Finding an apartment to rent in Switzerland can be difficult for anyone and particularly challenging for those people new to the country. Here our team shares some ideas and tips on what to look out for and how to possibly improve your chances of finding the right apartment to rent.
The apartment rental market in Switzerland – general overview
The majority of people in Switzerland live in rental apartments. The standard offer for rental apartments is typically as follows:
- Apartments are usually unfurnished with no light fittings, but generally have complete bathrooms and kitchens fitted.
- Bathrooms generally have a light attached to a mirror and kitchens possibly have a light built into an extractor fan above the oven.
- Tenants usually have access to a cellar or loft space, as well as a communal laundry room. There is usually a roster for using the laundry.
- A parking space or garage may be available for an additional charge. It is always a good idea to check this first, as these can be expensive.
- A good and commonly used accommodation search platform is www.homegate.ch. In addition to the cost of rental per month, on the website, you can usually find local tax information for the area where you are looking.
Walking around, it is not always obvious what apartments are available for rent or not, as signs outside are rare.
Agents rarely have brick and mortar offices. but in addition to agents internet sites, local daily newspapers and supermarket notice boards are very useful ways to find something for rent and move quickly. Yet when you see the adverts – how do you understand them? What did a colleague mean when they said they had a 3.5 room apartment for rent?
A kitchen and a bathroom are standard so a 3.5 room apartment actually means a 2 bedroomed apartment with a living room and an extended piece of living room or kitchen where you could fit a dining room table. This is the 0.5. A 1.0 is really a studio. A 5.0 is a four bedroomed appartment without the dining room part. In addition to this, the size of the apartment in square meters (M2 is usually stated).
The rental price is made up of two parts:
- the base cost and any “extras”.
- Extras can vary from place to place, but usually include hot water and concierge services (cleaning communal stairs, external areas, fixing wobbly communal doors and light bulbs etc).
- Extras (“Nebenkosten” DE / “Coûts supplémentaires” FR) include electricity, heating, parking, and sometimes TV license
So you have found an apartment that you like the look of, and would like to organise a viewing? In the advertisement, there is usually a phone number or email address for the person responsible for the viewing.
- If the apartment is already empty, the contact may be with a local agent or an onsite concierge. In the event the apartment is still occupied and the resident would like to leave outside of the notice periods then expect the viewing to be with the occupier.
- In popular areas, an agent may declare an open house viewing on a certain date and time for all interested parties to come at the same time. Don’t expect this to happen outside of office hours unless an occupier agrees with a meeting after work.
- If you are interested in a particular apartment, you must request the application forms from the person organising the viewing. When delivering the completed form to the person responsible, you can be expected to also deliver a criminal record clearance and debt status as standard.
- In Switzerland, the above can be requested online and through your local post office. They take a few days to arrive, so it is worth being preprepared and obtaining these documents in advance if you are new to the country. The documents are usually accepted with up to three months valid from date of issue.
- Agents will collect applications over a period of time and then inform the “successful” applicant sending a rental agreement, clarifying all the conditions, such as notice periods, deposits, costs and what you are renting from when and a day to hand over keys and declare the condition of the property.
- The start date will not be “tomorrow” and nearly all contracts start on the first of the month with few exceptions.
Deposits and notice periods
- The notice period is usually three months. There is often a minimum rental period stipulated of 18 months, before these notice options become available.
- Deposits are often three months rent with one month rent being paid upfront. This means that you can often be expected to find four months rent to star.
- The deposit is held in a blocked account by both parties and earns interest. It is now also possible to take out an insurance for the deposit instead of locking the cash yourself.
- The deposit would cover unpaid rent or getting the apartment back to the standard that the landlord has rented it out to you.
- When you take over an apartment the tenant and the landlord do any inventory of the condition of the apartment before you move in and sign it off.
- It is important to notice small things such as scuffs on a wall or scratches to parquet otherwise you may be seen as having caused them on your departure and the cost of correcting them might be coming out of your deposit.
- This is particularly important if you are taking over directly from a previous tenant and the landlord will not be repainting the apartment before you move in.
