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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

REVEALED: Which Swiss cities offer the best quality of life?

Thinking of a move or just want to rub it into your friend in another part of the country? Here's where you can find the good life in Switzerland.

New study ranks quality of life in nine Swiss cities, including Zurich (pictured here). Photo by Henrique Ferreira on Unsplash
New study ranks quality of life in nine Swiss cities, including Zurich (pictured here). Photo by Henrique Ferreira on Unsplash

While the concept of “quality of life” can be based on subjective perceptions, some factual data is also used to define and determine the well-being of the population.

The City Statistics project by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO), examined a number of categories, including housing, health, personal safety, public transport, environmental quality and other factors to rate the quality of life in Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, Lucerne, Lugano, St. Gallen, Winterthur and Zurich.

Here’s a look at several categories that contribute to good life quality in each of the nine cities.

Housing

Good housing is important to overall quality of life because it fulfils basic needs for safety, feeling of protection, privacy and personal space, the FSO said.

“A high dwelling rate makes the search for and the choice of accommodation easier and influences the price of housing on offer”, the study found.

This chart shows vacancy rates in each of the nine cities.

READ MORE: Top ten tips for finding an apartment in Switzerland

Infrastructure and services

The quality of local infrastructure is an important factor because it leads to  higher efficiency, as well as overall comforts and conveniences.

This is how the cities fare in this category.

Transportation

The choice and availability of the transport network is important to satisfy daily needs such as work, shopping, and recreation, FSO noted. 

The price of monthly public transport ticket and the number of stops along each route is also taken into account.

Work-life balance

This is unquestionably a major contributing factor to the overall quality of life as it “influences well-being, contributes to productivity in the workplace and helps people remain healthy and happy”, the study found.

In this particular category, the FSO focused specifically on childcare options in each city, as it allows “to reconcile family responsibilities with their work commitments”.

READ MORE: A developing country’: Why do so few Swiss children attend childcare?

Civic engagement

“By taking part in political and social life, citizens express their needs, making a democratic contribution to political decisions”, FSO pointed out.

“This ensures that people are better informed and more easily accept political decisions. Civic engagement strengthens people’s trust in institutions and increases the effectiveness of political action”.

Environment

Pleasant surroundings are essential for good quality of life, while an environment that is contaminated with pollutants or excessive noise “affects the mental and physical health of the population”, according to the study.

This chart shows the average air pollution in the nine cities.

You can see here how these cities are doing in other categories.

And this link includes detailed information about prices and cost of living in each on the nine locations.

Quality of life is not exactly a new concept in Switzerland: the country and its cities are frequently ranked very highly in international surveys.

These are some of the findings of previous studies:

Quality of life: Which Swiss cities are the best to live in and why?

Zurich ranked world’s best city for ‘prosperity and social inclusion’

Why Bern is ranked Europe’s third ‘healthiest’ capital city

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For members

HOUSING

Can a Swiss landlord charge a fee if you renounce to rent an apartment?

Say you signed a registration for a flat in Switzerland, but then changed your mind. What, if any, fees are you liable for if you decide to withdraw your application?

Can a Swiss landlord charge a fee if you renounce to rent an apartment?

In some areas of Switzerland, good and reasonably priced rental properties are difficult to come by, so once you find one, you hold on to it for dear life.

But it can also happen that you change your mind for whatever reason and no longer want to proceed with the rental.

What happens then?

Some rental agencies’ registration forms include a clause stating that if you cancel after a contract has been prepared, you have to pay between 150 and 200 to cover administration costs — even if the contract hasn’t yet been signed.

This is ostensibly for all the time and effort that went into preparing the lease.

If you are unfamiliar with Swiss laws, you may feel a duty to pay these fees, believing that if you don’t, Swiss rental police will knock on your door.

But you can relax: apart from the fact that there’s no such thing in Switzerland as “rental police”, you don’t owe the agency or landlord anything.

That is because registrations and applications of any kind —  including those for rental properties — are non-binding until both parties have signed them. Up to this point, an application can be withdrawn without incurring any costs, even if the agency / landlord have you believe otherwise.

READ MORE: REVEALED: The six major Swiss cities where rents are falling

Why are landlords / rental agencies engaging in this practice?

To be fair, not all of them will attempt to make you pay for failing to sign the lease. Those who do are hoping you don’t know your legal rights, especially if you are a foreigner who (they hope) is still green behind the ears when it comes to rental regulations in Switzerland.

However, according to the official site of canton of Geneva (but this rule applies nationally), some exceptions could be admissible.

If applicants are not acting in “good faith” — for instance, by belatedly expressing their refusal to sign the lease and delaying the rental process while other potential tenants are kept waiting —  the landlord could ask to be compensated.

This is not a clear black-and-white situation though, as “good faith” calls for subjective judgements, ones that the landlord or rental agency could not make unless they have proof that candidates’ actions were dishonest — which is also difficult to prove.

But even in this case, the landlord “could only invoice his actual costs: the costs of drafting the lease contract and sending it out, for example”, according to the Swiss Tenants Association (ASLOCA).

You should also inform yourself about what your landlord can and cannot demand of you.

“You have to remember that just because something is written in the lease doesn’t mean it’s true”, ASLOCA said.

“Lease law is protective of the tenant and takes into consideration that the latter does not necessarily have the possibility or the resources to read and carefully negotiate any clause of his lease”.

If uncertain of what your rights and obligations are, this official government site provides useful information and  resources, including who, in your canton of residence, can help in case of a dispute with your landlord.

READ MORE: Tenant in Switzerland? Here’s how to apply for a rent reduction

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