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Old 05.06.2021, 18:45
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Renovations requested by landlord

Brief: Our landlord wants to renovate the kitchen in our rented apartment. At the moment, this is being pushed through without any consultation with us. Fellow tenants have had theirs renovated last year, and it was a very unpleasant experience (dust, possibly asbestos exposure, unreasonably long duration of works, no access to a working kitchen). What are our rights and our landlord's responsibilities in this scenario?

My partner and I rent a 2.5 bedroom apartment in Bern. My partner's been a tenant here for almost a decade, I've only been recently been put on the tenancy.

Our landlord started renovating all the kitchens in the building last year. They clustered the renovations into three, with first the left side apartments renovated, then the middle, and now they have contacted us that they're looking to renovate those on the right side (our side) of the building as well.

Normally this would be a 1-2 weeks of inconvenience, but we have heard from other tenants that the contractors building the kitchen came by whenever they pleased, and the works took a total of 8-10 weeks.

During these 10 weeks, these fellow tenants had no kitchen (they received a tiny cooking plate, i.e. smells in either their bedroom or living room), and were subject to workers coming and going as they pleased (sometimes just for 5 minutes, to measure something, then they'd leave for a few days).

Our landlord is now trickle feeding us information, mentioning that the renovation of our kitchen will be due "this summer".

I have several issues with this, if they handle it as they have handled it last year with other tenants:
*Total duration of 8-10 weeks
*No access to a functional kitchen, i.e. increase in cost of making/ordering food
*Basically living on a construction site
*The insulation in this building is asbestos. The landlord made no mention of what countermeasures would be taken. Fellow tenants said there was "a significant amount of dust".
*I work from home, i.e. this apartment's living room is my office. With frequent meetings with clients, any use of tools would cause a significant disruption to my work.
*We're not being offered any storage space, i.e. potential damage to our possessions.

What are our rights and our landlord's obligations in this type of scenario? Can we request alternative accommodation during the works (I feel this would encourage the landlord to get things done this time), compensation or do we have the option of refusing access entirely on the basis of danger to our health (asbestos)? Is there any type of tenants associations which may be able to help us in Bern?
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Old 05.06.2021, 19:01
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Re: Renovations requested by landlord

- you should be part of mietverband
- you should received that information 3-months in advance
- you are entitles to "lower" costs or rent during the renovation

Owner has right to cancel your rent ( holding to cancellation rights ) should you not agree .

Renovation should not be burden for you however that is not defined - should also be within possible limited time.


- ask for duration and what would be discount from your rental .
- ask whenever there is apartment that you can use during renovation (empty - same or larger size).

https://www.mieterverband.ch/dam/jcr...8-04_Umbau.pdf

Isulation of asbestos is inside and would be removed ? that requires special handling ( should azbestos not be able to remove in full non-broken tiles - it requires special handling ) - you should ask for building permission that is approved from local community. With no such permission - there is nothing to talk about - and you are in right.

Should there be permission from Canton - you can raise objection _if_. there is nothing about azbestos in the Baubezuch ( construction check ).

I do wonder how do you know about azbestos , and why would it be inside . It was just fireplaces (open) that were fitted with it and roofs - I have not heard of kitchens or else ..
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Old 05.06.2021, 19:16
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Re: Renovations requested by landlord

Regarding the asbestos: I don't know for sure where it is, or how much of it there is in the building. We know there was removal of asbestos from one of the other apartments due to degradation a few years ago. The kitchen ceiling has a popcorn texture paint covering, which has been painted over numerous times. Considering the building's age (1970's), there is risk that this paintwork contains white asbestos. We have not had a survey performed personally.
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Old 05.06.2021, 19:49
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Re: Renovations requested by landlord

Depends on the age of the building. When we had a water leak in our 1950s house a few years ago from the bathroom the workmen found asbestos in the bathroom wall and had to get in a specialist removal company to deal with it. We had to stay in an hotel overnight since we couldn't go upstairs until they'd removed it.
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Old 05.06.2021, 19:53
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Re: Renovations requested by landlord

The way you describe it sounds rather like the standard way these things are done: first the left-hand side of the building, then the middle, then the right-hand side. That sounds normal. Also, since they've already done the left and the middle, it is almost guaranteed that they already have the proper building permission.

I can't comment technically about the asbestos, except to say that I surmised that this, too, ought to have been in the owner's application and approval for building. You could simply ask them about that. There are special laws about dealing with asbestos.

I don't think it is usual for a landlord to provide alternative accommodation, nor storage space for furniture, during renovations. However, a rented premises must be in a condition that is "fit for use". During renovations, the flat may still be partly usable, in that - depending upon what they builders have to do - one could still sleep in the flat at night, or could still shower even if not able to cook. The hotplate is considered a fair gesture to enable the tenants to cook, as would be, for example, temporary chemical toilets were the bathroom being renovated.

