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Old 02.02.2008, 23:33
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Advise Me Please On Obtaining A Lawyer's Letter In Ch

Recently I purchased a tiny holiday home at a small but pleasantly-positioned site in central Switzerland, about equidistant from Zurich and Luzern. I already have paid for the structure, so it now is mine, but the site belongs to the land owner (the normal arrangement) and I pay also an annual site fee. I already have paid an additional amount for the 2008 annual site fee. I intend to stay there for several weeks per year during my university breaks, to relax, absorb Swiss culture and efficiency , bike, recover from the stress of current life in USA which, alas, has become much less pleasant during the past eight years. HOWEVER, the previous owner of the structure has been extremely slow-moving in providing her signed contract. She delays access. She has not provided a set of keys. She says it is accessible year-round but when I say I am coming over to see it (this in January) suddenly she says it is not "winter-ready". Now I need to come there in my university spring break (end of Feb, but she has started a stalling pattern again. I would like to retain a Swiss lawyer to write and send a formal lawyer's letter to her, simply to require her to hand the keys to that lawyer and to understand that the place is mine and that without further delay I should have unfettered access. I am sure that would end the snail-pace problem. So, dear Forum rreaders, where can I find a lawyer willing to do that simple letter for me, at a reasonable fee. I have tried via many Switzerland Anwalt/Lawyer website listss, but have not had any response. Could someone advise more precisely, please? Any names of lawyers there who mighht accept, even welcome, such a modest business request? Many thanks. Moyshaus.
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Old 03.02.2008, 15:02
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Re: Advise Me Please On Obtaining A Lawyer's Letter In Ch

This all sounds very strange. Did you do the deal without the input of a lawyer??

The setup you are describing sounds like "wohnrecht" or in UK english "leasehold". ie a longterm right to enjoy the land in exchange for typically a lump sum upfront and then a smallish rent to the freeholder thereafter. It is one of the common forms of ownership but I wouldnt go so far as to call it the normal one, certainly not the preferred one.

As a land and property transaction I would normally of expected the contract to be done by the notary (neutrally for all parties) and entered into the property register (grundbuch) and for there to be a formal handover of the "enjoyment" of the property. What canton are you based in? You should probably find a lawyer in that canton.

Daniel
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Old 03.02.2008, 15:21
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Re: Advise Me Please On Obtaining A Lawyer's Letter In Ch

I just found this useful text in english on Swiss property ownership.

http://www.baerkarrer.ch/Publications/1004/4_3_5.pdf

See page 20 about contracts and page 15 about "baurecht" right to build (which in fact closer to what you have).

Daniel
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Old 03.02.2008, 17:48
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Re: Advise Me Please On Obtaining A Lawyer's Letter In Ch

It could also be a mobile home / camping park type arrangement. Some people do build little "chalet' type holiday residences but the land it sits on is not owned by the person who owns the "building".

These are holiday park type places. And in that case, I think there could be some sort of restriction to the time of year these can be used, especially if access is limited due to closed roads or something.

Or, it could be one of these chalets with no heat & no water & no road access... which depending on where it is could also be restricted access in the winter.
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Old 04.02.2008, 14:46
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Re: Advise Me Please On Obtaining A Lawyer's Letter In Ch

