For members


Reader question: Can I sublet my rented apartment in Switzerland?

If you need to vacate your home temporarily but plan to return there, you may think sub-leasing your apartment is a good solution. But what does the Swiss law (and your landlord) say about it?

Reader question: Can I sublet my rented apartment in Switzerland?
Make sure you sign a contact with sub-tenant and show it to the landlord. Image by aymane jdidi from Pixabay

If you are a tenant in Switzerland, you know that your rental agreement lists a number of rules and regulations you must never break.

For instance, it defines your rent, the term of your lease (limited or open-ended), the amount of your security deposit, as well as your other rights and obligations.

Swiss subletting law allows someone to sublet their apartment if they are “temporarily unable to use their rental property due to unforeseen circumstances”

What about subletting your flat to others if you are away?

In principle, all tenants have the right to sublet their apartment, but only on the condition that the landlord is informed and agrees to this arrangement.

Under no circumstances should you put another tenant in your apartment on the sly, as this will anger the landlord, who could then terminate your lease and demand the rent money you made from your sublease. 

This is how to do this the right way.

Swiss law requires that you get permission from your landlord before you sublet your apartment.

Additionally, you must let the landlord review the subletting agreement.

If your agreement with the sub-tenant is above the board — that is, if it pretty much matches your own contract — then you should have no problem getting the green light.  

However, according to Moneyland consumer platform, your request will probably not be approved if:

  • You refuse to show the owner the subletting agreement.
  • The conditions are different from those of your own rental agreement (for instance, if you allow pets when your contract forbids them).
  • The sublease would present significant disadvantages for the landlord.

“This rule is somewhat vague, but could, for example, include rejecting a potentially destructive or disruptive subtenant,” Moneyland says. 

Keep in mind, too, that even if the apartment owner accepts the sub-lease, you, as the primary tenant, will be responsible for any material damages the person you rent to inflicts during your absence.

Likewise, you will also he held accountable if the sub-tenant doesn’t comply with house regulations relating to noise, use of laundry facilities, trash disposal / recycling, and other rules of the building.

And if another resident complains about your sub-tenant’s behaviour, that will be on you as well.

READ MORE: What damage do tenants have to pay for in Switzerland?

Consider the ‘worst case’ scenario

While most sublets go off without a hitch, don’t rent to anyone until you consider things that may, possibly, go wrong, and for which you will have to take full responsibility (besides the ones mentioned above).

If, for instance, your tenant doesn’t pay the agreed-upon rent, you will have to pay yours to the landlord anyway.

The contract between you and the sub-tenant will mention the duration of their occupancy. However, in case they move out earlier, you will have to cover the rent. And, even worse, if they refuse to move out after the lease is over (and are not paying rent), you will find yourself in a real nightmare situation of having a squatter in your premises.

Admittedly, that’s an extreme situation, but you have to consider all scenarios, just in case.

Because if things don’t go as planned, the landlord will go after you.

READ MORE: Tenant or landlord: Who pays which costs in Switzerland?

What about airbnb or other rental platforms?

The rules for Airbnb rentals fall within the law on subletting in Switzerland, which means the same rules as those outlined above apply.

However, most holiday rentals will not fit within this classification. 

As reported by Swiss news outlet Tages Anzeiger, the major consideration is whether or not a profit is being made on the rental when compared to the monthly rental costs. 

This applies whether you are renting one room or whether you are renting your entire flat. 

Of course, the landlord is free to consent to holiday rentals if he or she deems it fit. The above refers to the circumstances in which consent may be withdrawn or denied. 

More about these rentals can be found here: 

EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s rules for Airbnb rentals? 

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For members


EXPLAINED: How the Swiss Tenants Association wants to tackle the housing shortage

Rental prices in Switzerland have been soaring for years with no end in sight. Now the nation's association for protecting tenants has called on politicians to take action with a series of demands.

EXPLAINED: How the Swiss Tenants Association wants to tackle the housing shortage

The vacancy rate for dwellings in Switzerland is currently 1.31 percent — well above the long-term national average of 1.07 percent, according to a study published on Thursday by Raiffeisen bank

However, these figures don’t show that the problem is geographical: the housing market has dried up in some parts of the country but not the others.

Vacancies will remain well below the average, meaning that housing will soon become significantly more expensive for more and more households, the bank reported.

Various solutions have been proposed by real estate experts and government officials to overcome Switzerland’s housing shortage.

The latest one, which comes from the Swiss Tenants Association, recommends limiting the living space allowed for each person, as is already the case in cooperatives and public housing.

