Advertisement

Renting For Members

The unethical tricks to watch out for when renting in Switzerland

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
The unethical tricks to watch out for when renting in Switzerland
You have the right to enjoy your apartment with extra fees and charges. Photo by HiveBoxx on Unsplash

Given the very tight housing market in Switzerland, finding an apartment you like (and can afford) is no small feat. But some rental agencies may take advantage of you — or at least try.

Looking to move? Find your next rental apartment here.

Advertisement

Certainly, the vast majority of agencies are honest and comply with the law. Others, on the other hand, have some dubious tricks up their sleeves intended to squeeze more money out of tenants than they are legally entitled to.

This is not a new practice: several years ago, Geneva agencies were caught charging potential tenants hundreds of francs just to view vacant apartments. 

“These scandalous practices flourish in areas where there is a housing crisis,” attorney Christian Dandrès said at the time.

Tenants associations report that a number of agencies are still involved in unscrupulous (and often illegal) practices.

“Many agencies charge the tenant for any expense related to administrative tasks, which should logically be paid by the owners who mandate the agency to manage the property," according to Swiss Tenants Association (ASLOCA.) 

For instance, the group found that some property managers routinely charge unwitting tenants fees for services that are either already included in their rent, or ones that don’t have extra costs attached to them.

For instance:

Application fees

Once you sign the lease, some management companies charge from 100 to 200 francs, ostensibly for preparation of your contract.

However, according to François Bohnet, a legal expert who specialises in rents, this is not admissible. 

“Management fees are included in the rent paid by the tenant. Agencies cannot therefore require additional fees for this service."

Advertisement

Fees in the event of lower rent

Sometimes, tenants are entitled to a reduction in rent — for example, when a defect in the rented premises that hinders or restricts the use of the property is discovered,  or under other circumstances.

READ ALSO: Here's how to apply for a rent reduction

The request for the reduction should not entail any costs, but according to ASLOCA, some management companies charge 50 francs "to cover the costs linked to the resulting administrative procedures, such as notification of the new rent on the official form.”

"It is your right to ask for a rent reduction. You cannot be charged an administrative fee for this,” Bohnet said.

Charges for authorised subletting

In principle, all tenants have the right to sublet their apartment, on the condition that the landlord is informed and agrees to this arrangement.

READ ALSO: Can I sublet my rented apartment in Switzerland?

However, in a standard document given to tenants, some agencies mention that a request for authorised subletting will cost 200 francs.

This charge too is unwarranted, Bohnet said.

Fee for early termination of lease

While these charges are legitimate in case a tenant breaks the lease, they must be waved if a new, qualified candidate steps in to take over the apartment.

However, some agencies still charge between 200 and 300 francs for terminating the lease in advance, even if a tenant  found a suitable replacement.

Advertisement

How can you ensure you don’t fall victim to these (and other) questionable practices?

Unless you are an expert in tenancy law (which most people aren’t), you could benefit from joining your local tenants’ group.

Not only will it be a good source of information relating to your rights and obligations, and answer any questions about your tenancy, but it will also advocate for you if you ever have a disagreement or conflict with your landlord (provided, of course, that you have a defendable case).

These groups are divided according to linguistic regions, which means you can easily find one in your area:
Swiss German
Swiss French
Swiss Italian
 
Have you been the victim of any scams of unethical behaviour when looking for an apartment to rent or moving flats in Switzerland? Email us at [email protected] or leave a comment below.
 
 

More

Comments

Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also