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A special rental agreement is provided for subsidized apartments and apartments with rent control.

Lease for a subsidized flat

To be allowed to rent a subsidized flat, a tenant must satisfy certain statutory conditions, expecially with regard to the number of persons occupying the property and the maximum declared income of the household. The income scale for moving in is fixed by the state and depends on the different categories of subsidized flat. A distinction is made between inexpensive flats (HBM), low-rent flats (HLM), middle-class flats (HCM), and mixed-occupancy flats (HM).

Apartments in the development zone

The rental of an apartment in the development zone is subject to government supervision by the Canton of Geneva for a period of 10 years and the rental contract must be issued on the special contract form during this period. There are also a special rental contract form for the garages and parking spaces that are co-let with these apartments and the subsidized apartments.

Lease for a flat in a jointly-held residence (coopérative d'habitation)

The tenant-member of a cooperative buys some shares (social shares). When there is a change of tenancy, the former tenant's social shares are resold to the next tenant.

Lease for a flat for free market rent

The flats in question are not subsidized. Most apartments in Geneva are offered for free market rent. The tenant does not have to satisfy certain conditions laid down by legislation with regard to income. Nevertheless, agencies call for a rent not to exceed 25 to 30 % of gross income and for the flat not to be over-occupied.There is no obligation to use a special contract form for the rental agreement for apartments for market rent. The following explanations refer to apartments for free market rent. 

Drawing up the rental agreement

Even if a rental agreement can be concluded verbally, it is advisable to draw up a written contract. The tenancy law must be observed. Clauses that violate the mandatory provisions of tenancy law are invalid.

Obligatory form for fixing the rent

In the Canton of Geneva, the form for setting the initial rent is compulsory to fill in when signing a new rental agreement and must be handed over to the tenant at the latest when moving into the rented apartment. This form is not compulsory for rentals of luxury apartments with 6 or more rooms, kitchen not included, or for government-controlled rentals or holiday homes.

The contractual tenant

The tenant may be a single person, a couple or, in the case of co-residents several persons or a company.

The leased property and the purpose

The apartment can be rented furnished or unfurnished. In the canton of Geneva, the kitchen is counted as a room. An apartment with a living room, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom is considered a 3-room flat. A room with less than 9 m2 is considered to be half a room. The apartment is intended for residential purposes.

Duration and renewal of the lease

The standard contract drawn up by the professional organisations for the canton of Geneva for apartments is concluded for an initial period of one year. If it is not terminated 3 months before the rental period, it is tacitly renewed for one year and then from year to year.

A longer or shorter contract period is possible. The rental agreement can also be concluded for a fixed term and in this case ends without notice at the end of the contract. An indexed rental agreement must be concluded for at least 5 years, a graduated rental agreement for at least 3 years.

The rent deposit

The security shall not exceed 3 net monthly rents.

The payment of the rent

The rent and the heating and utility account payments must be paid monthly in advance. The landlord is entitled to charge the tenant CHF 20.00 for each justified reminder.

Heating costs and incidental costs

Heating costs and incidental costs may be included in the rent. Most leases stipulate that the tenant pays heating and incidental expenses monthly and a statement is drawn up annually. It is also possible to agree on a flat rate corresponding to the average of the last three years. Heating costs and incidental costs may also be individual, which is rarely the case for apartments.

Inspection report and inventory check

When moving in and out, an inspection report is drawn up on site and signed by both parties. If you rent a furnished apartment, the report is supplemented with a detailed inventory. The initial inspection document is an integral part of the lease.

Insurance to be concluded

The tenant and the landlord must take out liability insurance. The tenant must insure his furniture, jewellery etc. against the risks of fire, explosion and water damage.

Obligations of the landlord and the tenant

A non-exhaustive list is given in the General Conditions and Rental Terms of Geneva, which are attached to the main rental agreement.

The keeping of animals

Keeping pets can be tolerated as long as they do not bother the neighbours and do not disturb the peace and cleanliness of the building. The landlord may prohibit the keeping of pets.

The diplomatic clauses and the exit clause

The diplomatic clause or the exit clause (clause governing release from an obligation) allows the tenant to terminate the lease early from the second or third year, provided that he meets certain conditions.

Special clauses

Special clauses may be agreed. The tenancy law must be observed. Clauses that violate the mandatory articles of law are invalid.

The tenancy law

Tenancy law is governed by the Swiss Code of Obligations and the order concerning leases and agricultural leases in respect oft residential and commercial premises. The framework rental agreement for French-speaking Switzerland was declared binding by the Federal Council on 25 June 2008.


© Esther Lauber, Real Estate Trustee with Advanced Federal Diploma of Professional Education and Training, property manager


More information with video that may be of interest to you

Find a property for rent in Geneva Switzerland
Registration file - applications to rent flats, houses, commercial premises
Rent deposit in Geneva and Switzerland
Inspection report
Rent a furnished apartment in Geneva
What you need to know about periodic rent increases by fixed amounts
Limited or indefinite or definable duration of the lease
Indexed lease in Switzerland
Sublease in Geneva and in Switzerland
Bed and breakfast in a dwelling in Geneva, law
Rental agreement for a garage or parking space
Lease and termination of lease for a familly dwelling
How to achieve good indoor air quality
How to save energy (heating)
Separation or divorce - allocation of rented accommodation





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