Tax-friendly municipalities in the Greater Zurich and Zug area
Application dossier for apartment searching
Definition of the search criteria
Notice periods and availabilities
Termination outside of the customary dates
First payments under the tenancy
Tenancy agreement and other documents
Home contents and personal liability insurance
Internet, online TV and telephony
Taking possession of the property
Re-registering with the relevant residents’ registration office
Switzerland is a country of renters: over 60 % of its population rent, and only somewhat more than 36 % own an apartment or a house. The Swiss property market is dynamic and fast-moving, and the demand for inexpensive apartments and houses is correspondingly high. It can often take months to find a suitable property to rent, and the process of buying a house of your own can even take years.
In Switzerland, taxes are levied at three different levels: at federal, cantonal and municipality level. Income tax is levied by the Federal Government. This federal taxation is subject to a uniform tax rate throughout the whole of Switzerland. The 26 cantons and approximately 2,400 municipalities also impose taxes on income and wealth. The tax rates vary by canton and municipality, which is typical of federalist Switzerland.
Therefore, the level of tax also depends on the taxpayer’s place of residence. The tax burden in the canton Zurich can be described as moderate within Switzerland and also compared to other countries. The tax burden is even more attractive in the low-tax cantons Zug and Schwyz. It is particularly lucrative to relocate to a low-tax canton and live in a municipality with a low base tax rate.
From an annual income of CHF 250,000 or higher, the financial burden can be considerably optimised by choosing to live in a municipality that is attractive in terms of taxation. However, the low-tax areas do not apply to US citizens or to other citizens who remain taxable in their country of origin in addition to Switzerland.
Our Partner for taxes has issued a list of municipalities in the Greater Zurich area that are attractive places to live in terms of taxation as well as an example of a tax calculation in the case of income of CHF 250,000 / CHF 500,000 / CHF 1 million. He, Urs Weiss supports newcomers beyond their basic needs.
As the property market is so sought after, it is essential to have a complete and appealing application dossier. Additionally, it is advisable to enclose a tenant overview with the customary documents. To distinguish yourself from other applicants, it is also recommended that further documents verifying your personal and professional situation be added. Interested landlords greatly appreciate receiving additional information that makes their decision easier.
A complete application dossier contains the following documents:
Once the tax advantage has been ascertained, and a school has been chosen, you need to define the search criteria for a suitable residential property as well as the budget, number of rooms, square metres, move-in date and other key factors. With regard to size, it must be taken into account that the living room counts as a room in Switzerland. This means that, in the case of a 3.5 room apartment for example, this consists of two bedrooms, one living room and possibly an alcove, the floor space of which must be at least six square metres in order to be permissibly counted as «half a room».
Important to know: In Switzerland, the principle that the gross rent must not take up more than 30 % of net income applies. Landlords fear that, if the rent exceeds this percentage, the tenant could become unable to pay the rent due to the generally high living costs in Switzerland.
Before launching, searches can be conducted on the following websites as well as search subscriptions can be created to get an idea of the value for money at a location:
If you like a property, you should immediately contact the advertiser personally. In the run-up to popular moving periods such as in the spring or autumn or at the start of winter, it ordinarily takes only a very short time before advertisements are deactivated again, and applications are no longer accepted. Therefore, you often have better chances if you actively track the property market and act quickly.
Up until the coronavirus pandemic, the following applied: Only persons who had personally viewed a property were permitted to rent the property. This was an unwritten, but strictly followed rule. Online viewings are indeed possible today, but they are not universally accepted. Therefore, even if you view a property virtually and commit to the property, the contract is non-binding until it has been signed.
When viewing premises, you should also pay good attention to the surroundings, including – depending on the location – the level of air pollution, traffic, the neighbourhood and even sun and light penetration into the apartment. Furthermore, Swiss cities have large-scale expansion and upgrading plans. The large-scale building projects associated with such plans entail noise, dirt, roads blocked due to building sites, diversions and a lack of parking facilities. Also take into account other needs and necessities such as public transport connections, travelling time to work, shopping facilities etc. It is also always advantageous to know who owns the rental property and why the previous tenant is moving out.
If all suits you, your application should be received at the landlord within 24 hours of the viewing.
In Switzerland, a minimum statutory notice period of three months applies, and tenancy agreements are ordinarily terminated on the termination dates customary in the locality, with effect from 31 March, 30 June or 30 September. Consequently, 1 April, 1 July and 1 October are official move-in dates and the dates with the most availabilities. You can terminate outside of these customary dates, but you will then have to find a new tenant yourself. Meanwhile, the trend is for landlords to stipulate a minimum rental period of one or even two years. This means that it is only possible to terminate the tenancy after this period has expired and only subject to the ordinary notice period of three months.
If you terminate outside of the customary dates, you must provide a solvent new tenant by no later than when you move out or you must continue to pay the rent until the next contractual termination date, regardless of whether or not you have already moved out. This means that you must advertise the apartment yourself, conduct viewings and, in your own interest, take care of the re-letting.
