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Old 01.12.2011, 12:01
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Attempted Rip off by Rental Agent & the use of a Wohnungsprotokoll

Just wished to share a recent experience of ending a rental agreement and the rules surrounding the Wohnungsprotokoll. My wife and I recently decided to move properties, we took all the correct steps regarding notice period, giving access to those wishing to view the apartment, even hiring a removal company (Gemur of Luzern, very good price and service) to avoid any issues.

The only saving we chose to make was on the cleaning of the apartment, as we were quoted on average around 1,700 CHF, which seemed far too high as we had only been there 9 months. Swiss friends advised that it was quite common to clean your own apartment. We bought all the necessary products and gave ourselves a full weekend after the furniture had been cleared prior to our handover inspection. We had picked up from those companies giving quotes, all the elements that had to be cleaned including the outside blinds, so we knew it would take a fair amount of time.

On the day of the inspection and handover (Sept 19th), two ladies from the rental agency came over and started their inspection, working through the Wohnungsprotokoll that my wife signed when we moved in. The inspection was so thorough that I had clean the underside of taps, behind the under hang on cupboards, slight smudges from windows, it lasted about an hour after which I was given 3 rectify a couple of points. After all of this, we signed the Wohnungsprotokol and handed over all the keys and apart from the deduction of the new filter for the dish washer which I agreed to, believed I was soon to be re-united with my deposit of 4,000 CHF.

It was now that the fun started. On the 27th Sept. a letter was sent by recorded delivery from the agent, requesting we pay for further cleaning of the apartment. The agent stated that in addition to the cost of the filter a further amount would be deducted for the further cleaning, but no actual price for the further cleaning, the issues were some spots of grease above the hot plate, calc on the inside seal of the dish washer and some grease around the air intake.

I was shocked, as I thought that on signing a Wohnunsprotokoll, the responsibility transferred to the agent. But also the fact that we had not had the chance to rectify these minor issues, but were instead goign to have to pay, an undefined amount of money, after several email to request the cost, I asked a Swiss friend for help it was now the 18th of Oct. My friend called the agent and still the agent was not able to provide the cost, but did say which company was doing the cleaning, so we called them and found out an invoice has supposedly be sent for cleaning at a cost of approx. 300 CHF!

It was at this point my colleague suggested we go to the Kantonal housing department (kantonalen Volkswirtschaftsdirektion), to seek advice, regarding the fact that there was a signed Wohnunsprotokoll, yet the agent was disregarding it and withholding my deposit. We found out that:
  • Even with a signed Wohnunspotokoll, the agent has a further 3 days to request further cleaning.
  • The departing tenant must be given to rectify any issues highlighted in these 3 days.
As my agent had not followed the process and only sent a letter 6 days later they were completely in the wrong, but could still withhold my deposit for up to 1 year. The only way to force the agent's hand was requesting an arbitration (Schlichtungsbehörde) by the housing department, it has the following benefits:
  • It is completely free (though may take a 1 month for it to convene
  • It is a neutral body, the agent can bring a lawyer, but you can represent yourself.
  • You can request any involved party attend (in this case the agent, but in addition we could also drag the owner into mix as they had to sign the release form for the deposit).
On learning all of this, I was able to draft an email stating the agents failure to meet the requirements of the Wohnungsprotokoll and allude to the fact that if I still did not receive my deposit by a fixed date (31st of Oct), I would have no option but to request that they and the landlady come to an arbitration.

The outcome was a week later on the 31st of October, I received a release form signed by the landlady. There was no letter of apology or explanation for the delay, but I did not mind, I had my deposit back in my account.

Lesson's learnt:
  • It is possible to clean your house rather than pay for expensive cleaning firms, but it does need to be to a high standard.
  • A steam cleaner is great fun and very useful!
  • On enterning a new appartment make sure you Wohnungsprotokoll lists absolutely every issue (cracks, dirt, defects, etc)
  • During your period you rent a property, report any issue, or defect, not verbally but in either email or recorded post.
  • Most importantly the existence of the Kantonal housing department, not something to my knowledge that exists in the UK or Belgium, where we were living before.
  • They were great, but if you go there either be able to converse in German or take a German speaking friend or colleague.
I hope this helps somebody moving in the next months or years.

Last edited by Mac the Knife; 01.12.2011 at 13:43.
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Old 01.12.2011, 17:04
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Re: Attempted Rip off by Rental Agent & the use of a Wohnungsprotokoll

Yes that's right. Once they sign and the 3 days (check if that's right for each canton) have passed, they can't come back to you & ask more money. Never leave without that being signed.

It's usually best to fix the issues yourself.

Of course, eou CAN clean your own place. It takes a whole lot of time and effort. I'd rather pay someone. But we usually just have our regular cleaning lady do it. It works out so much cheaper. We've never used an agency.

Make sure you leave time from you check out control to when you need leave the property. So you have time to clean & fix stuff.

If you go to the canton site www. xx .ch (where xx is the canton abbreviation) they should list all the departments, including "office du logement" or in French.

Great post, Mac!
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