Navigating the Swiss rental market can be challenging. Finding a place that fits your criteria and budget and being selected is only the beginning of the ups and downs of a move and settling in. Having moved 6 times in 10 years in Suisse Romande, I’ve learned many lessons and shortcuts to finding your ideal place, moving and protecting yourself from sometimes less than savory practices.
When it comes to understanding your rights, getting information and legal support, the Vaudois chapter of ASLOCA (https://vaud.asloca.ch/) is a great place to start. ASLOCA is an independent, private association that defends the rights of renters in Switzerland. They provide individual legal advice and guidance as well as promoting renter’s rights at a policy level. Becoming a member costs 100CHF for the first year and 70CHF thereafter. Membership gives you access to their legal hotline, reduced prices for legal representation, support when moving out and access to their newsletter. Their website has useful free tools as well, such as a calculator to compare your rental fees and practical information on renting.
Finding a new apartment or house
There are several major websites in Switzerland to advertise an apartment you’re leaving and search for your new place. These include Anibis, ImmoScout24, Homegate, or ImmoStreet. Don’t overlook Facebook either, where I’ve found at least one of my apartments. Facebook Marketplace is a great place to look, especially for ads in English, and there are two main Facebook groups for the Lausanne area: “LAUSANNE à louer – bouche à oreille ", and “appartements à louer – Lausanne et en Suisse”. You’ll need to apply to become a member.
While these sites feature lots of offers, many apartments up for grabs don’t even make it on them. And we’ve all had the disappointment of applying for our dream apartment only to get rejected. Again. And Again. Turning to your personal networks is a great way to get around this disappointment. Send messages to friends, acquaintances, and colleagues, and on social media letting people know you’re looking. A renter must only provide one solvent candidate to take over a lease. Being one of only a few candidates drastically increases your chances of being selected, as does writing a great cover letter explaining why you’re the ideal candidate. When you do find your dream place, reach out to find a contact within the régie that is managing the apartment. Lausanne is a small town so it’s worth activating your networks.
Preparing your move
Moving is one of the most stressful life events there is. The system and procedures in Switzerland are quite strict and can be complicated to keep track of. There are many resources online that provide explanations about how to get out of a lease early and your rights, such as from the Swiss Confederation or ASLOCA. Once you’ve got your moving date, the Confederation also provides a very helpful checklist on what you’ll need to do.
Changing your address
I highly recommend making a list of all the companies and entities with whom you’ll need to change your address. Some entities, such as electricity, gas, or phone/internet may need a few weeks of notice, so be sure to inform them well in advance to avoid a break in services. You’ll also need to inform your previous commune that you’re leaving and the new one when you arrive if you are changing towns. La Poste also allows you to forward your mail for a year for a fee.
Cleaning and the Etat des lieux
Swiss property management companies are known for being strict when it comes to the conditions in which you have leave an apartment. Homegate provides great guidance and a checklist when it comes to cleaning your apartment. You also have the possibility of using a professional cleaning service that guarantees that you’ll hand the apartment over successfully. It’s quite easy to find these online, but be prepared to pay at least 500CHF and up depending on the size of your place.
There are also many options if you decide to use a professional moving company for packing and the big day. You can find professional movers with a quick online search, as well as smaller companies through a search on websites like Anibis. Some moving companies also offer cleaning service, allowing you to contract with just one entity.
When it comes to the entry or exit “état des lieux” and dealing with property management companies, be sure to stand up for your rights and ensure the régie follows the law. If your new place is not clean or needs work, insist on this before moving in. Some companies also try to make renters pay for additional services you do not need to pay. For example, if your management company invoices you for “Frais de résiliation anticipée,” you have the right to refuse this. When in doubt about a practice, request or invoice, it pays to reach out for support.