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Old 26.03.2014, 15:36
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Terrible smell in apartment. Potential health issue. What is our rights?

We moved into our apartment approximately one month ago and within hours noticed a rotten smell emanating from somewhere in the apartment. The smell varies but when it appears is a kind of mix between sour milk, rotting flesh (ie dead animal) and sewar gas.

During our time there, we have experienced what I would consider to be abnormal respiratory symptoms and are beginning to be concerned for our health and for the health of our children.

We have alerted landlord to this as well as numerous other issues with the apartment (both verbally and in writing) and their reaction has been to do nothing / take no action / ignore our requests and generally treat us like we're bothering them.

Question: Is this normal practice/attitude when renting an apartment in Switzerland?

Can anyone offer any advice regarding what we should do?

Thanks !
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Old 26.03.2014, 15:50
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Re: Terrible smell in apartment. Potential health issue. What is our rights?

The same thing as you would do with any other issue that does not get resolved:

Write formal letter with resonable dead line till issue has to be rsolved. Also state if issue will not be reolved you will pay x % of rent to rental court.
Send letter by registred mail.
If issue is not resolved by dead line write another letter by registerd mail that henceforward x % of rent will be paid to rental court .
Pay x % of rent to rental court (Actually at the Zuger Kantonalbank into a special account / Mietzinssperrkonto). You will get a proof of payment.
Pay 100 - x% of rent to landlord.
Now all rent due is legally paid.
Within 30 days of first payment to rental court, you have to state your case at the rental court. "Schlichtungsbehörde in Mietsachen, Postfach, 6301 Zug"
For this the will need four copies of: Rental contract, your communication with landlord, and proof of rental payment to rental court.

Canton of Zug Rental Court
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Old 26.03.2014, 16:00
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Re: Terrible smell in apartment. Potential health issue. What is our rights?

Thanks for the guidance and advice.

Unfortunately, the rent is paid by employer and I'd rather not involve them / waste our reputation or social capital on the likes of this landlord.

In short, we just want to have the source of the smell remediated.

Is there any Cantonal authority that we could request to visit the property to perform an inspection and/or help us to get the landlord's attention?

Thanks !
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Old 26.03.2014, 16:30
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Re: Terrible smell in apartment. Potential health issue. What is our rights?

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Thanks for the guidance and advice.

Unfortunately, the rent is paid by employer and I'd rather not involve them / waste our reputation or social capital on the likes of this landlord.

In short, we just want to have the source of the smell remediated.

Is there any Cantonal authority that we could request to visit the property to perform an inspection and/or help us to get the landlord's attention?

Thanks !
What kind of apartment is it? Is it not possible a mouse, bird, or something like that snuck it's way past the cabinets, fixtures, etc, got trapped, and died? It happens you know, and it is hardly the fault of the building.


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Old 26.03.2014, 16:40
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Re: Terrible smell in apartment. Potential health issue. What is our rights?

Apparently dead rats stink really badly ..... and it gets worse.

Is it possible it could be this?
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Old 26.03.2014, 17:11
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Re: Terrible smell in apartment. Potential health issue. What is our rights?

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What kind of apartment is it?
It's a fully furnished service apartment.

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Is it not possible a mouse, bird, or something like that snuck it's way past the cabinets, fixtures, etc, got trapped, and died? It happens you know, and it is hardly the fault of the building.
We suspected as much and alerted landlord of dead animal smell. Landlord denied possibility of dead animal as we are towards the top of a 10 floor building. We traced smell to one of the cabinets which was cleaned by weekly cleaning crew. Unfortunately smell remained. Re-Alerted landlord. No action / ignored our concerns.

To date, we have identified several actual/potential sources for the smell.

1. Living Room Carpet. Noticed smell of sour milk the first day we moved in. Alerted landlord and requested them to clean or replace. No action.
2. Cabinet as mentioned above. Smell of rotting flesh still remained.
3. Sewer gas. Not sure where it could be coming from but smell seems worse on days when it rains.
4. Bathroom exhaust. Randomly have sewage smells in our apartment.

We've also identified some household items supplied by the landlord that have a rancid smell and have asked the landlord to remove them. Again, no action.

In addition to the smell problem, we are also having issues with our dishwasher and a number of other items. Being true to form, the landlord has failed to acknowledge and/or take action on any of these items.
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Old 26.03.2014, 17:33
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Re: Terrible smell in apartment. Potential health issue. What is our rights?

if the company pays for it, complain at your company's HR department.
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Old 26.03.2014, 17:37
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Re: Terrible smell in apartment. Potential health issue. What is our rights?