Thank you VERY much, dannyt986 and miniMia, for your responses. I much appreciate them. Please let me answer here, then please be so kind as to comment further.Yes, I did the deal without recourse to a lawyer. In Western Europe, one can buy a holiday house without government (federal/canton/municipal) permit, and much of the deal at that level is based on trust and, importantly, seller track record. In my case, buying this place in Switzerland, I trusted the seller because she is Swiss, which for me had always been more than enough in the past. However, I did ask, specifically (and I have the question and answer in the written correspondence) whether I needed any special permission in this case. Her answer was that I did not. At that stage I hunted for a notary/lawyer via the formal Anwalt lists for the relevant canton (Schwyz) and nearby jurisdictions, to handle the sales contract and any related aspects, but **none** of my **seven** overtures received a response. So I then asked her (seller) for a written contract (kaufvertrag) and when that arrived I rewrote it in formalese, expanded it to include many aspects she and I had discussed and agreed, had it professionally (and expensively) translated and checked for legal exactness, then couriered it to her in both languages for her signature. THEN, while waiting for the contract to come back to me, I received an email from her in which, almost buried among other matters, was a patch of wording which bothered me (inter alia, one of my faculty specialties is text and subtext analysis interlingually and interculturally). She said she would be "...speaking to the land owner..." As I already had paid the 2008 land fee to the seller for the land owner, I then began researching closely about what the implications might be of the land owner, in all this. After three days of intensive reading and cross-checking, I discovered that there is ambiguity about whether a permit is required in THIS case, therefore whether my name should be entered into the Land Register or not. The land site is NOT mine; it does not change ownership. The chalet upon that land, a tiny structure (ferienheim), becomes mine. To straighten/ clarify THIS wrinkle, I again entered into a round of begging lawyers in that canton to accept my brief. To my astonishment, after all, they are Swiss!, I have had not even the courtesy of a response (no yes, no no, no maybe). How manners have changed!I shall be MOST grateful, dear friends, for your further advice, with particular reference to the more fully described situation above. In this respect, miniMia, you describe it exactly ... yes, it is, I suppose, a holiday park type. There is no seasonal restriction, I own the structure, not the land (I pay an annual fee for the latter). SO, BIG question, do I now become an entry into the Land Register, or not? Do I require a permit, or not? Can you comment on that or point me in the right direction? And yes, dannyt986, you are right: I did not retain a lawyer. I wanted one, hunted, could not find, went ahead on good faith. In retrospect, I misjudged. Clearly, you have finer knowledge of such matters than do I, so if you would offer advice, I shall be glad.Of course, I would be happy to reciprocate, in various ways.Moysel.
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Old 04.02.2008, 15:28
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Re: Advise Me Please On Obtaining A Lawyer's Letter In Ch

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In Western Europe, one can buy a holiday house without government (federal/canton/municipal) permit, and much of the deal at that level is based on trust and, importantly, seller track record. In my case, buying this place in Switzerland, I trusted the seller because she is Swiss, which for me had always been more than enough in the past.
I don't understand this point?

Why is much of the deal based on trust? Buying a property in Switzerland is not based on trust, it's based on a contract that states that the previous owner is responsible for any nasties that they knew about pre-sale but didn't disclose (although this is often written out). If you buy in Europe based purely on trust you stand a very hight chance of getting ripped off.

As pointed out before you normally have to go to the Notariat in Switzerland to sign over the property, they check that both sides understand the agreement and explain any special clauses (e.g. like the previous owner can continue living their for 1chf/month rent)

Have you ever visited the property?
How did you purchase it?

p.s. Please try to use paragraphs
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Old 04.02.2008, 16:12
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Re: Advise Me Please On Obtaining A Lawyer's Letter In Ch

Hello,
I would contact the US Embassy in Bern. They usually have
a list of English speaking attorneys that would be willing to help.
Don't ever trust people on a smile and a wink. I have been burned
here many times by trusting people....

US Embassy in Bern
Jubiläumsstrasse 95
CH-3005 Bern, Switzerland
Note: All telephone numbers are shown with the area code that is used when dialing within Switzerland. For international calls, drop the "0" and add 41 (country code) before the area code.
Routine calls: 031 357 72 34 from 14:00-17:00
Emergencies: 031 357 70 11
Emergencies after hours, on weekends and holidays: 031 357 77 77
Fax: 031 357 72 80
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Old 04.02.2008, 16:12
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Re: Advise Me Please On Obtaining A Lawyer's Letter In Ch

Thank you, peachy, for your response.


First, about your requiring that I should use paragraphs: Of course, and in fact I DID use paragraphs in composing my earlier text. When that text appeared on the forum site, it had reverted to a single block. Sorry. I am new to this forum, and Internet from this part of USA has been disrupted severely by abnormal weather conditions for the past two weeks, so I am unsure what causes that paragraphing anomaly.


