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Renting For Members

What background checks can your Swiss landlord carry out?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
What background checks can your Swiss landlord carry out?
Your tenancy application should not ask questions that are too personal.Image by vined mind from Pixabay

If you are in the process of looking for a flat in Switzerland, you may be wondering what verifications the real estate agency will carry out — especially if you are a foreign resident.

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Finding affordable housing in Switzerland is challenging enough without having to worry about what the background checks might reveal about you.

This is especially true as some landlords dig much deeper into your personal past that others.

As RTS public broadcaster reported on Monday, one candidate discovered that the real estate agency had hired a private investigator to obtain very detailed information about him and his family.

He discovered this by accident, when a letter from the landlord’s management company contained a report from the investigator, listing “much more than the information usually requested in real estate rental forms,” according to RTS.

The report, which the agency sent out by mistake, contained not just his financial and professional details, but also an assessment of his moral character and reputation.

Is this kind of report a typical (and legitimate) requirement for rentals, or did the management company overstep its bounds?

RTS put this question to Florence Henguely, a federal data protection and transparency expert, who questioned the legality of this dubious ‘information- gathering’ process.

“The applicant should have been informed because there is a principle of good faith and transparency, which requires that no data be collected without the knowledge of the person concerned,” she said.

Other rules were broken as well.

For instance, the landlord is allowed to seek only the information that is necessary for tenancy purposes, such as identity, contact details, financial information, and creditworthiness.

Furthermore, the information must be obtained directly from the candidate, with their knowledge and consent, rather than behind their backs, as was done in this case.

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This is what a rental agency can legitimately request from a prospective tenant:

Application form

This is self-explanatory;  just fill out the form with all the information it asks for, and don’t forget to date and sign it.

Identification

If you are Swiss, a copy of your ID card (both sides) will suffice. Foreign nationals should attach a copy of their passport.

Employment status 

Generally, your application will ask about your profession and your current employer. 

They will also ask for a salary estimate and sometimes proof of salary too. 

Residence permit

While landlords are obviously not allowed to discriminate against potential tenants based on their nationality, religion, skin colour, ethnicity, or gender, they do have a right to know what kind of permit you have, to make sure you are in the country legally.

They will obviously prefer someone with a C permit over all the other ones, but a B permit is fine too. The short-term L permit may be more of a problem, though it will not automatically disqualify you..

Steady income

To prove that you can afford to pay the rent, attach your salary slip for the last three months. If you are retired, provide the proof of your monthly income from your pension plans.

Proof that you are debt-free

You can’t really blame the landlord for wanting their tenants to be financially solvent.

To show that, you must provide the extract from the debt collection register (Betreibungsregisterauszug in German, extrait du registre des poursuites in French, and estratto del registro delle esecuzioni in Italian).

This document can be ordered online from your municipality’s website for about 20 francs.

References

While this is not a requirement, having good references / recommendations from previous landlords or your employer could help you stand out from the crowd of other potential tenants

READ ALSO: What documents do I need for renting an apartment in Switzerland?

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Also remember…

It is very easy to fall into the trap of fake ‘landlords’ who are out to get as much money out of you as possible, without actually having an apartment to rent.

So be vigilant and don’t send out any of the above-mentioned documents (and certainly no money) to anyone, unless you are absolutely sure the transaction is legitimate.

READ ALSO: How I almost fell for a rental scam in Switzerland and what I did about it

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