How does the Swiss regie systems work? Are there clear standards for how they select rental applicants? I have read some prefer Swiss nationals, and others foreigners. How is this non-discriminatory?


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    How does the Swiss regie systems work? Are there clear standards for how they select rental applicants? I have read some prefer Swiss nationals, and others foreigners. How is this non-discriminatory?


  • admin

    From my brief experience with searching for an apartment in Zurich, it’s utterly dependent on whom the landlord wants in his/her residence. When applying for an apartment, they usually give you a form where you have to reveal all kinds of personal information, such as your income, profession, nationality, criminal record, whether you play any instruments etc. Sometimes those things make sense. Sometimes they’re plain nonsensical. One form asked for my religious affiliation – I mean, how is that relevant to choosing me as a tenant? When you get rejected, you keep wondering if it was because of something you said in your form, and there’s no way to find out.
    The thing is that if you own a property in Switzerland, you can establish the most arbitrary and possibly discriminatory rules for accepting tenants. There are anti-discriminatory laws set, but how are you ever going to prove anything? I know a woman from South Africa who applied for many apartments and never got anything, even though she had a high paying job, possibly because of prejudices against African people. The best way to get an apartment is to try again and again until you come across a landlord with arbitrary rules that favor you. Or you move to an area with fewer applicants, where landlords can’t be too picky.
    I hope that helped and sorry I can’t give you better news.

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    TLDR: It’s a seller’s market, you’ll have to suck it up. Unfortunately, there are no non-discrimination laws in place.
    I haven’t encountered the word “régie” in that context before, but I think that’s necessarily the french term for “real estate management.”
    I doubt there are any clear standards. But if they are, they most likely aren’t available for the public but used as internal guidelines instead. Necessarily, the real estate managers are (probably) looking for three things:

    1. a tenant who can and will pay the rent on time
    2. a tenant who is conscientious in the use of the object
    3. a tenant who will not cause trouble, either by himself or by annoying the hell out of the other tenants - this generally includes “fitting in” with the other tenants in the building

    Because if either of these is not met, it means more work and costs for the real estate manager. Also, remember that the real estate management themselves decides not everything. Sometimes the proprietor has defined some rules on who he wants or doesn’t want as a tenant, for whatever reason.
    How they select for these traits depends on the firm in question I suppose, but usually:

    • Finances (ratio of income vs. rent, past debts defaulted on, …)
    • References from the former/current landlord
    • Personal impression (if possible), just like a job interview
      • did you show up on time
      • how did you behave
    • Particular situation (much more comfortable to ask when showing the flat than on the application paper)

    From a legal perspective, there are very few hard and fast rules.

    1. In general, the tenant is protected in many ways by the law. However, these protections only apply once you’ve entered a rental contract
    2. In theory, there are also some provisions in the law regarding applicants. Still, there are (to my knowledge) none that effectively prohibit discrimination
      a.there is an article in the Constitution, which certainly applies to any actions undertaken by the state or its agents, but…
      b.there is no law put into place to regulate the interactions between private entities
      c.even if you could sue. You want to rent a flat, which by that time will have been rented to someone else, whom you can’t just get rid off, because of 1)
    3. In practice, mostly both freedoms of contract and the market situation dictate the proceedings
    4. There may be questions that aren’t exactly legal to ask as part of the application for a rental object but may become legal once the tenant is selected if the owner has to notify the civil service authority. In practice, this often seems to be ignored. These questions pertain, for instance, to the place of origin, nationality, religion/denomination, marital status, contact at your workplace.

    So what can you do about it? Virtually nothing, keep looking.

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    They try and select someone who will be able to pay his rent.
    Depending on the property, they may also want to select someone likely to stay for some time.
    The owners’ wishes will also be taken into account (f.e. no pets).
    Whether they favor Swiss nationals or foreigners will depend on the above points. Obviously, if the owner is a rabid ultra-right-wing nationalist or someone with extreme views on religion, they may overlook foreigners and witches. But I won’t tell you.
    They may be wary of people who are likely to start a full-blown trial rather than come to an amicable agreement over a problem. Still, I’ve never heard of systematic discrimination against lawyers or that a large number were sleeping rough maybe because they own their own houses and don’t rent lodgings.
    It is often difficult to get an apartment because they go so fast. This can be because some people may have relations within the letting agency or because they reserve the apartment earlier. Foreigners may be at a disadvantage here because they are slower at getting the reservation filled in.

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    Speaking about privately owned houses or flats, it is fair and logical, that the owner decides who he is willing to accept as his tenant. He has a business hazard, not the taxpayer. It is his property.
    We have some laws to protect tenants as owners risks and rights, regardless of heritage or race.
    But in case you feel discriminated — and this can be for example families too — would you invest your energy in a legal dispute hard to win or would you keep looking for the next flat to rent?