More people in Switzerland taking landlords to court over high rents

More people in Switzerland taking landlords to court over high rents

New data from the Federal Housing Office (BWO) has revealed that an increasing number of people are taking their landlords to court over excessive rents. After a year that saw continued rises in the cost of renting a house or apartment in Switzerland, the number of official complaints has skyrocketed by 80 percent.

Number of housing court cases skyrocket in Switzerland

According to the latest data, 25.544 court arbitration proceedings over renting or leasing property were launched in Switzerland between June and December 2023, an increase of 45,8 percent compared to the same period the year before. Court proceedings over Swiss housing in the first half of 2023 also increased by 42,2 percent.

In all, 43.063 housing-related court cases were launched in 2023, 80 percent more than in 2022. By the end of the year, 13.585 cases remained to be heard. 20 Swiss cantons saw the number of housing court cases rise last year, with Canton Fribourg seeing rates increase by 141,3 percent. Just over a quarter of all housing disputes that went to court were cases heard in Canton Zurich.

61,4 percent of all housing disputes were reached through out-of-court settlements, recognition or withdrawal of legal action, 10,1 percent saw no agreement reached, leading to lawsuits, and 23,4 percent were solved through non-appearance, inaction or withdrawal.

Unfair rent rises were the most common housing dispute

In 2023, disputes over rent increases were by far the most common housing court proceedings in Switzerland at 36,3 percent of all cases. Last year, the courts heard 25.544 cases regarding unfairly high rents, an increase of 56 percent compared to the year before. They were followed by disputes over “ordinary contract terminations” regarding rental contracts (9,8 percent).

The BWO said that the “development is likely to be related to the increases in the mortgage reference interest rate as of June 2 and December 2, 2023.” The rate rises allowed landlords to increase their rents by up to 6 percent on approximately half of tenants in Switzerland, with the latest rise coming into effect in April 2024. The news also follows the latest report from UBS, with the bank finding that the average asking price for rental properties also rose by 5 percent last year.

Happily, for most tenants, 90,5 percent of rent increase disputes taken to court were solved through an "amicable agreement" with the landlord, though the mental and possibly financial stress of legal action could make it a pyrrhic victory for the renters.

While the tenants' association in each of the 26 Swiss cantons will cover legal costs for association members in many cases, these entitlements only kick in after 60 days of membership.

If you feel like you may be the victim of an unjustified rent rise, check out the official guidance from the Swiss Tenants' Association.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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