Renting Property in Switzerland
Expats moving to Switzerland should allow themselves sufficient time to find accommodation. Finding accommodation prior to moving to Switzerland may seem ideal for expats, but this could be problematic if one does not know if the area has adequate amenities or what the apartment contains. If an expat chooses to find accommodation whilst in Switzerland, they will have a better idea of the place by seeing the neighbourhood, how transport works and the state of the accommodation. Expats who choose the latter will find that many hotels and bed-and-breakfast places offer reduced weekly or monthly rates to cater to those seeking temporary accommodation.
Types of accommodation in Switzerland
Expats will find that rented property in Switzerland usually is unfurnished. Unfurnished can often mean that the place is without light fittings, curtains or even a sink. Expats should budget for the necessary labour if required. In some cases, apartments are equipped with a stove and a refrigerator, and sometimes there is a joint washing machine for the whole apartment block in the cellar. Expats should note that the inclusion of such amenities does tend to push the price up. Additional costs also include garbage disposal, street and house cleaning, water and heating. Most apartments in Switzerland are equipped with central heating.
Expats will note that the number of rooms usually does not include the kitchen or bathroom – however, this can vary from city to city.
It can be difficult to find apartments for families at a reasonable price, so if possible, expats are advised to negotiate an accommodation allowance into their package.
Ways to find accommodation in Switzerland
The classifieds and online sites are all good resources for expats seeking accommodation. Expats who are willing to pay can go through an estate agent or relocation specialist. It is important to make sure that the conditions and costs involved are fully understood, before enlisting the help of an estate agent, as the fee can be costly.
The lease in Switzerland
contract is legally binding, and a landlord will expect it to be followed accordingly. It is advised that an expat should seek advice if they do not understand or agree with parts of the contract. Expats can also join the local tenants’ association which can provide assistance.
contract usually includes the following:
Length of the agreement
Rent amount (to be paid by standing order or bank transfer – this will be specified in the lease)
Conditions for rent increases
Deposit amount (and the interest gained)
Amount of additional costs
Term of notice (this is usually between 3 to 6 months)
An agreement on redecoration (when moving in or out)
Inventory of all items (if furnished)
Definition of the repairs that the landlord and tenant are responsible for
Termination of the contract
Before moving in, expats should inspect all elements of the apartment with the landlord. Any defects or damages should be written down (and photographed if necessary), and signed by the landlord. This list must be kept by the tenant. This same process will occur when moving out, therefore it is recommended that expats be vigilant about it in order to avoid paying any unnecessary defect costs.
Landlords will likely ask for a deposit (known as a caution in French). A normal deposit will be between one and three months’ rent. This is refunded when moving out, along with the interest earned on the deposit. If there is any damage to the apartment that contravenes the inventory list, the landlord will keep part or all of the deposit for repairs, depending on the extent of the damage.
These costs will be detailed in the contract, and therefore expats should be aware of the charges they incur. Costs of heating, gas, water and electricity are dependent on individual usage and therefore are paid monthly at a predetermined fixed rate. Upon the yearly meter reading, expats will be refunded or will need to pay extra depending on usage. Expats will have to register for electricity, gas and water at the local company, however, in most cases, the landlord will register on a tenant's behalf. Note that there is also a deposit involved in this.
There may also be other costs involved, like street and house cleaning and garbage disposal. These costs will depend on the size of the apartment. Expats should adhere to the rules of garbage disposal, making sure to separate their garbage accordingly and place it in the right bins.
Expats may be surprised to hear that house rules can dictate when a person can do laundry, take a shower or even flush the toilet. The Swiss value privacy and order, and take noise control very seriously, so a contract may contain stipulations about quiet times. It is recommended that these conditions are adhered to, as a breach can be grounds for the termination of a contract.
Expats with pets or those who intend to get one should discuss it with the landlord in order for it to be included in the rent agreement.
When moving out of an apartment, it must be cleaned. An expat can hire a company to do so, but it can be expensive. Other redecoration includes painting walls, filling in any holes, and repairing any scratches on wooden floors. All of these conditions should be covered in the lease.