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RENTING

Renting in Switzerland: Can I pay less when my landlord renovates the apartment?

With most of us spending much more time at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, renovation work can cause an even bigger inconvenience than usual. I am working from home and the landlord is getting renovation done, can I request a reduction of the rent?

Renting in Switzerland: Can I pay less when my landlord renovates the apartment?
Photo: BERTRAND LANGLOIS BERTRAND LANGLOIS / AFP

There are two aspects to this question, working from home and the type and intensity of the renovation work in the building. 

Rent reduction

In Switzerland, in principle, the tenant is entitled to request a rent reduction from the landlord in the event of a defect in the rented premises that hinders or restricts the use of the rented property (Art. 259d para. 1 CO).

A defect exists when “the actual condition of the premises deviates from the agreed conditions, i.e. when the rented premises do not provide the qualities promised in the rental agreement or the qualities which the tenant could legitimately expect based on the agreed use” (ATF 135 III 345 consid. 3.2 p. 347 and references).

“The defect may be material or immaterial”. (Judgment of TF 4A_208/2015, c. 3.1; see eg: ATF 135 III 345 consid. 3.2 p. 347; judgments 4A_476/2015 of 11 January 2016 consid. 4.3.2; 4A_628/2010 of 23 February 2011 consid. 3.1).

We recommend that you take a look at the norms of the canton of your residence, for example for the State of Geneva.

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

Working from home (WFH)

Employees have been WFH on and off for almost a year now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. WFH has been mandatory in Switzerland since January 18th. 

EXPLAINED: What are the rules of Switzerland’s new working from home obligation?

If your landlord is carrying out renovation work in the building (for example, renovating the facade), during working hours, the first question to ask yourself is – have you been informed as a tenant of the type of renovation work being done, the inconveniences it will cause and the duration?

Under Swiss law, the lease of an apartment covers the use of a residential property for a certain period of time, in return for payment of rent.

The lease contract does not deal with how the tenant plans to use the apartment (apart from the fact that it is residential and cannot be sublet without the landlord’s consent).

Therefore, whether or not the tenant is working from home there (just as if you were retired or on vacation and spending more time in your apartment), it does not grant you additional rights against your landlord. The nuisances, of a certain intensity, constitute a defect and thus entitle the tenant to ask for a reduction of rent (please see below).

The reduction granted depends on the discretion of the judge and case law. It is therefore important to record the noise, take pictures of the renovation work, because the evidence is important for an eventual case against the landlord.

Renovation work

Renovation work can consist of repairing the facade, changing an elevator, installing wooden flooring in the apartment above yours or installing double-glazed windows. These renovation works will most likely result in nuisances (for example, dust, noise, paint smell, lack of light, etc.).

These nuisances are therefore a defect that restrict the use of the rented property and could be – based on the intensity and duration of the works – a basis for requesting a reduction in your rent. 

We advise you to send an email to the landlord regarding the disturbing renovation work (if the intensity reasonably justifies it) and to reserve your rights.

Then keep a written record of the daily duration of the disturbing renovation work, the intensity of the noise, odours, etc, take pictures and videos as evidence. These details, images and videos will be very useful in the event of a dispute. The rent reduction is principle due for the entire duration of the defect.

Before filing a request for conciliation with the Conciliation Authority for rent reduction, we recommend that you contact your landlord to discuss the reduction.

We recommend not to make any claims in writing or approve any offers without contacting a lawyer so that you do not waive your rights.

READ MORE: How to avoid rental scams in Switzerland

Many tenants are afraid to have their lease terminated or the not renewed because they availed of their rights. While it is true that no landlord likes a tenant who exercises his rights, there may well be a tactful way of doing so. 

It is important to know that a landlord that terminates a lease prematurely right soon after the tenant has made a written claim could be deemed invalid as a “revenge termination.”

If the court decides that the termination was by revenge, then the tenant is protected against a termination for a period of 3 years. However, this period can be shorter if the landlord really needs the apartment for important reasons, which depend on the discretion of the judge.

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

Member comments

  1. My building is experiencing a 2 yr renovation that implicates all the infrastructure plus major construction of a new large structure on the large terrace at the building’s entrance. ASLOCA has informed me that we in the building, the tenants, can do nothing until the end of the construction period except document as is suggested in the article and the write a detailed letter sent by registered mail to the management company to receive deduction which are itemized with a schedule of deductions of each sort of thing allowed by the codes which regulate this part of Swiss law. Meantime we must pay full rent, grin and bear it, or simply choose to move out. With the rents being so extremely high, and higher all the time, this is financially damaging in the long term to tenants who now find they have low rents in comparison to the current rental market, and often need to stay put. ASLOCA, the Swiss Tenants Assoc., informed me that unfortunately, no monetary sum can truly compensate for the noise, the dust, the inconvenience that a tenant will through. In our case they are redoing all the plumbing, changing out all the bathrooms and kitchens, changing the heating systems, removing old radiators and replacing the in apartments and commercial spaces, changing the elevator in an 8 story building, doing work on the facade, adding another floor of apartments, and removing asbestos from the hall and parking lot ceilings. The noise is from 7 in the morning to 5 at night, pretty much non-stop. About 30 to 40 workers are busy running around working, and in a pandemic this is incomprehensible to many of us. We are overrun by them, however nice some might attempt to be.
    In some cases it is customary to move tenants out of buildings to other apartments during major work, then move them back at the owners expense. But many cut corners by having tenants stay. We provide and important revenue during the construction and/or renovation work. Our quality of life, our dignity, count little, they have us over a barrel due to the housing situation with the ever larger rents. I am astonished to discover all this, as I have never experienced anything like this. Many of the elderly tenants report feeling suicidal.

