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Renting For Members

Do I have to pay a penalty if I break my Swiss rental lease early?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Do I have to pay a penalty if I break my Swiss rental lease early?
You must find another tenant to avoid paying ‘penalty’ rent. Photo by chris robert on Unsplash

There are many rules regulating tenancy rights and obligations in Switzerland. So what happens if you want to terminate your rental agreement early?

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There are two kinds of rental contracts in Switzerland: the ones that are limited in time and those that are open-ended.

Regardless of which type of agreement you have, you can only terminate your contract free of charge at the end of your contractual tenancy period.

To do so, you must notify your landlord ahead of time, within the notice period set out in your lease, which is usually three months.

So, for instance, if you plan to leave in December, you must hand in your written notice by September 30th of the year.

This ensures that your landlord can find another tenant for the flat.

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But what happens if you have to leave before your lease expires?

A new job or another change in your personal situation may require you to move to another location.

Normally, if you break your lease, you would have to continue paying your monthly rent until the end of your contract.

There is, however, a way to get around it.

You can find a suitable tenant who is acceptable to your landlord and who is willing to take over your lease on the same terms — that is, the same rent and other conditions set out in your contract.

What does ‘suitable’ mean in this context?

The landlord will want a person who has the financial means to pay the rent; is a Swiss national or has a work / residency permit valid for the remainder of the lease; and is generally in good standing (proof showing lack of criminal record and debt collection procedures may have to be provided).

If the tenant you propose is approved by your landlord, then you are off the hook; if not, you would unfortunately have to continue paying until and unless you come up with another acceptable candidate.

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

Political move toward easing of requirements

Geneva MP Christian Dandrès has introduced a motion in the cantonal parliament calling for the elimination of this obligation.

He argues that finding someone suitable to take quickly over an apartment is not easy, and asks that tenants be exempted from this requirement in regions like Geneva and Zurich, “where there is a housing shortage".

READ MORE: Switzerland set to experience housing shortage and (even) higher rents in 2023

In its response, however, the Federal Council asked the Parliament to reject this proposal, claiming it would result in "an increased complexity of tenancy law".

Furthermore, if this practice were to be abolished, landlords “would be forced to find a new tenant themselves, and in the event of housing shortage, raise the rent".

So, for the time being at least, this particular rule is not going to change.

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