Switzerland moves to tighten tenancy law: What you need to know

Switzerland moves to tighten tenancy law: What you need to know

As part of parliament’s latest session, lawmakers have approved two new rules regarding renting a house or apartment in Switzerland. The changes, labelled by the Swiss media as being “pro-homeowner”, will see the regulations around subletting tightened and give landlords more termination rights in rental contracts.

Swiss parliament votes for new laws on tenants

At a meeting on September 18, the Council of States voted in favour of two new proposals relating to subletting and rental termination in Switzerland, after they were both approved by the National Council in March. The motions still need to face a final vote - set for the end of September - but Watson predicted that they will both be approved.

The ideas were put forward by Swiss People’s Party (SVP) National Councillor Hans Egloff - who is also the President of the Swiss Homeowners’ Association - and FDP. The Liberals National Councillor Giovanni Merlini. Speaking to Watson, Egloff said that the new rules are designed to stop tenants from exploiting subletting law and make it easier for landlords to terminate rental contracts when they need to reclaim their property.

Subletting rules to change in Switzerland

The first proposal relates to the rules around subletting in Switzerland. Under the new plans, instead of having the terms of subletting listed in rental contracts or via a prior agreement, tenants must obtain explicit written consent from the landlord every time they wish to sublet. 

If tenants wish to sublet for more than two years, the landlord will be allowed to unilaterally refuse their request. Landlords will also be allowed to terminate their tenant's rental contract if they are able to prove that the terms of the subletting agreement are not met.

Speaking to Watson, Centre Party National Councillor Philipp Bregy said that while subletting should always be possible for short periods of time, “If there is abuse, you have to be able to terminate. The template strengthens subletting and protects owners.” The Legal Commission of the National Council added in a statement that, especially in cities, tenants have been able to make illegal profits by subletting cheaper apartments at “outrageous prices” as short-term lets or Airbnbs.

Landlords granted easier personal use evictions

Second, parliament approved a plan that will make it easier for landlords to evict their tenants if they need their house or apartment for "personal use" (Eigenbedarf). Previously, landlords were able to terminate the rental contracts of their tenants if they proved that they had an “urgent personal need for themselves, close relatives or in-laws.”

Under the plans, landlords will have the right to reclaim their property for personal use based on “an objective assessment of significant and current personal needs for themselves, close relatives or in-laws.” In practice, supporters hope that by making the terms of the rule more general, parliament will be able to speed up and in some cases eliminate rental disputes between landlords and tenants.

SP calls plans a major attack on tenancy law

In response, Social Democratic Party (SP) co-president Cédric Wermuth said that the plans amounted to a “major attack on tenancy law.” For its part, the Federal Council said that it was also not in favour of the plans, with Economics Minister Guy Parmelin (SVP) calling them “not justified” and “disproportionate” back in March.

SP National Councillor Jacqueline Badran told SRF that she thinks landlords will use the new laws to easily take their properties off the market, then remarket them at much higher rents: “They then say that a cousin needs the apartment and a little later the same apartment is advertised on a real estate platform for 800 or 900 francs more.”

The Swiss Tenants’ Association has also announced that it will follow through on its pledge made earlier this year to oppose all revisions to tenancy law. While the plans are set to pass parliament easily, it is also likely that Swiss citizens - around two-thirds of whom rent - will have the final say through a referendum.

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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