Swiss tenants face higher heating costs
As fuel — both gas and oil — are becoming scarce and their prices are expected to keep rising, many tenants in Switzerland will be slapped with higher heating bills as the weather turns colder.
Energy crisis has been a hot-button topic in Switzerland since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, with the government now drawing emergency plans for major power outages affecting the country's essential infrastructure.
At this point, these worst-case scenarios are just that — plausible events that may occur. What is certain, however, is that tenants across Switzerland will see their heating costs increase by an average of 100 francs per month, especially in buildings heated by oil or gas, or ones that are poorly insulated.
As The Local reported, not all Swiss households depend on gas for heating, and a possible gas shortage would hit harder in those with large percentages of homes heated with gas.
For instance, in Solothurn, 65 percent of residential buildings depend on gas for heating. That proportion is 60 percent in Biel, 55 percent in Lucerne, 51 percent in Zurich, 47 percent in Bern, 46.2 percent in Geneva, and 43 percent in Basel.
How much more can you expect to pay?
For a 2.5 room apartment, for instance, charges are expected to go up by 50 francs per month. Those living in larger quarters will have to pay between 80 and 200 francs more, depending on the size of their rented dwellings, according to RTS public broadcaster.
However, this increase will affect some tenants more than others, depending on what kind of rental agreements they have.
That is because there are two types of contracts: those based on flat rates for utilities, including heating, and those — more common ones — where the tenant is responsible for ancillary charges (Nebenkosten in German, frais accessoires in German, costi aggiuntivi in Italian) that include heating as well.
In the former case, when you pay a flat rate for your ancillary services, the annual amount is fixed in your rental contract. Usually, the flat rate is similar to the actual costs incurred, based on the prices of the three past years.
This year and the next, however, this math will no longer hold true for either landlords or tenants, and will likely have to be re-calculated to reflect the current energy crisis.
In the latter case, tenants themselves are responsible for paying the ancillary costs — either to the landlord or directly to the utility company, depending on the terms of their rental agreement.
This year more than ever, "it is necessary to be careful and to put this money aside, so as not to find yourself in a difficult financial situation when the bill comes”, said Carlo Sommaruga, president of ASLOCA tenants’ association.
The question of how to keep your home warm in winter while keeping electricity charges under control is another matter entirely.
This is especially true as experts are urging consumers not to rely on electric heaters during the cold weather, as this use will adversely affect the electricity supply.
Aside from even higher costs, “electricity consumption will increase massively when the situation is already tense”, according to Michael Frank, director of the Association of Swiss Electric Companies (VSE),