This means that a single tenant would be entitled to a maximum of two rooms, thus making larger accommodations available for families. Though for larger apartments, too, restrictions are set to be introduced. At least four people should occupy a five-room apartment, for example.

READ MORE: Reader question: Can I sublet my rented apartment in Switzerland

Tenants disagree…

Many Swiss tenants, however, criticise the association’s suggestion that living space be limited per person. Instead, they argue that one’s living space is – perhaps rightfully – a private matter as long as the tenant can afford to pay the monthly rental cost.

Moreover, though some tenants – such as many older people who have lived the majority of their lives in the same large, cheap apartment – may be willing to downsize to smaller living arrangements, but they will struggle to find suitable housing at the same price. This is a problem even the association recognises and it therefore demands that tenants are able to swap their current, larger property for a smaller alternative on the same contractual terms as their existing rental agreement.

City and canton officials from all over Switzerland, as well as representatives of various associations from the construction and housing sectors, were due to meet with the Economy Minister Guy Parmelin to discuss this, and other possible solutions, to the shortage.

Rents and returns need to be monitored

The Swiss Tenants Association argues that the issue with the skyrocketing rents in Switzerland is that landlords, a fair chunk of which includes large corporations, listed businesses and insurance companies, are generating far too high rents that tenants – who are in a dependent position and fear speaking out against rent increases – need to be protected from.

The association says that as a direct result of the ever-increasing rents and returns – which though limited in accordance with Swiss law are not monitored – around 370 francs per household illegally landed in the pockets of real estate companies every month during 2021, amounting to 10.4 billion francs in (stolen) rent overall.

It is now calling for rents and returns to be monitored automatically on an institutional level and says that sanctions should be a viable option going forward.

READ ALSO: How Switzerland’s urban housing shortage is spreading to the countryside

Master plan for more affordable housing

The association is also requiring Swiss municipalities to provide it with so-called special zones for new and affordable living spaces to be built in their respective regions.

However, for this to be possible, the land – it says – must be owned by the public sector, not privately. Additionally, there must be a right of first refusal as well as a restriction on the sale of land that already belongs to the public sector.

At the same time, the organisation finds that the government needs to improve protection against the – sometimes biased – dismissal of prospective tenants. Both property managers and landlords in Switzerland are setting increasingly stricter criteria when allocating (already scarcely available) apartments, with some refusing to rent to couples with children.

Fabian Gloor, lawyer at the Swiss Tenants Association for the Deutschschweiz (German-speaking Switzerland), said that one way to avoid this unfair dismissal for tenants would be to introduce a minimum occupancy regulation which would reduce the chance that childless singles and couples would receive an apartment that is better suited for families.

This has, however, been met with contrasting views from Switzerland’s political parties.

The association also wants landlords to cease increasing rents as a result of renovation work while arguing that no tenant should face losing their home due to rising ancillary costs.

A people line up in a queue

Trying to find a flat in Switzerland? You may find long lines for viewings. Image: Pixabay

Parliament to make rental conditions more difficult for tenants

In the coming months, the Swiss parliament is set to discuss four legislative amendments which, according to the Swiss Tenants Association, would severely impact the legal situation for renters in Switzerland. The parliament will consider granting landlords more favourable conditions when terminating a rental contract for personal use, while making rent increases easier for landlords to enact.

Additionally, it will ponder a further restriction of the right to sublet and for tenants to have a more difficult time contesting their initially agreed upon rent in the future. 

READ ALSO: Zurich hit by affordable housing shortage amid record-high immigration 

The National Council has since spoken out in favour of two amendments to the tenancy law in favour of property owners, which are expected to be passed by parliament in autumn 2023. Once greenlit, landlords will have to explicitly agree to sublet their property in writing and are to be given an extraordinary right of termination in future if the tenant does not comply with the requirements for subletting.

The landlord should then also be able to refuse subletting if the subletting is planned to last for more than two years.

The National Council also approved a bill on the issue surrounding landlords or their family members wanting to use their privately owned rented property for personal use. Specifically, it should no longer be possible for the owner of the property to terminate the rental agreement for an urgent personal need, but rather they will have to assert a significant and current personal need based on an objective assessment. The proponents of this change hope that it will speed up procedures in the event of disputes.

The tenants association is strictly against the move and has announced a referendum – for which it will begin collecting signatures in the autumn of 2023 – should the parliament speak in favour of tightening the Swiss tenancy law.