Housing rental application process

You are interested in renting an accommodation you have visited?

When you want to rent an apartment or a house, you often have to deal with a "régie" (real estate agency), which represents the landlord. In some cases, you may deal with the landlord directly, but for the sake of simplification, this note will use the term "régie".

If you wish to apply for an apartment / house you have visited (the régie will check that you did), you will have to submit the following documents:

  • registration form (most régies have one; information about name, date of birth, nationality, occupation, salary etc… are requested on this form)
  • copy of a valid ID (identity card or passport)
  • copy of your legitimation card (or an attestation from your employer) / residence permit
  • latest 3 salary slips or a copy of your work contract, clearly showing the amount of your income (should you receive any housing subsidy, make sure to highlight that part)
  • copy of an "attestation de non-poursuite" (a certificate stating that you are not subject to legal debt collection proceedings); recommended even if you have never lived in Geneva in the past

Make sure your application contains all required documents, or it will not be considered. Some régies may ask for recommendations (friend, colleague or employer).

Once you have submitted you application, it usually takes between 7 up to 30 days before receiving an answer from the régie. However, it is fine to call the régie a few days before the start of the lease, in order to check your application's status.

Since the amount of applications is usually quite high, people who have not been selected are often not informed, and their files are normally not kept. It is not uncommon that an already rented accommodation remains on a régie's website until the lease is signed by the chosen tenant.

Do not hesitate to submit several applications simultaneously, but avoid sending more than one to the same régie.

The régie will directly contact the candidate(s) who have been chosen, usually by phone.

If you give a positive answer, the régie will prepare the lease contract for signature.

Should you withdraw your application after that point, you will have to pay administrative (cancellation) fees. Be mindful of the cancellation policy written on the registration form, as it varies from one régie to another.

Once you have returned the signed documents to the régie, you are irrevocably committed.

The régie will then set a time and date to carry out the entry inspection; where you will need to bring the following documents:

  • proof of payment of the 1st rent
  • copy of the bank guarantee. The bank guarantee (normally 3 times the monthly rent) often takes the form of an escrow account, and must be established through a Swiss institution.
  • copy of your subscription to a liability insurance (assurance RC). This mandatory insurance covers damages you may cause to the accommodation; it is strongly suggested to have it coupled with a household insurance (to protect your belongings).

NB: make sure that any damage (wear, hole, stain…) is clearly mentioned in the entry inspection form (état des lieux d'entrée).

Finally, we recommend holders of a legitimation card (from the FDFA) to come to our office (ideally soon after arriving in Geneva) in order to receive additional information about facilitating their accommodation search and stay in Switzerland.


FAQ

Q: Why should I mention my income in the application form?
A: The régie takes that amount into account to calculate if the tenant can afford the rent. In general, the monthly rent and charges shall not exceed 30% of the gross salary. However, a high income can be handicap for a relatively low rent; for example a CHF 10'000.- monthly income for a CHF 1200.- studio.

Q: Why should I get an "attestation de non-poursuite" if I have never lived in Geneva?
A: The régie may not know whether or not you have lived in Geneva in the past; furthermore it is strongly recommended to submit a complete application form.

Q: How and where can I obtain an "attestation de non-poursuite"
A:

  • For Geneva: 
    The quickest way is to go directly to the counter of the "office des poursuites":
    http://ge.ch/opf/attestation-de-non-poursuite
    The cost is CHF 17.- on the spot.
    Alternatively, CHF 14.- online, and CHF 18.- by regular mail or through a Post office  (delivered within 2-3 working days).

  • For the canton of Vaud: 
    The quickest way is to go directly to Nyon's "office des poursuites": http://www.vd.ch/autorites/ordre-judiciaire/poursuites/nyon/contact/
    The cost is CHF 17.- on the spot.
    Alternatively, CHF 18.- online, and CHF 18.- by regular mail (delivered within 2-3 working days).

Q : The current tenant is asking me some "take-over" money; should I accept that request?
A: This is not an obligation; therefore, if you have been directly selected by the régie, you do not have to comply. Keep in mind that regarding any work done in the accommodation by the current tenant, you may, as his/her successor, be required to return the premises to their original state at the time of your departure.


Q : The current tenant is asking me to directly give him my application, is it normal for him to have access to my personal information ? Can I do this safely?
A : Yes, because this particular case being a takeover of the lease, it is the current tenant's responsibility to find a replacement tenant, and directly submit the application to the régie.

Furthermore, this process actually increases your chances of being selected; it is advisable to hand over your application in a sealed envelope.

Q: The building is equipped with cable TV; do I have to pay the subscription fee?
A: No, but if so you will need to pay for sealing and (when you leave the accommodation) unsealing the installation, at your own cost.
 

Q: I am a single person applying for a 5 rooms (3 bedrooms) apartment for a rather affordable rent; will the fact that I am single affect my chances of being selected?
A: Yes; even if you can afford the rent, since there is a housing shortage around Geneva, a couple with children will have more chances to obtain a 3 bedrooms apartment than a single person or a couple with no child.