Renting For Members

Zurich's housing woes spark illegal rental practices

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Zurich's housing woes spark illegal rental practices
You may be told to purchase the sofa — though children and pets are not included. Photo: Pixabay

The demand for affordable apartments in Switzerland’s largest city is so strong that some tenants have resorted to ‘blackmailing’ candidates for the lease takeover.

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As Zurich’s population is climbing steadily, fuelled by a continuing influx of foreigners – a trend that is expected to continue, according to demographers – the housing shortage is worsening. 

So much so, in fact, that a number of unscrupulous tenants who want to break their lease and are looking for suitable candidates to take over their rental contract, feel emboldened to pose some unreasonable conditions.

As the Swiss media reported, one practice which has become more commonplace lately is requiring that those taking over the apartment buy the furniture of the departing tenant.

If they refuse, there are plenty of other prospective tenants eager to fulfil any conditions just to get the foot in – both literally and figuratively.

One example of such advertisement cited by the media states that all the furniture currently in the apartment “must be bought for 3,500 francs”.

Some even go so far as to demand 8,000 francs for used furniture, dishes, and appliances.

This practice is, however, illegal and prospective tenants should not be bullied into it.

“The law prohibits making a lease contract dependent on other commercial transactions,” the newspaper said, adding that in such cases, it is advisable to contact the landlord or property management company directly, rather than deal with greedy tenants.

This unethical tactic is far from unique in Switzerland.

In other cases, rental agencies, rather than tenants themselves, have taken advantage of housing shortages by engaging in similarly unlawful practices.

In Geneva, for example, which suffers from a housing crisis of its own, some agencies were caught charging potential tenants hundreds of francs just to view vacant apartments. 

And that’s not all: Swiss Tenants Association (ASLOCA) found that some property managers routinely charge unwitting tenants fees for services that are either already included in their rent, or ones that shouldn’t have extra costs attached to them.

Among them are "application fees", with some management companies charging from 100 to 200 francs, ostensibly for preparation of your contract, even though agencies cannot require additional fees for this service.


How can you avoid falling victim to these, and other, such tactics?

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

READ ALSO: The common scams foreigners in Switzerland need to be aware of


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