- Virtually all rental apartments are painted plain white, so if you were to paint a wall whilst living in an apartment as a tenant, then you need to make sure the wall is returned to white before departure.
- Any holes from hooks or pictures must also be refilled.
- The above may all seem quite slow and thorough but it does mean that you get an apartment with a very high standard of finish and virtually returned to “new” condition. It can also partly explain why you might need a three month notice period to leave and find a new place. There is a lot to get through.
- Notice periods in Switzerland are usually in 2 to 3 windows during the year. These are at the end of March and end of September and sometimes end of June.
Short term permits may generate difficulties with some landlords if they are issued for less than the minimum rental period.
- Finally, one of the things you are going to require to get an apartment is a permit. This can appear to have a kafkasesque conundrum or “catch 22” attached to it, in that to get a permit you require an address!
- A hotel/BnB is often not accepted as an address meaning that you could choose a business apartment for a period of time while you look for a longer term apartment. Two to three months is probably realistic to get through the search process. In this way, you will have the everyday comfort of a base to return to whilst searching.
- Buyer beware however, as these can be expensive but can be rented with short notice periods or short fixed terms but long enough to give you an address to obtain your permit.
- People already renting an apartment may also need to leave for short periods of time and wish to rent out their apartment for a defined period, but they do not want to leave the rental market or put their furniture into storage.
- These private solutions may give you the short term address that you require without entering the expensive business apartment market, whilst simultaneously helping someone else.
Employers sometimes provide apartments for an initial period to get over the initial address difficulty.
It is a good idea to visit Switzerland first before starting work. This can be used to look at apartments to get a feel for an area that you may like, as well as the process without having the pressure of work.
It is also helpful if you can have someone else assist you when visiting apartments. This may be to assist with the condition of the apartment, ask additional questions, or to simply be able to view an apartment when you are working and which may not have an available viewing at another time.
The voltage in Switzerland is 230 volts which works for most international appliances with the exception of the US which require a voltage adapter. Swiss sockets take a three pin plug but will accept Swiss and many European two pin appliances. The German two pin is too large however and sometimes the Swiss socket is often recessed so that the pins may be the right size, but the plug does not fit into the recessed space. In the end, it might be worth changing some plugs on appliances to the Swiss three pin plug.
Pets, noise and washing
- Do not forget to ask about pets, which may or may not be welcome, or only be welcome up to a certain size. Cats are generally more acceptable than dogs.
- Quiet periods are part of Swiss life and are often strictly observed times For example at lunch time and between 10 pm and 6 am.
- One subject that new renters in Switzerland rarely consider, but which can be a contract deal breaker is “how does the laundry system work ?”
- Swiss apartments do not often have their own washing machines in them, and have no obvious place to install them either.
- Apartment blocks do however have “laundry rooms” and these are generally appointed to your apartment for a predefined time. This shows you when you can do your washing, or you may need to put your name on an existing list.
- If you have to wash a lot or can only do it on rare occasion, then this can be a problem. It is not unusual for people to have to leave social events early because they have to do their washing! They really do, otherwise they may not have another opportunity for a couple of weeks.
- And whereas this may have an impact on social life, it may also be where you are mostly likely to start meeting your neighbours.
If you wish to leave the apartment early or differently to the contractual conditions, then you may do this but you have some obligations.
- It is down to you to find some financially viable new tenants that your landlord is happy to replace you with.
- This means you can return to your local newspaper, supermarket, work intranet, word of mouth, put something in your window to find suitable people, collect their application forms and give these to your landlord.
Well in a nutshell that is it and good luck finding your new apartment! Hopefully this introduction has been helpful and soon you will be wondering what all the fuss was about, whilst adding your own anecdotal experience of finding your very own Swiss apartment to share with friends.
Swissroll GmbH was founded over 20 years ago. During this time our team of experts has worked with hundreds of companies and literally thousands of contractors. Beyond our core function of payroll management, we offer advice to contractors coming to work in Switzerland for the first time. This includes advice on apartment search in Switzerland. Swissroll: “More than just payroll specialists” Contact us now on: email@example.com