A rental agreement is normally made in writing, and there are certain elements that must be included. Anything else can be freely decided by the parties involved
What must be included in the rental agreement?
The names of the contracting parties:
- When renting as a family, the other spouse should be mentioned in the agreement.
- When a group of individuals or an unmarried couple rent an apartment, all parties listed in the agreement are collectively responsible for the monthly rent.
Rented property: The property that the landlord allows the tenant to use should be defined, including premises such as the attic, cellar, laundry room, etc.
Term of rental: Rental agreements may be limited or open-ended. Most are open-ended. In this case, both parties may give notice of termination subject to rules and deadlines.
Notice period and fixed dates for terminating the agreement.
Rent and additional charges: If additional charges are not mentioned in the contract, it may be assumed they are included in the rent.
What else can a rental agreement include ?
Rental deposit, also known as a security deposit: This must only be paid when required in the agreement. For residential rentals, this is a maximum of three months’ rent.
Any other individual agreements, for example whether house pets are permitted.
House rules: Rules to structure tenants’ coexistence (quiet hours, use of washing machine, etc.).
General terms and conditions (GTCs).
Rental agreement template
Model contract from the Swiss Tenants' Association (German)
Disputes between tenants and landlords
Cantonal conciliation authorities are available to mediate when tenants and landlords cannot settle their disputes.
A tenant may sublet all or part of their property, but they must inform the landlord about it.
Subletting may be refused only if:
the tenant refuses to disclose the details of the subletting agreement.
the apartment is sublet for an inflated monthly rent. A maximum surcharge of 20% may be added to the monthly rent on a furnished apartment, to compensate for wear and tear on furnishings. In all other cases, tenants may only charge what they themselves pay for the apartment (incl. additional charges).
the subletting places the landlord at a distinct disadvantage, for example if a room in an otherwise quiet house is rented to a music band as practice space.
Subletting agreement template
Legally a written contract is not absolutely necessary, but it is recommended: Model contract for subletting (German)
It is the tenant who terminates a rental agreement in most cases. If the landlord terminates the agreement, tenants have the right to contest the termination.
Agreement terminated by tenant
Depending on what is stated in the agreement, there may be different fixed termination dates or longer notice periods than set out in law. However, it is also possible to terminate the agreement outside of these periods. In such a case, the current tenant must either find a new tenant or pay rent until the next official termination date.
All parties who signed the rental agreement must sign the letter of termination. Tenants who are renting with a spouse or registered partner must have the approval of the other person to terminate the agreement, even if only one party has signed the agreement as the tenant. Tenants are not required to provide a reason for terminating the agreement. The letter of termination should be sent to the landlord by registered mail.
The Swiss Tenants’ Association provides a helpful template for a letter of termination
Agreement terminated by landlord
In Switzerland, landlords are generally allowed to terminate a rental agreement for any reason. They are nevertheless required to observe the notice periods stated in law or in the agreement, and to use an official form to terminate the agreement.
Tenants have the right to know the reason for the termination, and they can contest a termination that contravenes the principle of good faith. Such cases include termination after the tenant requested a rent decrease or repairs, or if the tenant’s family situation changes. Tenants have 30 days to contact their commune’s conciliation authority to contest the termination.
In case of hardship, tenants have the right to prolong the rental even if the termination is lawful, for example if they have very limited financial resources, if they are ill or due to conditions on the rental market.
An usufructuary lease is similar to a rental agreement, with a key difference: in addition to the tenant having the right to use the property, they can also use it for commercial purposes.
The tenant is in this sense renting not only a property from the landlord, they also have the right to use the building or land – for example, to farm the soil or run a horse stable. In return, the tenant is obligated to pay rent (money or part of the proceeds) and to bear all maintenance costs of the leased business (except for major repairs).
Examples of usufructuary leases:
Leasing a restaurant, bar or hotel
Leasing an allotment
Leasing a business
Federal Office for Housing (FOH) (German, French, Italian)