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COST OF LIVING

How to avoid rental scams in Switzerland

The French-speaking media in Switzerland reported at the end of 2020 on illegal practices used by building owners to overcharge their tenants. Here's how to avoid these scams.

Are you the victim of a rental scam?
Photo: Loic VENANCE / AFP

The trick is the same in the two cases in question

Tenants in Switzerland are legally entitled to challenge their initial rent within 30 days from the beginning of the lease. The challenge can be based on the increment made on the previous rent by the owner.

Reader question: How do I challenge my rent in Switzerland?

Therefore, in two different cases, the building owners prepared fake lease agreements with real or fictitious tenants to make the new tenants believe that there was no increase in the rent.

However, the new tenant was effectively being cheated by paying a substantial increase in his rent which he was unaware of.

Some practical tips to avoid falling in such a trap:

1.Know the owner of your apartment 

On the land register site, by entering the address of your apartment, you can find out the name of the owner of the building free of charge.

This will allow to ensure that you are dealing with the real owner (a private person, an insurance company, etc.). You may want to google the owner to see if he has been subject to complaints for fraud published in the media.

2.Make contact with the former tenant by asking for their identity and asking them specific questions about the apartment

Prefer an apartment for which you may have had contact with the former tenant.

Indeed, when you visit the apartment, you will have the possibility to ask what the current rent is.

By doing so, you will know which rent must appear in the official form that you must be given (see  point 4a) below).

3.Find out about the rent of other apartments in the building 

If you have just arrived in Switzerland, find out about the rental prices in the city you have just moved to.

READ MORE: In which Swiss canton are rents highest and lowest?

Indeed, the price of a three-room apartment in Geneva is not the same in the Jura nor in St. Gallen.

Also, depending on the districts of the same city, rents can vary.

4. Know your rights 

a) Official approved form: When you sign the lease contract, you must be given a form that mentions the rent paid by the former tenant.

This form is mandatory and your rights are listed on this form.

b) Challenging the initial rent: you have 30 days from the handing over of the keys (art. 270 CO) to contest the initial rent with the Lease and Rental Commission.

The rent can be contested for an abusive increase in rent compared to what the former tenant paid, but it is also possible to contest an unchanged rent.

Find out about your rights during the first 30 days after the keys are handed over, before it is too late.

Some landlords insist on providing you with the lease agreement in original only after 30 days to prevent you from using this right.

Insist on getting the agreement, if they refuse, seize the lease and rental Commission. 

Summary

We realise that in many cases because of the shortage of apartments or the difficulty in finding your “dream” apartment, you may not have the time to take steps 1-4 because they may not be realistic options because of the shortage of time.

However, remember, between the time you apply for the apartment and the time taken by the agency to make a choice between the potential tenants (which often needs to be approved by the owners), you may be able to at least check some of these points.

There is also no obligation to take the apartment even if you have applied for it, until and unless you have signed the lease agreement.

Finally beware of the conditions of some real estate agencies that charge you a fine if you apply for the apartment but don’t take it when your tenancy has been approved.

This advice was prepared by Renuka Cavadini and Angela Carvalho of Page & Partners 

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SWISS CITIZENSHIP

Third generation fast-track naturalisation in Switzerland: What you need to know

Many people in Switzerland are eligible for third generation fast-track naturalisation but are unaware. Here's what you need to know.

Third generation fast-track naturalisation in Switzerland: What you need to know

According to a report published by the Federal Commission of Migration on April 8th, one quarter of the Swiss resident population do not vote because they do not have the nationality.

Almost 350,000 people are foreigners born in Switzerland and approximately 35,000 belong to third generation families established in Switzerland.

Walter Leimgruber, President of the Federal Commission of Migration, hopes that many young people will take advantage of this transitional period.

He believes it would be a benefit for Switzerland to have more people, well integrated into Swiss society, participating actively in debates and political decisions.

EXPLAINED: How to fast track permanent residency in Switzerland

Swiss naturalisation

Swiss naturalisation procedure is either ordinary i.e. takes 1-2 years – or is fast-track / facilitated – which takes a maximum of one year. (Covid delays within cantonal immigration offices need to be taken into consideration).

As a general rule – fast-track naturalisation is for those who are “entitled” to naturalisation subject to all material conditions being fulfilled (absence of criminal record, residence in Switzerland etc.) whereas as ordinary naturalisation is for those whose naturalisation depends on the discretion of the authorities.

Due to the complexity of the conditions, this article will not explain all the formal and material conditions for naturalisation.

Fast-track naturalisation

There are several options for fast-track naturalisation under the Swiss federal law on nationality. This article only concerns one of the options – third generation naturalisation – available for certain people till 18th February 2023.

The conditions for third generation fast-track naturalisation are provided by article 24a of the Swiss federal law on nationality:

Since February 2018, foreigners under the age of 25, whose grandparents were already established in Switzerland, can request fast-track naturalisation. (Articles 24a LN and 15a OLN).

A child of foreign parents may, on application, be granted facilitated naturalisation 

if the following conditions are met 

  1. at least one of the grandparents was born in Switzerland or it can be plausibly established that the grandparent had a B, C, L or A permit or a carte de Legitimation in Switzerland. 
  2. at least one of the parents had a C permit, had lived in Switzerland for at least 10 years and had completed at least five years of compulsory schooling (i.e. primary and middle school) in Switzerland; 
  3. He was born in Switzerland; 
  4. He has a C permit and has completed at least five years of compulsory schooling (i.e. primary and middle school) in Switzerland. 

2 The application must be submitted before the age of 25. 

3 A naturalised child acquires the citizenship of the commune of residence and the canton of residence that is his at the time of naturalisation.

The transitional provision – article 51a LN, provides that:

Third-generation foreigners who, on 15 February 2018, had reached the age of 25 but had not yet celebrated their 35th birthday; and

Who fulfil the conditions of article 24a LN ( and other material conditions of the Swiss federal law on nationality), can therefore apply for fast-track naturalisation until 15 February 2023 at the latest, provided they have not yet reached the age of 40 at the time of the application.

To recap

Did your grandparents live in Switzerland?

Did your parents live in Switzerland?

Are you under 40 and living in Switzerland?

If yes, you may be eligible for third generation fast-track naturalisation.

The information in this article was prepared by Renuka Cavadini of Page & Partners. 

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