To the extent that the flat cannot be used for its purpose, the tenants are entitled to a rental reduction. Some landlords and tenants negotiate the percentage of un-fit-ness; some landlords just release the tenant from the rental for those weeks, although still requiring the tenant to pay the extra costs for heating (in German "Nebenkosten") during that time.

Since you are in contact with your neighbours, ask them what the landlord offered them, in terms of rent reduction, and whether they've already been to the Mieterverband (tenants' association) and what came of it. Also, enquire of them whether their rent was increased after the renovations. This will help you decide whether or not you want to stay in that flat, and weather the storm, or would prefer to move out.

Careful tenants cover their furniture with blankets and plastic sheeting, to protect it, or move precious items out to a neighbour's (those on the other side of the building) or friend's home, for those weeks. I once babysat someone's treasured table for a month or so.

Some tenants prefer to sleep at home despite the dust (although that's a bit scarier if you have reason to believe that it will be asbestos dust) while others move to a friend's place for that time, or pay for a hotel. The latter leaves the tenant somewhat out of pocket, since a hotel can hardly be had for the same price at the rent they're now "saving" through a reduction.
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Old 05.06.2021, 19:53
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Re: Renovations requested by landlord

In your case, you have the extra problem that you work from home. This, however, is not the original purpose of the flat, which was very likely rented out as a place of residence and not as business premises. Corona has turned all that upside down, but I doubt very much that there are any laws to require the landlord to compensate you for office space.

For your work, therefore, you will have to return to your office or, if that is not possible or permitted by your employer, to go outside to work, for example in a library, café or a shared office space. Unfortunately, any costs with regard to that will be to your account.
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Old 05.06.2021, 20:02
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Re: Renovations requested by landlord

Coworking spaces in Bern (not my personal recommendation, just googling)
https://sennlab.ch/ (see: Sitzungsraum)
https://www.welle7.ch/en/workspace/what-we-offer
https://www.effinger.ch/raeume/

Libraries in Bern:
http://www.kob.ch/bibliotheken

Depending where you are and on your mobility, you might find nice libraries a little out of town, for example this lovely one in Burgdorf:
https://stadtbibliothek-burgdorf.ch/
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Old 05.06.2021, 21:06
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Re: Renovations requested by landlord

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In your case, you have the extra problem that you work from home. This, however, is not the original purpose of the flat, which was very likely rented out as a place of residence and not as business premises. Corona has turned all that upside down, but I doubt very much that there are any laws to require the landlord to compensate you for office space.

For your work, therefore, you will have to return to your office or, if that is not possible or permitted by your employer, to go outside to work, for example in a library, café or a shared office space. Unfortunately, any costs with regard to that will be to your account.
Should employee have no possibility to work (from home or office) due to no fault of his/her own - it be employer responsibility to offer alternative solution .

While employer is not obligated to cover the costs (full or part) of flat rent etc - it can't demand employee bear the costs of office to fulfil employment contract where place of work is other than "remote" - for which employee would be entitled to monthly amount otherwise.

Call your company - explain situation and provide copy of the landlord letter . You may consider to take holidays that time , or speak to your company to provide you with an alternative.
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Old 05.06.2021, 21:09
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Re: Renovations requested by landlord

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Depends on the age of the building. When we had a water leak in our 1950s house a few years ago from the bathroom the workmen found asbestos in the bathroom wall and had to get in a specialist removal company to deal with it. We had to stay in an hotel overnight since we couldn't go upstairs until they'd removed it.
I guess it was used just "of convenience" it seem rather than by it's purpose. I had few friends renovating old houses - not one came across ..( however these were detached private owned - so could be skipped the "era of asbestos"
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Old 05.06.2021, 21:32
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Re: Renovations requested by landlord

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Should employee have no possibility to work (from home or office) due to no fault of his/her own - it be employer responsibility to offer alternative solution .

While employer is not obligated to cover the costs (full or part) of flat rent etc - it can't demand employee bear the costs of office to fulfil employment contract where place of work is other than "remote" - for which employee would be entitled to monthly amount otherwise.
Do you mean that the employee is entitled to a monthly amount from the employer, for being told to work "remote"? I'm not sure that you're right that.

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Call your company - explain situation and provide copy of the landlord letter . You may consider to take holidays that time , or speak to your company to provide you with an alternative.
Yes, you make a very good point. I agree, OP, ask your employer to provide a solution of where to go to work, during the renovations.
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Old 05.06.2021, 22:14
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Re: Renovations requested by landlord

let's remember that the covid home office is not covered by the usual home office compensations.

Covid home office also just says that it's required unless it creates big aufwand. In this case, it would, so your employer can just let you go to the office.
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