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Old 08.08.2016, 12:47
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Need help with housing dispute with owner

I moved out from an apartment from July. The owner refuses to return my rental guarantee and two months rent that I incorrectly paid (due to a standing order that wasn't cancelled). First, a complete description of my dispute:

I informed the owner in April that I would like to terminate my lease at the end of June. She asked me to find another tenant for the apartment citing the contract which stated that the lease could only be terminated in April and if the notice was given January.

The apartment wasn't in a very good state (the plastered ceiling was falling down, toilet was leaking etc.). This was the case even before I entered the apartment but I had to take the lease as I was a student at that time and had no guarantor. I scheduled several visits and eventually managed to find one candidate who was interested and the owner agreed to that. The owner and the new tenant signed the contract and I moved out. Owner asked me to hand over the key to new tenant. After twenty days, the new tenant said that he doesn't want to live in that apartment and the owner agreed to cancel his contract. She is now refusing to return my rental guarantee and says that I should continue paying the rent until next April.

Based on some suggestions in previous threads, I decided to send her a letter through registered post requesting the refunds, but she refuses to even give her address. She doesn't live in Switzerland, but the contract does have a Swiss address. But she said that she doesn't live there anymore.

To add to this, I just noticed that I had forgot to cancel the standing order for rent payments and have paid rents for July and August which the owner is refusing to refund. I also visited my bank to ask if they can request the funds back, but they said that they can only refund if the recipient agrees to it. If I do need to file a case or register a complaint against them, I only have the emails and messages as a proof of what I say. I don't have the signed contract between the owner and the new tenant (but I do have a chat message history that this contract was signed and them refusing to send a copy of this contract to me).

From my research about this, I think I have three options:

I am going to check with ASLOCA as suggested in the previous post. But they charge a fee for the consultation, so I wanted to get some suggestions if someone has already discussed their cases with them. Would they be able to handle the legal aspects of the case or would it be just some advice?

Register a case through a lawyer but I am not sure how costly this is going to be as I haven't done anything of this sort before. If this is a good idea, could someone recommend an English speaking lawyer who might be able to help.

File a complaint with the police. This is again something I am not very sure about.

What options do I have? I also found that the person I signed contract with isn't the actual owner of the apartment. I found the contact details of the owner, but he denied to interfere in the dispute since the contract wasn't signed with him.
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Old 08.08.2016, 12:55
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Re: Need help with housing dispute with owner

I would say ASLOCA is your first port of call. Their 100CHF membership fee is less than it would cost to ask a lawyer "Can I ask you a question?".

Most rental disputes are handled by arbitration, so you don't need a lawyer.
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Old 08.08.2016, 13:12
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Re: Need help with housing dispute with owner

Thanks for your reply. Since this is the first time I am dealing with such a case, I am not a registered member with them yet. Do you know what kind of assistance would they provide? In the consultation, if they agree that the case is worth taking forward, do they provide legal assistance or just a one off consultation and then I would have to go through a lawyer anyway?
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Old 08.08.2016, 13:29
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Re: Need help with housing dispute with owner

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Thanks for your reply. Since this is the first time I am dealing with such a case, I am not a registered member with them yet. Do you know what kind of assistance would they provide? In the consultation, if they agree that the case is worth taking forward, do they provide legal assistance or just a one off consultation and then I would have to go through a lawyer anyway?
Without knowing the concrete details I can't say. What they will do is examine your contract and the timeline of your case, and advise you if you have grounds to take the case to arbitration.

As you describe the situation it sounds as if your case hinges on the wording of the contract vis your supplying a suitable replacement, specifically if the mere signing of a new contract releases you immediately, or if your duties somehow continue until the original termination date specified in your contract.

As to the rent that you inadvertently paid, I think you can reasonably expect her to refund you whatever rent your replacement paid her. A full refund would depend on the situation as described above.

As to the deposit, do you have any proof that the condition of the apartment was substantially the same as when you took the appartement over? (Photos, ceiling damage noted in the handover form?)

If they do think that you should go to arbitration the first step is usually that you inform the landlord of your complaint (in writing, via registered mail) indicating that you will be paying the existing rent into a "sperrkonto", until the dispute is resolved.

The Sperrkonto is a bank account, setting one up may cost some money.
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Old 08.08.2016, 13:31
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Re: Need help with housing dispute with owner

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Thanks for your reply. Since this is the first time I am dealing with such a case, I am not a registered member with them yet. Do you know what kind of assistance would they provide? In the consultation, if they agree that the case is worth taking forward, do they provide legal assistance or just a one off consultation and then I would have to go through a lawyer anyway?
You pay ASLOCA in cash on the first consultation, make an appointment by phone usually... It was only 70chf when i joined a few months ago..
Take everything with you, letters, statements, contracts etc, write down things to remember to say. They will look at everything and pretty much tell you what's legal or not.