As for your admonition that one should not trust "in Europe", yes again. I should not have trusted. Nor did I, entirely (and I would have thought my earlier messages to this forum had clarified that). But my attempts to retain a notary/lawyer in the relevant canton did not succeed, so I obtained in writing from the seller a set of disclosures, a set of facts, relevant pictures and identifications (of the chalet and its environment), a specific banker to handle the finances, etc. I also ensured everything has been in writing, and I reinforced all this via phone calls to the seller. And yes, a wriotten agreement about when, and who could use it, and other relevant aspects, also was drawn up mutually. I even agreed to a provisional contract to renew half the roof. A lawyer could have handled all this and I am (and from the start have been) willing to pay lawyer costs but I have not found one, despite strenuoous efforts. From another continent and in another language it is not easy.

Yes, I have seen the chalet inside and out and in precise detail. Also its environment, also in precise detail. However, only in high-resolution pictures, not in person on site. I reserved an air journey at end December to visit the site but the seller asked me to postpone until end February. I agreed. I paid up front, though, because the site fee was due on January 1 and because (dumb me) I trusted ...

This is my fourth time into Switzerland, and on each of the three prior occasions, I trusted entirely and never was let down.


The tone of your message suggests I am an idiot. In this, yes, probably you are right. Mea culpa.
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Old 04.02.2008, 16:14
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Re: Advise Me Please On Obtaining A Lawyer's Letter In Ch

In this specific case, I'm not sure he is actually buying "property". He is buying a structure that sits on rented land. I _think_ technically it's a transfer of "goods" and not property. Thus, no land registry. Was the sale registered at a notaire? Did you call the lawyers or email them?

I don't know how this works in Switzerland. I highly doubt he needs a permit as I don't even think you can use these places to establish residency.

Are you sure there is not access restriction during the winter? Is that the problem? The woman won't give you access as it's not "winter ready"? Does it have heat & water?
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Old 04.02.2008, 16:41
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Re: Advise Me Please On Obtaining A Lawyer's Letter In Ch

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In this specific case, I'm not sure he is actually buying "property". He is buying a structure that sits on rented land. I _think_ technically it's a transfer of "goods" and not property. Thus, no land registry. Was the sale registered at a notaire? Did you call the lawyers or email them?

I don't know how this works in Switzerland. I highly doubt he needs a permit as I don't even think you can use these places to establish residency.

Are you sure there is not access restriction during the winter? Is that the problem? The woman won't give you access as it's not "winter ready"? Does it have heat & water?
Should I join in?

What this appears to be is a land lease. In order for the land lease to be effective there needs to be a right on the land to use it. This must be registered in the Grundbuch. If it is not, I could buy the land seek the owner of the "chalet" and ask them to remove it or I will at their expense.

In this particular case it would appear that the OP has simply purchased a potentially fixed structure without any rights to have it where it is currently sited. This is rather precarious... As for a lawyer, you need one specialising in pacht(recht) - was that word ever mentioned on any of the contracts? You should see somewhere Verpächter ie the lessor along with information about how long the building has a right to exist. Typically "nutzniessungsverträge" (usufruct contracts) have a life of 50 years from the date of signature - when was the chalet built or better said when was it first erected where it is?

Sorry but this is a rather messy subject and you need a lawyer specialising in this area. I can ask around if you want?

As you so rightly say mea culpa and what was it you say your interest is...
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Old 04.02.2008, 16:50
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Re: Advise Me Please On Obtaining A Lawyer's Letter In Ch

Thank you, Holliday G, and, again, miniMia, for your helpful responses.


Holliday G, many thanks, I have noted the Embassy details you give. That is one option for me, if I cannot resolve this soon. Actually, I have initiated contact with the seniormost authority for the Land Register in Schwyz Canton, as that is (she is) the ultimate decider in such matters (canton quota, supervision of notaries in Land Register transactions etc). Thank you, again.


miniMia, yes, thank you so much, your assessment matches mine entirely. I have bought "a structure that sits on rented land", "goods" actually. From the start, this has been my assumption, and on that basis I proceeded. In my view, it is the same as buying, say, a tent, and using it at a camping site, then leaving it pitched prolongedly, rather than taking it down every weekend-end. And paying the campsite fee for a long while. My chalet is not a tent, but the difference is structural materials not canton-law principles.