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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Zurich legally

Got an unwanted mattress, fridge or sofa? Here’s how you can legally get it off your hands in Zurich.

How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Zurich legally

If you’ve bought a new piece of furniture in Zurich or a mattress, you may be faced with the problem of what to do with the old one. 

This is particularly the case in cities like Zurich, where space is at a premium and you may not be able to kit out your spare room with the old furniture. 

While there are waste disposal centres, even getting there without a car can be a problem. 

One man’s trash…

First things first, think about whether you really need to get rid of the thing in question. 

While you may not want it, there may be someone out there willing to take it off your hands – particularly if you aren’t going to charge them. 

The first point of call is to ask your friends and colleagues if they’re interested, with social media the perfect place to ask around. 

If you live in an apartment complex, you might try placing the item in a common area with a note saying “zu verschenken” (to give away) or ‘gratis’ (free). 

After that, there are several online options like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Free Your Stuff Zurich, Ricardo, Anibis, Craig’s List and Tutti. 

Some of these sites will charge a fee – even if you’re giving something away – so be sure to read the fine print first. 

Another option is to donate the goods to a charity organisation. They will usually charge you money to pick it up and prices can vary dramatically. 

Caritas charge CHF35 per 100kg plus transport costs, while Sozialwerk Pfarrer Sieber will pick up small items of furniture for a flat fee, although you’ll need to send them pictures first before they give you a quote. 

Can I put old furniture on the street in Zurich? 

Although less common than many other European cities, occasionally you will see furniture out on the street in front of homes and apartment blocks in Zurich. 

While it might clutter up the sidewalk, it is technically not illegal – provided you only do so for a maximum of 24 hours. 

You also need to make sure it doesn’t block cars, bikes or pedestrians. If it does – or if you leave it out for longer – you risk a fine.

Entsorgungstram: Zurich’s recycling and waste disposal tram

One option is the Entsorgungstram, a mobile recycling centre on rails for all Zurich residents. 

This tram weaves its way through several parts of Zurich, picking up old bulky waste including electrical devices and furniture. 

If you are lucky to live near an Entsorgungstram line, just check the timetable and bring your waste items along to meet the tram. 

There are some rules, as laid out by the Zurich council. 

“The delivered items must not be longer than 2.5 meters (exception: sofa/upholstered furniture can be no longer than 2 meters) and no heavier than 40 kilograms per item. Separate the material beforehand according to its composition: flammable, large metal and landfill”. 

Unfortunately, only pedestrians and cyclists can use this service, i.e. you cannot drive from elsewhere and deposit the stuff. 

More information including route details can be found at the following link. 

Regular waste disposal

Your next option is to see whether you can get rid of it in your usual waste disposal. 

This being Switzerland, there are a lot of rules about what the waste management company will take and will not. 

If you’re throwing away a mirror, for instance, you cannot put that with your other glass waste and will need to dispose of it elsewhere. 

On the other hand, they may take things like carpets and mattresses – although you’ll need to pay a bit extra. 

The exact rules will depend on your municipality, but generally speaking you will need to buy additional waste stickers – which cost money. 

In Zurich itself, every household receives four coupons for disposal of waste (up to 100kg) each. 

When you run out of coupons, you’ll need to pay by the kilo. 

You’ll still need to bring it to the waste disposal facility, or pay a pick up fee of around CHF80. 

This may sound steep, but they do come to your home and pick it up – which will likely be cheaper than a rental car or van. 

In Winterthur, you will need to buy stickers for CHF1.80 from the council, with each sticker letting you dispose of 10kg of waste. 

Check with the retailer where you bought the new item

One option offered by furniture sellers is to buy your old furniture or whitegoods or accept them as a trade in. 

While this is likely to be more common with second hand retailers who might see potential in your unwanted item, it is also a service offered by retailers who only sell new goods. 

One example is Ikea, who will take your old mattress, furniture or electronic device and recycle it. 

This service is available at Ikea outlets for a cost of CHF10 each. 

It is also available when you get something new delivered, although you must pre-book so the driver can be sure to set aside enough space. 

This will cost you CHF80 for furniture, or CHF50 for electronic devices and mattresses. Keep in mind that (at least with Ikea) this service is only available when you buy something new. 

Several other furniture companies offer a similar service, including Schubiger Möbel, Möbel Pfister and Conforama.  

Electrical item retails will often take your old electrical goods for recycling, whether these are small like iPhones or large like fridges and washing machines. 

More information about which goods can be recycled and how in Switzerland is available at the following link. 

Moving companies

Removalist companies are another option – whether you are moving house or not. 

If you are moving house then a disposal service may be included in the overall fees. 

If not, you can still contact the company and get the item taken off your hands. 

While different companies will charge different amounts, you’ll usually pay per 100kg rather than per item, which can be a better (or worse) option than contacting the local council. 

Swiss comparison site Comparis has detailed info about how to find a moving company here

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