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Old 14.01.2007, 13:51
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Advice needed urgently on rights of tenants in Switzerland!

Hi,

I am writing in the hope that someone on this forum might be able to advise me as to what our rights as tenants in Switzerland are, and if there is any legal advise/help available to us.

The situation

We moved from London to Switzerland a couple of weeks ago and have been very much looking forward to moving in and settling into our new flat here.

The flat or loft was under construction when we viewed it together with the agent and signed the rental contract in November 2006. In particular, no interiors had been built. So, we signed the contract based on the floor plan given to us, his description to us of the finished apartment and also what could be expected from normal market practice as regards the fixtures / fittings to be provided and the quality of overall finish, especially for new constructions.

We signed the contract with the clear understanding that there would be three bedrooms and two bathrooms with a WC and shower in each. The floor plan he gave us also showed two bathrooms, both with WC and shower, and space for the three bedrooms.

However, the contract only mentions the word ‘Loft’.

We agreed on the date of 27/28th December for completion. We planned our move from London on that basis, although the holiday period between Christmas and New Year was an expensive time to ship our personal belongings, as many of the movers / shippers were not working in this period.

However, on 28th December the apartment was unfinished and not built as agreed.

The key issues were:
·Instead of three bathrooms and two showers, there were only two bedrooms and one shower
·Even the shower in the main bathroom was not usable, as the shower panels were not installed
·There was no heating or hot water
·The parkett floors in the entire apartment were unfinished, unsealed and dirty
·The kitchen flooring was not stone, but parkett (we were given to understand otherwise at the viewing)
·The kitchen ventilation did not go out of the apartment, but re-circulated air within the apartment
·In general, the quality of finishing was poor and not in line with what would be expected from new buildings in Switzerland. A number of things that would be normally expected in an apartment as per usual market practice were also missing.

In light of the above, the apartment was not in a liveable condition and we suffered considerable inconvenience and expenses to arrange accommodation for ourselves and our guests over the holiday period at short notice.

We wrote to the agent requesting him to get the apartment completed so that we could move in when it was in a liveable condition. We are very keen to move in at the earliest opportunity as our current temporary living arrangement is both inconvenient and expensive.

He told us he could only get back to us after speaking with the construction manager and the owner on the 8th of January, and reassured us that most of the things could be sorted out.

Apparently after having spoken with them, the agent is now trying all out to get us to cancel the contract and insisting that the place is ready to move in as is and that we had signed a contract for a loft, so he is not liable to build another bedroom and shower.

Also, his emails have increasingly become vitriolic and threatening.We have tried to agree to compromise on most issues to try and resolve the matter as amicably as possible, but to no avail.

Advice needed on:
What are our rights now?
If we move into the place as is, are we entitled to a lower rent?
Are we entitled for any compensation if the contract is cancelled?

This entire issue has not only resulted in us suffering monetary losses, but has also been frustrating and has disrupted our plans - especially since we are expecting a baby. We have suffered and are suffering much uncertainty and stress due to this situation and look forward to a quick resolution of these issues so that we can finally settle down in the new apartment.

Any advice would be most appreciated.

Best regards
Abhilasha
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Old 14.01.2007, 14:19
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Re: Advice needed urgently on rights of tenants in Switzerland!

I'm not a legal expert but I can tell you that the wording of contracts is all important in Switzerland. If the description of the flat in the contract didn't include the exact numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms that you wanted (but instead specified what you actually got) then you can't really complain on those grounds.

What you can complain about is that the flat sounds unsuitable for habitation as it's clearly unfinished.


Given the problems that you've experienced straight off the bat, my advice to you would be to run a mile.

DO NOT move into this apartment and instead, find somewhere else. Get a solicitor to write a letter to to the landlord pointing out that the place was not ready at the time specified in the contract and was in an un-liveable condition. If the owner wants to chase you up for breaking the contract, be prepared to fight them in court. Don't count on using any verbal agreements about extra bathrooms in the argument though.


Gav
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Old 14.01.2007, 14:29
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Re: Advice needed urgently on rights of tenants in Switzerland!

Hi Abhilasha,

Sorry to hear about your predicament. Maybe these people can help you with some advice or pass you on to the relevant people. It is a renters rights association:

Mieterinnen und Mieterverband Zürich

www. mieterverband.ch/zuerich

Tel: 044/241 91 44

Good luck!

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Old 14.01.2007, 15:34
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Re: Advice needed urgently on rights of tenants in Switzerland!

Never sign anything in life if it does not include all the correct details. The agent sounds like an ass clown! Good luck. I say find a new place.
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Old 14.01.2007, 15:35
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Re: Advice needed urgently on rights of tenants in Switzerland!

