn without incurring any costs, even if the agency / landlord have you believe otherwise.

READ MORE: REVEALED: The six major Swiss cities where rents are falling

Why are landlords / rental agencies engaging in this practice?

To be fair, not all of them will attempt to make you pay for failing to sign the lease. Those who do are hoping you don’t know your legal rights, especially if you are a foreigner who (they hope) is still green behind the ears when it comes to rental regulations in Switzerland.

However, according to the official site of canton of Geneva (but this rule applies nationally), some exceptions could be admissible.

If applicants are not acting in “good faith” — for instance, by belatedly expressing their refusal to sign the lease and delaying the rental process while other potential tenants are kept waiting —  the landlord could ask to be compensated.

This is not a clear black-and-white situation though, as “good faith” calls for subjective judgements, ones that the landlord or rental agency could not make unless they have proof that candidates’ actions were dishonest — which is also difficult to prove.

But even in this case, the landlord “could only invoice his actual costs: the costs of drafting the lease contract and sending it out, for example”, according to the Swiss Tenants Association (ASLOCA).

You should also inform yourself about what your landlord can and cannot demand of you.

“You have to remember that just because something is written in the lease doesn’t mean it’s true”, ASLOCA said.

“Lease law is protective of the tenant and takes into consideration that the latter does not necessarily have the possibility or the resources to read and carefully negotiate any clause of his lease”.

If uncertain of what your rights and obligations are, this official government site provides useful information and  resources, including who, in your canton of residence, can help in case of a dispute with your landlord.

READ MORE: Tenant in Switzerland? Here’s how to apply for a rent reduction

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