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Old 22.03.2021, 06:47
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Death Of Brother - Wincasa Rental Agreement

Hi all,


I need some advice. My brother worked and lived in Geneva and unfortunately died mid-August last year.


He was renting an apartment via Wincasa. We let them know by end of August via e-mail of the situation and wanted to cancel the agreement.


We understood there's a 3-month notice period. However, due to delays in processing the cancellation their side they have sent an invoice for 5 months rent.


We also have an invoice for "fixes" to the flat which is a considerably amount.


Wanted advice on where we stand with this? One one hand we just want to pay any remaining amounts and get this over and done with.


On the other hand, we can't stop thinking they're taking advantage of the situation. We don't even know if my brother had a standing payment going out to pay them. How can we trust this company?



Is there a legal body in Switzerland that can help check all of this to ensure we're not being conned?
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Old 22.03.2021, 10:16
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Re: Death Of Brother - Wincasa Rental Agreement

I'm sorry to hear about your brother, my condolences.

To answer your question, understand that broadly speaking even death does not negate contract terms in Switzerland.

So key will be to understand your brother's rental contract.

---

Are you also in Geneva? Your post reads to me as if you are not in Geneva or Switzerland. Is that the case? If so, do you have a representative 'on the ground' here?

----

I'll assume you are not in Switzerland for now, if I'm wrong, ignore most of my post.

I'm not in Geneva, so perhaps things are done differently there than in my part of the country. Hopefully one of the Geneva Efers will chime in. But until then:


Again, very broadly speaking in addition to three months notice, your brother's contract might limit the dates on which a contract can be cancelled. Some limit to once or twice per year, some are more generous.

So the three months notice might actually mean three months before the next contractually allowable cancellation date, which could well have been 5 months.

So check the wording of your brother's lease.

It is normal that a flat must be in pristine condition, akin to the state it was when the tenant moved in. If there are any damages, the tenant pays for those.

Did someone arrange for a full Swiss-style move out cleaning? If not, fairly large bills could be possible.

Were you, or someone representing your brother's estate present when the flat was handed back to the landlord? There is a whole protocol to a flat handover, that is the time for the landlord to assess damages and for the tenant or representative to object or agree to the assessment. What happened in this case? If there was no tenant's representative to the handover, it will be very difficult to dispute charges at a later stage.

Was your brother a member of the tenant's association Asloca? If so, contact them for advice as to whether the charges assessed seem fair.

As to the issue of standing payments - do you have POA over your brother's financial affairs? If so, you should have access to his bank account and could see payments. If you are not the executor or do not have POA, who does? That person can answer these questions. Is a notary handling the official end of things here? If so, contact that person.


The agency you mention is a large one. I have no personal experience with them, perhaps another EFer will chime in here as well.

---

Another word of advice: Do not do anything important via e-mail. In Switzerland registered letter is expected when dealing with important legal matters.

---

I hope this all gets sorted without too much hassle - and again, my condolences.
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Old 22.03.2021, 10:21
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Re: Death Of Brother - Wincasa Rental Agreement

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Old 22.03.2021, 20:17
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Re: Death Of Brother - Wincasa Rental Agreement

Hi meloncollie,

Thanks so much for the reply. Replying to some of your questions.

1. I'm not in Geneva - in the U.K.
2. We're concerned my brother may have had a standing order and although we stopped the bank account end of August, worried that one payment may have gone through and also the agency is charging a stupid amount to fix small issues with the flat.
3. As for deposit - we can't be sure if there was one given already. I read 3-months is normal for a deposit in Switzerland. So why would they charge 5 months rent + circa 3 months worth of rent for the fixes.

We had some local support from my brother's employer early on - but there's only so much we can ask them. It is after all a personal matter.

Part of the issue is - we dont know much about how everything was setup by my brother. We never really spoke about all these things! It's not like we were expecting the worse :-(
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Old 22.03.2021, 20:39
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Re: Death Of Brother - Wincasa Rental Agreement

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Hi meloncollie,

Thanks so much for the reply. Replying to some of your questions.

3. As for deposit - we can't be sure if there was one given already. I read 3-months is normal for a deposit in Switzerland. So why would they charge 5 months rent + circa 3 months worth of rent for the fixes.
I will try to explain this to you. Many rental contracts will say something like:
1) 3 months cancellation
2) Cancellation only possible at the end of a quarter (March, June, Sept, Dec)
3) Might even say excluded December

Say you cancelled in during the Month of August, the 3 months are Sept, Oct, Nov but then they would add Dec if Nov is not a "normal" cancellation month.

You mentioned you cancelled via e-mail, this may have prolonged the issue, as Meloncollie said, these matters are dealt with registered letter here.



Also, the 5 months rent will not have anything to do with the deposit.

The deposit can be used if rent is not paid but it is actually also a guarantee for damages to the flat.

Repair costs here can quickly go to high figures.

I am assuming they have told you what they have repaired and have an invoice?

For perspective, 15 years ago my agency charged 800 CHF for repainting one bedroom white. A whole apartment can easily be 3-4K depending on the size.

Professional cleaning can easily be 1K depending on flat size etc.

Can you help us understand:
1) Was someone present at the flat handover?
2) Do you have a copy of the handover protocol?
3) Can you access bank account records?