Just have your company move you to a different apartment (building even!). As it's a furnished one, I suppose moving wouldn't be a major hassle?
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Old 26.03.2014, 17:46
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Re: Terrible smell in apartment. Potential health issue. What is our rights?

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Just have your company move you to a different apartment (building even!). As it's a furnished one, I suppose moving wouldn't be a major hassle?
Thanks but we really *don't* want to involve the company. Why spend our reputation and social capital on this kind of situation?

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if the company pays for it, complain at your company's HR department.
See above. Isn't there some Cantonal authority that we could get involved instead?
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Old 26.03.2014, 17:50
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Re: Terrible smell in apartment. Potential health issue. What is our rights?

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Thanks but we really *don't* want to involve the company. Why spend our reputation and social capital on this kind of situation?

See above. Isn't there some Cantonal authority that we could get involved instead?
There probably is, and they will probably ask you if you have gone thru your HR department first. I don't see why make this more complicated then it needs to be.

When my wife's company brought us here, we had a company furbished place in the beginning. That had a ton of mold and mildew inside. We complained, and they spoke to the landlord, who enjoyed receiving close to 5000 CHF a month for an apartment, now that I have been here awhile I know she would never get more then 1200 for, and went to correct it asap.

You think your company is at risk of losing it's reputation because a service they pay for literally stinks? Strange. I think there is something you aren't telling us. If you want, I'll come over there with a case of Febreeze, and a German translator and get to the bottom of this.

The reason why this landlord might not be responding to you, is because, you in affect are not the client. The company is...hence get the company involved.

Last edited by 3Wishes; 26.03.2014 at 18:50. Reason: fixed wonky quoting, I hope
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Old 26.03.2014, 17:52
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Re: Terrible smell in apartment. Potential health issue. What is our rights?

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See above. Isn't there some Cantonal authority that we could get involved instead?
Your employer has the contract with the landlord, not you.
If they are a corporate client they will also have much better negotiation power.
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Old 26.03.2014, 17:53
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Re: Terrible smell in apartment. Potential health issue. What is our rights?

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Thanks but we really *don't* want to involve the company. Why spend our reputation and social capital on this kind of situation?

See above. Isn't there some Cantonal authority that we could get involved instead?
I don't understand what you mean by the bit in bold. Your employer is paying the rent and has signed the contract with the landlord so it really is up to them to complain. It won't affect your employment contract or relationship with your employer that you're not happy with the accommodation that they are paying for.
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Old 26.03.2014, 18:05
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Re: Terrible smell in apartment. Potential health issue. What is our rights?

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Why spend our reputation and social capital on this kind of situation?
Because you said in the first post that it's starting to affect your family's health.

Sorry but if you prioritize "reputation and social capital" over that, I do not know what to say to you.

1. Go to a doctor and document whatever respiratory symptoms you said you are experiencing. Bad smells are not a legal reason to force the landlord to do anything, documented health problems are.

2. Talk to your employer, who pays the rent and thus has some leverage over the landlord - more leverage than you have, for sure. Let them know that you need to move out of this place as the living conditions are affecting your health. Ask them for help, either to put pressure on the landlord or to find you another apartment.
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Old 26.03.2014, 18:11
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Re: Terrible smell in apartment. Potential health issue. What is our rights?

Your company would probably be horrified to think that you are having this problem.

My OH was put in a hotel for a few months many years ago but he was given a really grim room, small, smelly and not nice. He endured this for a while and mentioned this to the Swiss company he was working for one day
They were absolutely furious as they had paid for him to have a really nice large accommodation.

They inspected the room and he was immediately given another one. The hotel was taking the money for a much more nicer room and renting it out to someone else and in the meanwhile giving he a terrible room. The feeling was that as a foreigner he would not complain.

Please tell your employer, they will not think that you are making a fuss -

A happy employee is much more productive to them than a stressed one.
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Old 26.03.2014, 18:33
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Re: Terrible smell in apartment. Potential health issue. What is our rights?

Cantonal authority? Maybe you could suggest to the police there is a body hidden in the apartment, and let them find the dead mouse!

Seriously, mice can climb walls, and there is a good possibility the previous tenant put some poison down and moved out, leaving you with the mess.

Complain verbally once more to the the landlord / manager, and then tell your company.
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Old 26.03.2014, 18:48
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Re: Terrible smell in apartment. Potential health issue. What is our rights?