They can write letters for you and tell you how to open a court case, things like that.. Generally the people you see are not 'lawyers' but experts in rental things. If it goes to court you can pay to use one of their lawyers I beleive - or use your own.
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Old 08.08.2016, 13:45
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As to the rent that you inadvertently paid, I think you can reasonably expect her to refund you whatever rent your replacement paid her. A full refund would depend on the situation as described above.
I am not sure if the replacement paid her anything. I was told in June that she was OK with the replacement and she asked me to hand over the keys to him (I have an email from her as proof of this), so I think he should've paid her (but I don't have any proof nor the signed contract between them). I was under the impression that everything was ok until July 20 when the replacement told that he has discussed with the owner and she agreed to cancel his lease. She is still holding my rent for July (and August) even though legally it was the replacement who had the apartment. Not sure if this is legal

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As to the deposit, do you have any proof that the condition of the apartment was substantially the same as when you took the appartement over? (Photos, ceiling damage noted in the handover form?)
Yes, I have photos from the date that I moved in and also an email describing these conditions to her.

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If they do think that you should go to arbitration the first step is usually that you inform the landlord of your complaint (in writing, via registered mail) indicating that you will be paying the existing rent into a "sperrkonto", until the dispute is resolved.
Even after asking for her address several times through email and messages, she hasn't sent me the address and just wrote me a one line reply "I don't live in Switzerland". Any suggestions on how I can get her address or if using an old address that she mentioned on her contract would fulfil the legal obligation of sending a registered mail?

Last edited by 3Wishes; 08.08.2016 at 21:52. Reason: merging consecutive replies
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Old 08.08.2016, 13:54
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Re: Need help with housing dispute with owner

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Even after asking for her address several times through email and messages, she hasn't sent me the address and just wrote me a one line reply "I don't live in Switzerland". Any suggestions on how I can get her address or if using an old address that she mentioned on her contract would fulfil the legal obligation of sending a registered mail?
You would send the registered letter to the last known address given by her in your correspondence. If she has moved from there and not informed you of any change, nor made any arrangements to have her mail forwarded then AFAIK that isn't your problem.

Once the money starts going into a sperrkonto she will probably be more responsive, but do it right, as ASLOCA advises you to.
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Old 10.08.2016, 06:54
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Re: Need help with housing dispute with owner

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Even after asking for her address several times through email and messages, she hasn't sent me the address and just wrote me a one line reply "I don't live in Switzerland". Any suggestions on how I can get her address or if using an old address that she mentioned on her contract would fulfil the legal obligation of sending a registered mail?
You can ask local Notariat/Grundbuchamt about the owner of the building/apartment and their legal address. It's public information by law and they should tell it free of charge (but written confirmations aren't usually free)
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Old 10.08.2016, 08:42
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Re: Need help with housing dispute with owner

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Once the money starts going into a sperrkonto she will probably be more responsive, but do it right, as ASLOCA advises you to.
A Sperrkonto is used to pay the rent due without actually handing it over to the landlord. However OP no longer has obligations to pay rent as s/he found a follow-on renter (the concluded contract removes any doubt I would think), what happens afterwards is none of her/his concern.

So I doubt a Sperrkonto is the tool to use.

Quote:
Register a case through a lawyer but I am not sure how costly this is going to be as I haven't done anything of this sort before. If this is a good idea, could someone recommend an English speaking lawyer who might be able to help.
ASLOCA is likely to be less expensive. The rest depends on how much money you're talking about of course.
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File a complaint with the police. This is again something I am not very sure about.
I don't think they can do anything. You paid the money freely so this is not fraud or similar. You need to go after the money yourself, which is probably going to be expensive as your landlord/renter-letter lives abroad.
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What options do I have? I also found that the person I signed contract with isn't the actual owner of the apartment. I found the contact details of the owner, but he denied to interfere in the dispute since the contract wasn't signed with him.
Understandable, it's none of his business just like the rent no longer is any business of yours after that follow-on renter signed. Probably you only have a Zivilklage (Betreibung) as an option, but since the other person lives abroad that'll probably be rather expensive.
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Old 10.08.2016, 08:56
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Re: Need help with housing dispute with owner

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A Sperrkonto is used to pay the rent due without actually handing it over to the landlord. However OP no longer has obligations to pay rent as s/he found a follow-on renter (the concluded contract removes any doubt I would think), what happens afterwards is none of her/his concern.

So I doubt a Sperrkonto is the tool to use.
Urs,

According to the OP, in the first post:

Quote:
She is now refusing to return my rental guarantee and says that I should continue paying the rent until next April.
If that is still the case, then a sperrkonto may be the tool to use.