All the best in sorting this.
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Old 22.03.2021, 21:01
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Re: Death Of Brother - Wincasa Rental Agreement

Gaurav I am so sorry about your brother. And yes, as explained above, renting in Switzerland and cancellation terms and conditions are very complicated.

We went through this when my father died- just after the official cancellation date. I was truly amazed that in Switzerland, not even death releases you from a contract. Fortunately, we lived nearby, knew the owner well, had no language issue, so we were able to give and take- as the owner already had someone interested in taken the house over. We however had to empty the place, including cellar, garage and attic, and clean everything spotless- which was very hard as my mother smoked and the whole place was covered in nicotine.

Who emptied the furtniture from your brother's flat? And who cleaned it to a state where it could be rented again?

Another legal issue in Switzerland, is that if you inherit from a relative, you have to decide, often wihout real information- if you want to accept ot refuse. If you accept, you inherit the assets- and also the debts, including rent and services as disposing of furniture, cleaning and all outstanding bills.

Hope you get this sorted out asap and can put it all behind you.
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Old 22.03.2021, 21:28
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Re: Death Of Brother - Wincasa Rental Agreement

Sorry to hear of your loss.

Yes the landlord is probably trying to rip you off in the hope that you just pay up to end the matter.

This example of 3 to 4k in repairs for a whole apartment is completely ridiculous. Yes if you painted all the walls etc and made alterations and damages that need to be put back how they were but not for normal wear and tear. Cleaning though could easily run 1000CHF. Everything else should be wear and tear. I have heard of ridiculous charges for fixing picture hook holes in walls. Damages should also be reduced by the age of the items against the useful life chart.

Rather like in the UK the deposit should be in a specific account. The standing orders from the bank should end when they receive notification of death. You should be able to have access to both of these bank accounts but maybe there's a problem with permission if your brother did not give it prior to death.

As was written amongst the other helpful posts it can be that the effective notice period is up to 5 or 6 months if the end date has to fall on particular quarters. Having said that, usually there's an allowance that you can remove the obligation to pay rent if you find someone to take over the apartment before the lease ends. Similarly if the landlord finds someone himself to take over the apartment he's not allowed to take you or your brother's money for any period of overlap.
Ask for a copy of the contract (signed) and ask for details of the deposit bank account.

Good luck.
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Old 22.03.2021, 21:33
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Re: Death Of Brother - Wincasa Rental Agreement

Unfortunately the data you provide is far from enough to form an opinion, you don't even mention the apartment size. It seems that the entire removal, cleaning, and fixing stuff, was handled by Wincasa, but you don't really say anything to that end.

It's possible that covid forced an extension of the contract from November to January (December is not a legal end date for rental contracts), it may have taken beyond November to empty the apartment and clean it.

I second for you to contact the already mentioned ASLOCA (renter's association) if you want a competent opinion. Expect to pay 100-150 CHF per hour for their service (it won't hurt to get an estimate before sending them your documents, or to agree on a cost ceiling, becoming a member may lower the cost significantly).

A deposit is standard, should be with a bank, Wincasa should be able to provide the account details. The amount can't be more than 3 months rent, it can be used for unpaid repair costs and similar but it's probably simpler for Wincasa if you pay the bills, in which case the deposit will be returned to you afterwards.
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Old 23.03.2021, 10:29
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Re: Death Of Brother - Wincasa Rental Agreement

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Gaurav I am so sorry about your brother. And yes, as explained above, renting in Switzerland and cancellation terms and conditions are very complicated.

We went through this when my father died- just after the official cancellation date. I was truly amazed that in Switzerland, not even death releases you from a contract. Fortunately, we lived nearby, knew the owner well, had no language issue, so we were able to give and take- as the owner already had someone interested in taken the house over. We however had to empty the place, including cellar, garage and attic, and clean everything spotless- which was very hard as my mother smoked and the whole place was covered in nicotine.

Who emptied the furtniture from your brother's flat? And who cleaned it to a state where it could be rented again?

Another legal issue in Switzerland, is that if you inherit from a relative, you have to decide, often wihout real information- if you want to accept ot refuse. If you accept, you inherit the assets- and also the debts, including rent and services as disposing of furniture, cleaning and all outstanding bills.

Hope you get this sorted out asap and can put it all behind you.
Death does not get you out of most contracts in the UK either. Switzerland has more contracts without an end date where a long period of notice needs to be given. UK leases tend to be very short unless you have paid a premium & get 99/125/999 years. Those long agreements certainly don't terminate with death.
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Old 23.03.2021, 10:47
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Re: Death Of Brother - Wincasa Rental Agreement

As Urs Max states
'usually there's an allowance that you can remove the obligation to pay rent if you find someone to take over the apartment before the lease ends. Similarly if the landlord finds someone himself to take over the apartment he's not allowed to take you or your brother's money for any period of overlap.'

This is quite easy to do as there is a high demand for apartments.
You can advertise it and then have someone on site to show over a set time and dates.
Two days of covid distanced showing could be enough to get 1 or more replacement applications.
As others have wrote each canton or state may have their own rules.
In Canton Zurich, if the tenant (or now responsible party) provide a suitable replacement
the landlord cannot charge the future rents.
a suitable replacement equals someone who has a current visa/passport to live there and has enough income.

2. most renters have renters insurance to cover the damage charges (minus any deductible/franchise)
2.b all damage charges are based on how many years your brother had the contract.
If over 10 years there is little they can charge.

if it suits you, you can PM personal message me and we can set up a call
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