Try also running significant water down your drains. Including the shower/bath, floor drains, balcony storm water, sinks....

Is someone cleaning your apartment? If they are mixing cleaning chemicals, then you might get a very 'rotten egg' type smell.
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Old 26.03.2014, 21:19
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Re: Terrible smell in apartment. Potential health issue. What is our rights?

I'm not sure what type of sewage/drainage system you have in your building but it might be worthwhile to look at a bit more in detail. In our case after moving into a newly build apartment in 2011 we had terrible trouble with the smell of sewage coming up out of the drain in the showers. After complaining to the landlord they sent the caretaker by to look at it. Our system has a special drain plug type fitting designed to reduce hair from clogging up the pipes but also to block the vapors of the sewage system from backing up into the apartment. It fits in very tightly and if you don't understand how it works one can inadvertently fit it back in upside down which allows the sewer smell to waft in freely. Have a look to see if you have that type of fitting in your shower drains.
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Old 26.03.2014, 22:09
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Re: Terrible smell in apartment. Potential health issue. What is our rights?

Do the apartments next to you have the problem too?Maybe it's a building thing.

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Old 26.03.2014, 22:53
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Re: Terrible smell in apartment. Potential health issue. What is our rights?

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I'd rather not waste our reputation or social capital on the likes of this landlord.
If it's your reputation you're worried about, you may wish to consider the case of a chap I used to know.

Herbert moved into a serviced apartment very similar to the one you describe, paid for by his employer, which also was plagued by an appalling stench. Just like you he was afraid of rocking the boat and decided not to complain to his employer, despite the stench getting progressively worse as each day passed.

One evening, about a fortnight after he moved in, he came home to find the entire apartment filled with bluebottles. It was like a scene from a horror film. In desperation, Herbert fetched a crowbar and began to prise the floorboards up in order to see if the source of the smell lay hidden below them.

What a surprise he had as he rummaged around in the space below the floor to find the putrid remains of a previous occupant, along with several hundred thousand francs in used notes and a twenty kilograms of cocaine!

If that wasn't bad enough, just at that moment the police arrived, having been alerted by a neighbour to "the crazy foreigner doing something with a crowbar and making a lot of noise". Herbert was promptly arrested and charged with murder, money laundering, the possession of class A drugs and making a noise after 10 pm.

He was sent to the notorious Cul de Campagnol prison just outside Geneva after a very well publicised trial. He was fired by his boss who decided never to hire another foreigner and disowned by his family. Upon his release he lived on the streets for a while before dying, penniless and humiliated, in a backstreet of Lausanne. Right to the end he protested his innocence, but everyone claimed that his silence about the smell spoke volumes for his guilt. Why, they asked, would any normal person keep quiet about such an awful thing if they weren't responsible for it in the first place?

I think you should speak to HR. The alternative just isn't worth it.

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Old 26.03.2014, 22:58
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Re: Terrible smell in apartment. Potential health issue. What is our rights?

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If it's your reputation you're worried about, you may wish to consider the case of a chap I used to know.

Herbert moved into a serviced apartment very similar to the one you describe, paid for by his employer, which also was plagued by an appalling stench. Just like you he was afraid of rocking the boat and decided not to complain to his employer, despite the stench getting progressively worse as each day passed.

One evening, about a fortnight after he moved in, he came home to find the entire apartment filled with bluebottles. It was like a scene from a horror film. In desperation, Herbert fetched a crowbar and began to prise the floorboards up in order to see if the source of the smell lay hidden below them.

What a surprise he had as he rummaged around in the space below the floor to find the putrid remains of a previous occupant, along with several hundred thousand francs in used notes and a twenty kilograms of cocaine!

If that wasn't bad enough, just at that moment the police arrived, having been alerted by a neighbour to "the crazy foreigner doing something with a crowbar and making a lot of noise". Herbert was promptly arrested and charged with murder, money laundering, the possession of class A drugs and making a noise after 10 pm.

He was sent to the notorious Cul de Campagnol prison just outside Geneva after a very well publicised trial. He was fired by his boss who decided never to hire another foreigner and disowned by his family. Upon his release he lived on the streets for a while before dying, penniless and humiliated, in a backstreet of Lausanne. Right to the end he protested his innocence, but everyone claimed that his silence about the smell spoke volumes for his guilt. Why, they asked, would any normal person keep quiet about such an awful thing if they weren't responsible for it in the first place?

I think you should speak to HR. The alternative just isn't worth it.

Losing relevancy fast...
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