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Heatwave: Are you entitled to a rent reduction in your Swiss home?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Heatwave: Are you entitled to a rent reduction in your Swiss home?
A bit of temporary relief in a heatwave. Image by günther from Pixabay

It has been very hot in Switzerland in the past few weeks, making apartments, especially in older buildings, almost uninhabitable. What rights do tenants have if their dwellings are overheated?

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When temperatures hit, or exceed, high 20s, it is difficult to find relief from the heat, either at night or during the day.

Tips on how to stay cool(er) indoors – such as ventilating the rooms, keeping windows, blinds or shutters closed in the afternoon, and taking cold showers – may bring a measure of relief, but no long-lasting comfort. 

And this being Switzerland, a country of many rules, you can only dream of air conditioning: depending on the laws in your canton of residence, you may have to sweat it out – literally and figuratively – before you get an official permission (or not) to install a fixed AC unit in your dwellings.

The reason is an environmental one: every canton has its own energy laws, with some being more restrictive than others when it comes to installing air condition devices.

READ ALSO: Why getting permission for air conditioners is so hard in Switzerland

This brings up a question: are you entitled to rent reduction during the summer if your apartment is rendered uninhabitable because of the much-too-high temperature indoors?

The answer is: it depends on what kind of building you live in.

If you are lucky enough to live in a building built after 2016, your chances of lowering your rent are fair.

That's because that year, the Federal Court, Switzerland's highest judicial authority, ruled that the normal temperature for an apartment is 20 to 21 degrees. It is even lower – between 19 and 20 degrees – in energy-efficient Minergie dwellings. 

READ ALSO: What are 'Minergie' homes in Switzerland? 

If the indoor temperature is 3 to 5 degrees higher for an extended period, there is a defect and tenants are then entitled to a rent reduction.


That is good news, at least for some tenants.

For those living in older homes, on the other hand, it would be much more difficult – though not totally impossible – to obtain lower rent.

This is because the standards set for new dwellings in terms of thermal insulation and ventilation can't be expected in older construction.

However, there is a legal precedence in this matter, where tenants succeeded in having their rent lowered based on the premise in the law stating that rented accommodations must be in "liveable" condition.

In a case brought to a court in 2010, tenants argued their apartment did not meet the liveability criteria in the summer because there were no fixtures protecting the apartment from the heat.

In its judgement, the court ordered the landlord to install blinds or shutters over the widows, granting the tenants a reduction in the rent of 5 percent until these fixtures were installed.


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