As for water and power, orally and in writing I specifically queried this at the start and was assured that it is available year-round. I even questioned the time-rate at which water would freeze in the supply pipe to the chalet at that elevation (this place is at elevation) if I used it only occasionally not often (static water in pipes at sub-temperatures is freeze-problematic but flowing water is not).


Thank you, all, for your excellent comments. They have helped substantially. If any of you need USA-relevant info not otherwise easily obtainable on the web (or complex, in web-linguistic confusions), perhaps I coould help and in that way reciprocate.


Moysel.
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Old 04.02.2008, 16:55
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Re: Advise Me Please On Obtaining A Lawyer's Letter In Ch

I understand if you don't want to answer this, but how much did this "structure" cost?

I'm not calling you an idiot at all, but the price might shed some light on it from our perspective.
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Old 04.02.2008, 17:03
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Re: Advise Me Please On Obtaining A Lawyer's Letter In Ch

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In my view, it is the same as buying, say, a tent, and using it at a camping site, then leaving it pitched prolongedly, rather than taking it down every weekend-end. And paying the campsite fee for a long while. My chalet is not a tent, but the difference is structural materials not canton-law principles.
Other than this is a fixed structure and the law differentiates between moveable and immovable structures...
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Old 04.02.2008, 17:18
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Re: Advise Me Please On Obtaining A Lawyer's Letter In Ch

Thank you, Richard, for your comments. I am glad to see your input, as in the past 36 hours I have read many of your previous postings (other fora, other matters) and had wondered if I should ask you to handle my affairs, for fee. Your Swiss-legal knowledge is superior.


I agree with your land-lease points, and usufruct comments etc. The structure was placed there 1974. I have no details of original ownership nor transactions since 1974. The chalet was partially renovated during the past few years (half the roof replaced); also some appliances are very new. I have a provisional arrangement for the other half of the roof to be replaced. I also have provisional/tentative arrangements for improvements to interior and exterior. In short, I am improving the chalet thus elevating the tone of the whole site. I had hoped this would have the additional benefit of creating a favorable impression with the site owner, with whom, after all, I would have to liaise in this deal and occupancy.


The word "pacht" appears in some documents / notes/ seller emails relevant to this matter, but as part of the larger word "pachtvertrag" and then attached to the tax wording "inkl. kurtaxe". I usually have everything translated immediately it arrives on my desk.


Yes, if you have any suggestions about lawyers, I woould value such. My understanding is that Grundbuch/Land Register matters ought be handled by canton-specific notaries and that in such matters there are specific fees, at flat rates. Perhaps also in that, I am misinformed.


I regret I do not understand your maybe-question, namely: "... what did you say your interest is ..." (?)


Thank you, again.
Moysel
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Old 04.02.2008, 17:34
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Re: Advise Me Please On Obtaining A Lawyer's Letter In Ch

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I regret I do not understand your maybe-question, namely: "... what did you say your interest is ..." (?)


Thank you, again.
Moysel
Interests: researcher of likelihood and consequence Clearer?

Now I will write a serious reply...
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Old 04.02.2008, 17:37
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Re: Advise Me Please On Obtaining A Lawyer's Letter In Ch

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Thank you, Richard, for your comments. I am glad to see your input, as in the past 36 hours I have read many of your previous postings (other fora, other matters) and had wondered if I should ask you to handle my affairs, for fee. Your Swiss-legal knowledge is superior.


I agree with your land-lease points, and usufruct comments etc. The structure was placed there 1974. I have no details of original ownership nor transactions since 1974. The chalet was partially renovated during the past few years (half the roof replaced); also some appliances are very new. I have a provisional arrangement for the other half of the roof to be replaced. I also have provisional/tentative arrangements for improvements to interior and exterior. In short, I am improving the chalet thus elevating the tone of the whole site. I had hoped this would have the additional benefit of creating a favorable impression with the site owner, with whom, after all, I would have to liaise in this deal and occupancy.


The word "pacht" appears in some documents / notes/ seller emails relevant to this matter, but as part of the larger word "pachtvertrag" and then attached to the tax wording "inkl. kurtaxe". I usually have everything translated immediately it arrives on my desk.


