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Old 15.03.2013, 17:30
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Monster tenancy contract

So after much hunting and several applications, we finally got accepted for our first Swiss apartment. Yay!!!

Then the tenancy contract arrived. With a thud. The main document is 14 pages, with several additional forms attached also. The agency can only provide it in German and we are both beginners with the German language. The formal legal language of the document is a real challenge for online translation services too. What comes out makes next to no sense whatsoever.

I get the feeling that it is unusual for tenancy agreements to be this monstrous? It may have something to do with the landlord being Big Business (a life insurance firm).

Anyway, I don't want to sign something I don't understand and I don't want to get screwed by these guys. But we have to post it back Monday and we din't want to miss out on the apartment.

I joined Mieterinnen und Mieterverban (who took a copy and said they'd call me back but I haven't heard anything). I also contacted a professional translator, who said it was too big a job.

Basically, because the contract is such a monster, it is really hard to get any help. Any ideas?
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Old 15.03.2013, 17:51
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Re: Monster tenancy contract

it looks like it is a very long one, my tenancy agreement is 2 pages long. I wish you all the best and good luck!
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Old 15.03.2013, 17:57
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Re: Monster tenancy contract

We had a similar thing with both our apartments. There's not a lot you can do unfortunately apart from typing/copy-pasting it into Google translate and see what comes out.

BUT, I would say - it's unlikely a Swiss company will set out to screw you, any more than any large company (bank/insurance/etc) does. Renting in Switzerland is much the same as renting anywhere else - the standard Ts&Cs apply with regard to not putting too many holes in the walls, not having heavy metal parties til 4am, etc. With that in mind, the main things to think about are:

- Moving out notice/dates. Perhaps a little different from other countries. From reading many EF threads, generally this is 3 months notice at particular times of the year, unless you find a replacement tenant. We also had a minimum initial period (20 months), but have found a replacement tenant, so no problem.
- Typically 3 months rent as deposit (ouch)
- Costs of cleaning when leaving (high)
- Subletting
- Pets
- Customising the apartment. Pictures on the wall are generally fine, as long as you patch the hole when you leave.

The upshot is - the rental market here is fierce. If you've found a place you like, go for it - don't let a bit of German legal-ese put you off. It's similar to English legal-ese: largely ignorable in 99% of day-to-day life.
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Old 15.03.2013, 18:06
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Re: Monster tenancy contract

Mine is around 7 pages long, mostly describing the rules of the house (Hausordnung): no pets allowed wo. written permission, no bathing between 22:00 and 7:00, no loud music and so on.

Yeah, we signed it blindly.
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Old 15.03.2013, 18:23
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Re: Monster tenancy contract

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So after much hunting and several applications, we finally got accepted for our first Swiss apartment. Yay!!!

Then the tenancy contract arrived. With a thud. The main document is 14 pages, with several additional forms attached also. The agency can only provide it in German and we are both beginners with the German language. The formal legal language of the document is a real challenge for online translation services too. What comes out makes next to no sense whatsoever.

I get the feeling that it is unusual for tenancy agreements to be this monstrous? It may have something to do with the landlord being Big Business (a life insurance firm).

Anyway, I don't want to sign something I don't understand and I don't want to get screwed by these guys. But we have to post it back Monday and we din't want to miss out on the apartment.

I joined Mieterinnen und Mieterverban (who took a copy and said they'd call me back but I haven't heard anything). I also contacted a professional translator, who said it was too big a job.

Basically, because the contract is such a monster, it is really hard to get any help. Any ideas?
Do you know any fluent German speakers? With our contract, our relocation consultant set us down and pointed to each paragraph or page and said what the general gist was and answered any specific questions we had.
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Old 15.03.2013, 18:28
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Re: Monster tenancy contract

My experience is somewhat different from previous posters - contracts here are often very much one-sided, often contain clauses that might be normal here but are unthinkable in your home country - you could indeed find yourself highly disadvantaged if you do not understand what you are signing.

And not understanding German will not get you off the hook.

You really don't need a written translation of the document, do you? Given that you are under a deadline, how about posting on the EF market place for a fluent German speaker to sit down with you and go over the contract together, give you a rough translation so that you understand the gist? Offer a reasonable fee, dinner and/or beers.

Worst case, ask the agency for an extention - explain that you are waiting for a translation.

But never, ever sign a Swiss (or any) contract that you don't understand. That way lies madness.

Good luck.
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Old 15.03.2013, 18:35
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Re: Monster tenancy contract

Thanks for the replies. We know few German speakers here (because we are new), but are doing an ask around. Have read heaps online etc so understand the basics and standard issues that foreigners strike. Only 2 pages of the document are house rules though and most of it seems to be about different things we may end up having to paying for, which gets me concerned to find out more. It is also pretty obvious that the landlord is also setting itself up to hike the rent.
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Old 15.03.2013, 18:43
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Re: Monster tenancy contract

Yeah Meloncollie I'm with you on that one. My gut instinct is to proceed with caution on this one.

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You really don't need a written translation of the document, do you?
No I just couldn't think of another way that I could get to understand it. I asked the translator for just a plain English summary of the main points, not a full translation in legal language. Still, too big an ask. Thanks for the idea about the EF Marketplace. Might pursue that if not having any luck asking friends and acquaintences.
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Old 15.03.2013, 18:51
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Re: Monster tenancy contract

It's laudable that you want to understand the contract.
But in reality, chances are the landlord (or the agency) will not bother with any objections from your side and just give the apartment to some other applicant.
If part of the contract is against the law, these parts will be void should the whole thing land in front of a court (very unlikely).

So, you either sign it or forget about the apartment - sad but true.
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Old 15.03.2013, 19:16
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Re: Monster tenancy contract

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So, you either sign it or forget about the apartment - sad but true.
Yep. I just wish to make an informed choice about whether to sign or leave the apartment for someone else, that's all. And we're not wealthy so would like to know about what bills they are likely to slam us with so that we can be prepared.

On a plus note: a friend has just offered to help and, failing that, the translator has offered an over-the-phone read through for a cheaper rate. Problem solved!

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