Definitely go to the Mieterverband - Tellstrasse 31 in Zurich, bus 31, in the building with Benedict Language School and a computer shop. Ask to become a member and get an appointment for a meeting with a councellor (from my experience some speak english and will help you write letters in german to your landlord even) - take everything you have for the apartment (plans, contract, copies of all e-mails etc...)

It cost about 100Fr to become a member with them, but is worth every penny - and includes insurance to pay lawyers if you go to court over a landlord problem (but only if the problem started while you were a member - sorry), and no matter how many times you go in for help it is free for that year.

I had a problem a few years ago when a landlord sent us a bill for 2200Fr as a cost correction for Nebenkosten (extra costs like water and electricity). Apparently there is a bit of a scam that since the costs quoted to new tennents include 'estimated' Nebenkosten, the landlords keep the 'estimate' low so the apartment looks cheaper, then at the end of the year - "oops, we didn't estimate well, sorry - here is a bill for the rest". Luckily enough the Mieterverband has been onto it for a while and has a regulation with the landlord association that they can only charge a max $600 extra per year for their 'misscalculation', so thats what we ended up having to pay, but it took 4-5 trips to the Mieterverband with a new letter from the landlord each time (we even got threatened with a lawsuit if we didn't pay in 10 days), and another letter back to them, it was soul destroying, but even if we had had to pay the 2200Fr in the end, at least with the help I would have known I whether or not I was getting screwed (worth the 100Fr for piece of mind at least!)

It sounds like you have a good chance that this could work out fine - especially if the agent seems to be a bit on edge as though there is a problem!

Good luck,

Andrew
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Old 14.01.2007, 16:16
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Re: Advice needed urgently on rights of tenants in Switzerland!

I agree with all the comments about getting advice.

Probably a long shot but do you have legal protection insurance, in which case follow that up too. If you have signed up for car insurance or civil protection insurance it might just be a part of that.

I am not a lawyer, but in terms of your issues with the property, there seems to be two aspects:

- things which mean the property is not to an acceptable standard (eg no hot water or heating), here I think things should be reasonably clear cut

- the property not corresponding to what you thought you were getting, in this case unless you can prove with plans or written specs (even say the original advert) it could get grey

Daniel
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Old 15.01.2007, 10:12
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Re: Advice needed on rights of tenants in Switzerland

www.mieterverband.ch
They should speak English; you join and they will give you advice and good contacts.

Personally, I think the sticking point would be the plans - were the plans simply a sample or what he intended to do?

Verbal contract is also binding here; did he promise 3 bed/2 bath?
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Old 16.01.2007, 08:13
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Re: Advice needed on rights of tenants in Switzerland

Quote:
www.mieterverband.ch
They should speak English; you join and they will give you advice and good contacts.

Personally, I think the sticking point would be the plans - were the plans simply a sample or what he intended to do?

Verbal contract is also binding here; did he promise 3 bed/2 bath?
Hi,
The plans show the entire loft with clearly marked two bathrooms with shower & WC, also, there is a clear space ear-marked for three bedrooms, and we were told we could choose how many we wanted - 3/2/1 or none. And we went in clearly with the undertsnding of 3 Bed/2 Bath loft.
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Old 16.01.2007, 08:42
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Re: Advice needed urgently on rights of tenants in Switzerland!

Quote:
I agree with all the comments about getting advice.

Probably a long shot but do you have legal protection insurance, in which case follow that up too. If you have signed up for car insurance or civil protection insurance it might just be a part of that.

I am not a lawyer, but in terms of your issues with the property, there seems to be two aspects:

- things which mean the property is not to an acceptable standard (eg no hot water or heating), here I think things should be reasonably clear cut

- the property not corresponding to what you thought you were getting, in this case unless you can prove with plans or written specs (even say the original advert) it could get grey

Daniel
Hi Daniel,

As for the legal protection insurance, I guess its too late to get one to get this case covered in any case.

We do the plans on us - the contract says 'Loft',but the Anmeldungsformular for the place says 'loft - 4.5 Zimmer-wohnung'.
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Old 16.01.2007, 08:47
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Re: Advice needed on rights of tenants in Switzerland

Quote:
Hi,
The plans show the entire loft with clearly marked two bathrooms with shower & WC, also, there is a clear space ear-marked for three bedrooms, and we were told we could choose how many we wanted - 3/2/1 or none. And we went in clearly with the undertsnding of 3 Bed/2 Bath loft.
You "went in clearly with the understanding of 3bed/2bath loft". But was this in the contact and/or confirmed to you in writing? It seems not.

Further, it is obvious that building 3 bedrooms is more expensive than not building any within the area of a loft. Thus, there would have been a higher rental level for building the bedrooms. Was this advised/discussed?