Yes, if you have any suggestions about lawyers, I woould value such. My understanding is that Grundbuch/Land Register matters ought be handled by canton-specific notaries and that in such matters there are specific fees, at flat rates. Perhaps also in that, I am misinformed.


I regret I do not understand your maybe-question, namely: "... what did you say your interest is ..." (?)


Thank you, again.
Moysel
Pachtvertrag - wonderful. Could you possibly scan that document - the original and not a translated version - it should stand alone as it deals with the relationship between you and the landowner and has little to do with the "structure". It is then relatively straightforward to decide if this is a lawyer or a notar issue. Note here, notars need not be lawyers so it could also be you need both!

Yes in many cantons notars are employed by the state and their fees are fixed but not everywhere.
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Old 04.02.2008, 17:37
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Re: Advise Me Please On Obtaining A Lawyer's Letter In Ch

Hallo, forum colleagues:


Responding further, some details:


Forgive me for not being specific about how much I paid. As a discretion, I prefer not to be specific, but as a guideline I say that I paid about the Swiss- and West European- average for this sort of place and its vintage and condition. I paid well above average for the annual site fee (this site is more expensive than many). I permitted the previous owner (the seller) to have unlimited access whenever I would not be using it. I initiated contracts/agreements for renovations (thus improving the place, thus also making it nicer for the seller to use whenever she wishes). I also provided a specific fee for the seller to assist me now (this already paid to her) and from time to time in future (firm promise written into the contract and firm amounts specified) in such matters as showing me how the place works, helping me find contractors, providing pertinent advice etc.


And, Richard, the issue of movable and immovable is ambiguous in this case. These chalets typically are built on steel under-frames (chassis) which have wheels, thus making them mobile, easily positionable/maneuverable etc. When they are placed with intention to stay in a particular position (fest), the wheels are locked and the frame jacked up to ease stress on the wheel structure and tyres. Then the frame and wheels are hidden from view by a sort of false front including steps and a surround. They are designed to look chalet-like, with dark-brown (Swisslike) timber exterior, pitched roof etc. This is common throughout Switzerland and Europe, and this is what I bought.


Thank you, all. You are extremely helpful to me.
Moysel
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Old 04.02.2008, 18:09
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Re: Advise Me Please On Obtaining A Lawyer's Letter In Ch

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Other than this is a fixed structure and the law differentiates between moveable and immovable structures...
Is the chalet in question a fixed or a moveable one? In my mind it was moveable, this is why I mentioned buying "goods".
Is it like this:


EDIT: OK, never mind, the answer is above. I didn't see it before.
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Old 04.02.2008, 18:56
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Re: Advise Me Please On Obtaining A Lawyer's Letter In Ch

Again to miniMia, thank you. Yes, basically similar. Mine is more traditional-chalet design, but also on steel frame (chassis) and brought to site in one or two sections, joined there. Structure is then jacked up so as not to rest on wheels (otherwise gradual air-loss from tyres would cause structure to cant slowly, thus crack eventually). A false front (skirt) is placed to hide the props and chassis etc. Water pipe on site is connected, as is electric cable. Gas is from an external cylinder (easily changed for a full one) placed externally at one end of chalet. Steps and deck/porch are placed and voila! Mine has living room with dinette, bedroom, kitchen with hatch, bathroom with shower (and chemical lavatory), and an entrance foyer. Overall is 11 x 3.7 meters thus approx 40qm not counting deck.


In text seems small but we papered it out in our lounge (in my American home) and drew in the walls etc and it is more than adequate. In fact it is larger (and of better layout) than some of my university accommodations were.
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Old 05.02.2008, 11:37
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Re: Advise Me Please On Obtaining A Lawyer's Letter In Ch

Ouch what a mess.

It really sounds very fishy, and not exactly an auspicious start to what will need to be an ongoing relationship with the seller. It doesnt sound like a fair deal anyway (high price, ongoing use etc), so once you add legal fees and aggro....

I fully understand you have sunk money in the whole thing and have commitments, so this might not be possible, but tactically you might be better off threatening to (and being prepared really to) walk away from the deal. It might work out cheaper and less emotionally draining in the end.

Austria and France are nice places with mountains too!

Daniel
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