Accommodation in Switzerland
Although accommodation in Switzerland is in line with the country’s reputation for being highly developed, housing is pricey and competition is stiff, even by European standards.
Most people, including locals, rent their homes, which limits the number of available properties. This drives up housing prices, but also leads to apartment hunters spending money on hotels and hostels.
If they can, expats should try to negotiate a housing provision into their employment contract. Some employers even assist their expat employees in securing a suitable apartment.
Types of accommodation in Switzerland
Apartments are the most common type of accommodation in Switzerland in large cities like Geneva or Zurich as well as in smaller towns. Freestanding houses are available but are usually expensive or outside urban areas.
Most properties in Switzerland are unfurnished and in some instances the tenenat may even have to purchase big electrical items such as a fridge, cookers and dishwashers.
Finding a property in Switzerland
For those without any support from an employer, there are online property portals, local newspapers and real estate agent brochures that are good places to start looking for somewhere to rent. Budget-conscious expats may want to use the Internet to look for house sharing and sub-letting options.
Expats need to act fast after they find a suitable property as real estate market turnover is pretty high. Apartments in sought after parts of Switzerland rarely stay on the market for more than a couple of weeks.
Whether it’s found directly through an agency (régie) or an advert, they should find out about the rental conditions – there may be extra requirements, like needing a Swiss guarantor.
If the conditions are reasonable, expats can arrange to view the apartment and fill in an application form once they’re there. Prospective tenants need to provide a lot of information including proof of employment, identification and finances.
This can also include a certificate that proves the applicant isn’t facing legal proceedings for unpaid debts (Auszug aus dem Betreibungsregister/extrait du Registre des poursuites), which can be applied for at a local debt collection office (Betreibungsamt/Office des poursuites).
Applicants usually hear back from the landlord or their agent within a month, and if they haven’t heard back, they can follow up a few days before the lease starts. Unsuccessful applicants aren’t always contacted.
Renting a property in Switzerland
After the application is accepted, a handover day is arranged where the tenant usually signs a 12-month lease. This also gives them an opportunity to inspect the property and do an inventory. Rental contracts in Switzerland can begin on the 1st or 15th of a month.
Tenants usually pay the first month’s rent upfront and up to three months’ rent as a security deposit, and are responsible for their own utilities.In some cantons it is mandatory for tenants to purchase third party liability insurance.
In most cases, tenants have to give at least a month’s notice if they want to terminate the lease early. In some parts of the country, tenancy can only start and end on certain days.