The question for me seems to be 'how much have you paid already?' and 'what have you signed up for? (ie what notice is required?)'. As it seems unlikely that you will get the home you expected at the price you signed up for.

If you can afford it, I would:

1) find somewhere else and move there

2) put a lawyer on the case and let him sue the rental agent and try to recover as much as possible

Meanwhile, try and put this nightmare behind you and chalk it up to experience. Clearly we don't know the full story, but trying to arrange unfinished accommodation in a foreign country where you are not living at the time and where the language/ law / culture etc is different is going to be full of pitfalls.

<added later> Finally 'loft - 4.5 Zimmer-wohnung' could IMO mean that the loft doesn't have 4.5 rooms, but that is a guide to the size. By definition lofts, in Switzerland at least, do not have rooms....
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Old 16.01.2007, 08:56
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Re: Advice needed on rights of tenants in Switzerland

Quote:
www.mieterverband.ch
They should speak English; you join and they will give you advice and good contacts.

Personally, I think the sticking point would be the plans - were the plans simply a sample or what he intended to do?

Verbal contract is also binding here; did he promise 3 bed/2 bath?
you can try at the mieterverband, but i can tell that they probably let you know that you should be member before your problem arise, not after. i was member until this year, my wife and i rennounced in december, because the service they offered where not worth the +chf.100 membership. in order to get the job done you better get yourself a lawyer.
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Old 16.01.2007, 14:18
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Re: Advice needed on rights of tenants in Switzerland

I disagree with Zombie - go to the Mieterverband and ask what your rights are, they know. They will help you with everything - including finding a good and 'cheaper' lawyer if it comes to that.

I agree that 100fr is not worth much if you have no problems with your landlord, but if you do the price is very good - see my example above - 5 meetings with them, without their help I would have lost 1600Fr, or spend at least that much trying to find and use a lawyer in Zurich. - and I should mention the problem started before I was a member, so thats not a problem.

I have been there again to discuss a noise issue from construction next door (not really something you would go to a lawyer about), but now I know that at the end of the construction I can ask for a retroactive rent discount of specified percentages based on the noise and how long it lasted.

We also had a guy from there come for when we gave back our last apartment to control the place with the landlord guy and agree to what needed repair/cleaning and so on (had to pay the guy extra to come to our house for it, but its really worth the piece of mind, especially when in Zurich you are constantly having the feeling someone is trying screwing you - Im looking at you cablecom!)

They will also be able to tell you if you are likely shit out of luck for a lot less than any lawyer would tell you too.

Last point - remember that oral contracts are as binding as writted in Switzerland, it might be hard to prove he said something, but if he did or even if its reasonbale he did based on the plans you have, you probably have a very good case - ask the Mieterverband!

Andrew
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Old 16.01.2007, 14:57
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Re: Advice needed urgently on rights of tenants in Switzerland!

I agree with Ab-Fab.
If you haven't yet paid any money then you may as well accept that you are not likely to get the place that you were looking for. If you have paid some money then I suggest you go to the Mietverband and see how to get it back.
Either way I would try and find another place. Your chances of getting the landlord to build the appartment that you want is quite unlikely as are the chances of you getting any compensation in my opinion.
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Old 16.01.2007, 18:26
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Re: Advice needed urgently on rights of tenants in Switzerland!

Quote:
Your chances of getting the landlord to build the appartment that you want is quite unlikely as are the chances of you getting any compensation in my opinion.
There are several things going on at once here which makes it rather difficult to give advice. Furthermore no-one here has seen a copy of the contract nor is it clear whether the contracts have been exchanged although it reasonable to assume they have.

Before going any further with anything including going to the mietverband you must be clear what YOU want from this. Reading your side of the story there are a few holes that need to be filled in before it is possible to determine what you can actually achieve, however assuming you have been "screwed" by the letting agent or landlord or both then you do have recourse to recover any monies paid plus the right to reasonable compensation. This could be quite substantial in that you can certainly get back any expenses paid plus if there was an extra charge for moving over the holidays the extra expense. The Swiss legal system does not however allow claims for stress and the like so all you can claim is reasonable expenses generally verifiable through receipts but a little bit on top is also okay.

What I can say is that no-one is going to force the landlord to rebuild or even modify his loft to meet your believed agreement.

As an aside it is very normal if not accepted practice to list out all the rooms with their sizes and number of sockets etc. If this is not a part of your contract then it could well be that your claim is against the letting agent who has sold you a donkey so to speak and is now genuinely sweating because he could be sued by both parties for expenses and loss of revenue which will be a substantial sum if he cannot let the loft - hence his wanting one party to cancel to avoid paying.
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