My point is that if you have a dispute with your landlord, it is a mistake to just stop paying the rent, even if you are completely convinced that you are in the right. The last thing anyone needs is a betriebung on their record, as this makes it harder to find a new place, even if the debt is settled and/or bogus.
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Old 10.08.2016, 16:15
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Re: Need help with housing dispute with owner

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Urs,

According to the OP, in the first post:



If that is still the case, then a sperrkonto may be the tool to use.

My point is that if you have a dispute with your landlord, it is a mistake to just stop paying the rent, even if you are completely convinced that you are in the right. The last thing anyone needs is a betriebung on their record, as this makes it harder to find a new place, even if the debt is settled and/or bogus.
A Sperrkonto is the recommended tool in cases where the renter wants to keep the contract running, but wants (is forced) to apply pressure by keeping the rent out of the landlords hands. The underlying idea is that the money is owed. For these cases you are right, I completely agree.

However that doesn't apply here. Neither does OP want to keep the contract nor is it still active. Whatever one may think about prior events, OP's contract was terminated no later than when the follow-on renter's contract came into effect. Otherwise the lessee would commit fraud or some such by having two contracts in parallel each promising exclusive use.
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Old 10.08.2016, 16:33
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Re: Need help with housing dispute with owner

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Otherwise the lessee would commit fraud or some such by having two contracts in parallel each promising exclusive use.
Unless the OP had some kind of sub-letting contract in place. I don't see any indication of it in the thread, but if the landlord drew up the contract such that the follow-on tenant as a sub-letter until the end of the original contract, and the OP didn't understand the language well enough to catch that and signed it, then the burden remains with the OP and the landlord did nothing (legally) wrong.

I don't think that's the case, but there are enough people on this forum who sign things without understanding them that it's worth raising the possibility, and the landlord is made out to be a dodgy sort.
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Old 10.08.2016, 16:45
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Re: Need help with housing dispute with owner

I don't think that would hold because OP wasn't part of the follow-on contract.
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Old 10.08.2016, 16:46
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Re: Need help with housing dispute with owner

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A Sperrkonto is the recommended tool in cases where the renter wants to keep the contract running, but wants (is forced) to apply pressure by keeping the rent out of the landlords hands. The underlying idea is that the money is owed. For these cases you are right, I completely agree.

However that doesn't apply here. Neither does OP want to keep the contract nor is it still active. Whatever one may think about prior events, OP's contract was terminated no later than when the follow-on renter's contract came into effect. Otherwise the lessee would commit fraud or some such by having two contracts in parallel each promising exclusive use.
Urs,

I'm not clear on whether the OP has actually been released from his contract. As it stands, the owner seems to insist that the OP continue paying rent until the end of next April.

I tend to err on the side of caution, ergo the Sperrkonto until the matter has been resolved. Regardless of who is in the right or wrong, communication seems to have broken down. The Sperrkonto is certainly one legal way to get the landlord to start communicating again, even if it does mean the OP temporarily paying rent that is not due.

I am curious as to what ASLOCA suggests, and how the matter is resolved.
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Old 10.08.2016, 16:55
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Re: Need help with housing dispute with owner

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Unless the OP had some kind of sub-letting contract in place. I don't see any indication of it in the thread, but if the landlord drew up the contract such that the follow-on tenant as a sub-letter until the end of the original contract, and the OP didn't understand the language well enough to catch that and signed it, then the burden remains with the OP and the landlord did nothing (legally) wrong.
That is not the case. I haven't signed a sub letting contract with the new tenant. It was the owner who signed this contract with the new renter.

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I am curious as to what ASLOCA suggests, and how the matter is resolved.
I will be preparing everything this week and speaking with ASLOCA to get their suggestions on this. I will post an update soon.
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Old 10.08.2016, 17:26
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Re: Need help with housing dispute with owner

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I also found that the person I signed contract with isn't the actual owner of the apartment. I found the contact details of the owner, but he denied to interfere in the dispute since the contract wasn't signed with him.
Am I the only one finding this a bit strange? Do you know what is the exact relationship between the two? You can find some information here:
www.geo.vd.ch although I am not sure how it works for bigger appartment buildings.

Anyway, ASLOCA should be how more help than all of the forum members. Good luck!
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Old 11.08.2016, 09:04
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Re: Need help with housing dispute with owner

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Am I the only one finding this a bit strange? Do you know what is the exact relationship between the two? You can find some information here:
www.geo.vd.ch although I am not sure how it works for bigger appartment buildings.
This list has the name of the owner of the apartment but not the person who I signed the lease with. I don't know the relation between the two, but I like to think of it as a scheme so that the owner (who lives in Switzerland) doesn't have to face any legal actions due to wrongdoings on the apartment and make it difficult to pursue legal cases against them since the person who signs the contract doesn't live in Switzerland.
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