On Homegate and many other property platforms, advertisements can be placed for around CHF 250 for one month.
After signing the rental contract and before handing over the keys, the first rent as well as the rental deposit, usually three times the monthly rent, is due. The payment must be made in full and in advance in each case. Taking the example of a gross monthly rent of CHF 4,000, the total initial amount due is CHF 16,000, calculated as follows: first monthly rent of CHF 4,000 plus three times the monthly rent of CHF 12,000 for the deposit.
In the case of rental apartments in Switzerland, landlords are permitted to demand a rent deposit up to a maximum of three months’ rent. The rent deposit serves to financially safeguard landlords handing over their rental property in order to cover them against any payment arrears of the tenant and any loss or damage caused by the tenant. The rent deposit account must be set up by the landlord on an interest-bearing blocked account at a bank in Switzerland in the tenant’s name. The agreed amount must be paid in together with the first month’s rent in advance and cannot be paid out until the tenancy has ended or the rented property has been returned. Any interest income on the rent deposit account belongs to the tenant.
Insofar as there are no outstanding claims for rent or for damage or cleaning, the deposit is paid back when the tenant moves out. However, tenancy law grants landlords a twelve-month period within which to issue the final statement of account and release the deposit.
An alternative to the tenant deposit account is deposit insurance without a bank deposit. This should be considered if it is not possible to provide or freeze such a high amount. However, you would need to ask the landlord or letting agency and obtain their agreement to the insurance solution, for example from Swisscaution.
The gross rent includes incidental expenses. These essentially include cold and hot water, heating, domestic refuse collection and property maintenance and make up around 10 % of the net rent. The following expenses are not included:
The customary tenancy documents include the tenancy agreement, in duplicate, the form for opening a bank account, in duplicate or even in triplicate, as well as the form for ordering the nameplates for doors and the letter-box. The tenant bears the nameplate costs, which amount to approximately CHF 60. It is often necessary to provide bank account details in order to make it easier for the landlord or the property management to refund any credit balance arising from incidental expenses. All documents must be carefully filled in, signed and returned to the landlord within 5 days.
Tenancy agreements are ordinarily concluded for an indefinite period. Most aspects are provided for in tenancy law and in the General Terms and Conditions of Tenancy as well as in the House Rules of the respective property. However, landlords are granted some wriggle room when drawing up the tenancy agreement. For example, they can stipulate a minimum rental period of up to two years and reduce the termination dates to two per year. It may also be demanded that home contents insurance be taken out. Other special agreements must likewise be heeded. These do not usually constitute provisions enshrined in law.
It is highly advisable, and some landlords demand, that home contents and personal liability insurance be taken out for example. Combining these two types of insurance can make sense even for a temporary apartment and can be appropriately adapted in the case of a permanent solution.
Home contents insurance covers damage caused to household effects by fire, water, theft or glass breakage. This insurance should be taken out by every household and is often combined with personal liability insurance. Although it is not mandatory to take out personal liability insurance, it definitely makes sense to do so. This protects against liability for damages if another person is injured or such person’s property is damaged by the policyholder or co-insured persons.
In Switzerland, there are four major and various minor providers of Internet, online TV and telephony. As competition in this market is fierce, the offers and promotions differ widely and constantly change. To find the right offer, it is worth visiting the website of Alao. Alao compares the providers and presents you with an offer tailored to your needs.
Before entering into a contract, it is advisable to closely check the terms & conditions and the contract period.
Electricity consumption is ordinarily read and billed quarterly. If you move into a rental property right at the beginning of a quarter, it may, due to the overlap, take a good three months before you receive the first bill. This three-monthly payment on account bill or partial bill is deduced on the basis of prior-year consumption. Normally, three payment on account bills are received per year: in April, July and October. The definitive consumption statement is issued in the following January and retroactively calculates the costs for electricity actually purchased up to the end of the previous year.
You must immediately inform the local electric utility company of your move. This can be done either by telephone or by email.
When taking possession of an apartment or a house, it is important to record the condition of the property in a hand-over report. A distinction is made between normal and excessive wear and tear and damage. Everything subjected to disproportionate wear and tear or damage is either repaired or replaced at the expense of the former tenant or the landlord. After having taken possession, the new tenant has 14 days within which to report to the landlord any overseen or hidden defects, but the quality of the cleaning can only be objected to on the hand-over date. After this period has expired, the report is finalised and is deemed accepted by all contracting parties.
Persons already registered in Switzerland must re-register via the following links within 14 days of the date of their move:
Don’t forget to communicate your new address to key contacts, such as bank consultants, insurers and telecommunication providers.
You can obtain value-for-money offers from the following furniture, DIY and garden stores:
Becomelocal will also take care of trade work for you if you need assistance with assembling furniture, fitting lamps or installing Internet and TV boxes. On request, our style-conscious employees will also procure furniture for you or fully furnish your new home. All work is carried out at affordable prices. Please send your enquiries directly to email@example.com. Alternatively, tradesmen can also be employed via the caretaker or the property management.