Using Onest to find a new rental property could not be easier today. However, there are still a few stages to the process. Please find below a step-to-step guide for renting a property in Switzerland.
As only around 40% of the population owns a home, there is often a lot of competition between tenants to find a Swiss property in particular in urban areas. In general, there is a vacancy rate of 3% in towns and villages, but cities are low from 0.2%-0.8%. Due to the extremely low vacancy rate, prices are high as there is more demand than supply.
Agents and property management companies control 95% of the property rental market. It rarely happens that a tenant rents directly from a landlord. In order to rent or buy a property in Switzerland, you would need to have a legal residency ("effective domicile"). As per the Swiss Civil Code, this is the place where a person lives with the intention to remain permanently. Switzerland has strong tenancy rights. Once you have the signed a tenancy agreement, it is difficult for a landlord to give the tenant notice or increase the rent. Therefore agents are very careful when selecting their tenants.
Due to the limited supply of rental properties on the market, it is worthwhile exploring every path to find a new home. This includes searching online (www.onest.ch), browsing newspapers and contacting estate agents.
Please bear in mind that in property listings apartments are usually described by the total number of rooms, not counting bathrooms. In some cantons, if the kitchen is open plan, it is counted as 0.5 rooms.
Properties are also often rented as unfurnished. When you visit a property, please check what kitchen appliances will remain in the apartment as well as light fittings.
Onest allows you to compare the prices of properties and also other relevant information which will impact your decision to rent a property.
Once you have found a suitable home, you will need to fill out a rental application (also known as "dossier de location" or "Mieterdossier"). In most cases, rental applications are reviewed depending on who submits the rental application first. Therefore it is important to be proactive if you wish to beat the queues.
In the rental application form, you will be asked to provide (1) personal information such as contact details, age, marital status, number of children, and (2) professional information such as employment and salary details. There is usually a charge involved for the submission of a rental application, so liaise with the agent/property manager first to find out.
The following documents need to be submitted together with your rental application:
1. "Extrait de Office des Poursuites or Betreibungsregisterauszug" - which confirms that you have no debt collection proceedings against you since the last 5 years. This document should have been issued during the last 3 months in order to be valid; 2. Copy of your passport/ID; 3. If you are a foreigner in Switzerland, a copy of your resident permit confirming your authorisation to reside in Switzerland; 4. Salary statements of the last 3 months - to make sure that that you can indeed pay the rent; 5. A reference letter from your employer confirming your employment.
You will be asked to pay a deposit ("Caution/Kaution"), usually equivalent to 1.3 months of rent (to be held in a bank account in the name of the tenant). There is the rental application fee, and potentially an agent administration fee. In addition to the rent to be paid monthly in advance, you will be asked to pay the utilities such as water, gas, electricity. However sometimes these charges are included in the rent, so please check the lease agreement before you sign to understand your financial obligations.
A tenancy agreement should include all the terms agreed (length of the lease, rental amount, information regarding notice term, deposit amount, conditions for rent increases, property's house rules (in particular if in an apartment building which refers to noise, pets etc).
In addition, an inventory report will be provided when you move in, so please check that all is in order as this will be used as basis for the check out and deposit reimbursement. If anything is damaged, you will need to confirm this in writing directly upon the move in, to avoid having to pay for it when you move out.
Once the rental contract is signed you are legally bound by it. Generally speaking, tenancy agreements in Switzerland are for 12 months. The notice period is 3 months. If you wish to move out and you present the landlord with a new tenant who has the required financial means to take over the lease, in most cases the landlord cannot refuse.
Tenants are protected by the law and compared to many other countries they have many more rights. There are a number of associations which offer legal advice to its members, such as:
1. For German-speaking Switzerland: Schweizerischer Mieter- and Mieterinnenverband (MV, www.mieterverband.ch)
2. For French-speaking Switzerland: ASLOCA (www.asloca.ch)
3. For Ticino: Associazione Svizzera Inquilini (www.asi-infoalloggio.ch)
Landlords can only raise the rent of an existing tenant if they make an official application. Effectively they would need to demonstrate that the official base mortgage interest rate has increased. If the tenant does not agree to this rent increase, he has 30 days to appeal with the government housing arbitration agency. Tenants wishing to reduce the rent need to follow the same procedure, by showing that the base mortgage rate has been reduced.
When the tenancy agreement has been signed and the funds transferred, you can now move into your new home!