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06/11/2019 | Rent out my property

Owner, tenant — how to terminate your rental agreement on the agreed date or before?

Owner, tenant — how to terminate your rental agreement on the agreed date or before?

Legal regulations strictly regulate the termination of the rental agreement, whether on the agreed date or early. While the termination of the agreement within the agreed term seems relatively easy both for tenants and landlords, in the case of early termination their obligations are different and may also vary depending on the canton. Here are the general principles.

Are you a tenant? How to terminate the agreement?

The rental agreement and the handover protocol, drawn up before moving into the premises, specify the terms of the rental and it is recommended to read them carefully, especially if for any reason you intend to leave the rented premises before the date indicated in the rental agreement. We will discuss here only the general principles that apply during the rental of premises. Depending on the city or canton where the property is located, specific terms may apply and you should get acquainted with them in advance. For commercial rental different rules apply.

In the event of signing a definite term rental agreement, i.e. when the landlord knows that he intends to recover the property, let us say, after a year, the agreement will cease to be binding on the agreed date, without the landlord having to inform the tenant first and vice versa. In the event of signing the agreement that does not specify the end date of the rental period, as in most cases, the agreement is extended automatically, as agreed with the owner (e.g. annually or every three years). To terminate this type of the agreement, the owner of the premises or the real estate administrator who is in charge of the rental should receive a registered letter with a 3-month notice of termination prior to the date of the automatic prolongation of the agreement ( Termination of the rental agreement on the agreed date). The dates may differ depending on the regulations binding in a given town or canton.

In the case of a married couple or several roommates, all the persons who have signed the rental agreement have to sign the termination notice as well. At all events, the date of the termination of the rental agreement determined with the owner and indicated in the contract is decisive. If the contract does not specify such a date, which is very rare, the end dates of the notice period, which may vary from one canton to another, should be considered as valid. This can be e.g. March 31, June 30 and September 30 or every last day of the month, with the exception of December 31. In case of doubt, please contact the Autorité de Conciliation (the Conciliatory Authority) of the canton where the property is located.

Read also: State of play: owner and tenant, what are your obligations?

In the case of early termination of the agreement, suggest another tenant to take over your place

If you have to leave the apartment in advance, you should remember about some obligations. From a legal point of view, there is a minimum 3-month notice period for the rental agreement, and the date of leaving the apartment must be 15th or the last day of the month (except for December 31).  In such a case, the rental fee for the months remaining to the end of the rental contract should be settled.

In practice, another solution in accordance with the law is widely accepted. If you intend to leave the apartment before the end date of the rental term and do not want to pay the rental fee until the expiry of this period, all you have to do is to find another solvent tenant in your place (no execution proceedings against the prospective new tenant should be open and the rental charges may not exceed 30% of the new tenant’s monthly gross salary), whom you can introduce to the owner of the apartment. The owner will not be able to reject the new tenant without justified reasons. Proposing 2 or 3 candidates for new tenants will increase your chances of success. The owner has a 30-day period to verify the candidacy of the new tenants. If the documentation of the potential tenant is complete, this term can be shortened to several days. The new tenant will take over the contract on the current terms. The notice of termination, signed by all the tenants specified in the agreement, should be sent by registered mail with at least one-month notice, expiring on the 15th or the last day of the month.

( Early termination of the rental agreement). Note: the date of the delivery of the letter to the landlord is decisive, and not the date of the postmark. If the situation is urgent, you can hand the notice to the landlord in person.

Are you an owner? Good and bad reasons for the early termination of the rental agreement

As far as the tenant does not have to justify the reasons for the early termination of the agreement, it is a different case for the owner – according to the Swiss Code des Obligations, the owner is obliged to provide valid reasons.

Under no circumstances may the early termination be a way to exert pressure on a tenant, for whatever reason. Should this happen, however, the tenant has a right to refuse to leave the premises and to question the termination of the contract in the Autorité de Conciliation (Swiss Conciliation Authority). The landlord has to send a letter with a termination notice at least three months prior to the expected date of leaving the premises by the tenant and comply with the deadlines stipulated in the rental agreement or legal regulations. Furthermore, the landlord has to indicate the reasons why he intends to terminate the agreement. A letter with the termination notice has a strictly defined form, which varies depending on the canton, and should indicate to the tenant the legal means available for the tenant’s disposal to possibly question the rationale of the termination notice. The Cantonal Conciliation Body provides all the necessary information and letter templates.

As the owner, you can terminate the agreement with the tenant in the following circumstances:

  • if the tenant is in arrears with rental or other fees despite a reminder sent by registered mail;
  • if the tenant does not take due care about the property (damage, disturbance of peace, etc.);
  • if the apartment has been sold and the buyer intends to live in it;
  • if you urgently need to get back the apartment to live there by yourself or to offer it to a close person for the person’s living purposes;
  • if the tenant’s personal or professional situation has changed seriously, which makes the tenant’s solvency questionable. This argument should be used with caution because it is necessary to prove that the change in the situation will be detrimental to the property owner, which the tenant may question.

In any case, the tenant has the right to be informed about the reason for the earlier termination of the agreement.  The reason has to be « justified and serious ». If the tenant believes that the termination is unjustified or that the landlord is not acting in good faith, the tenant may question the termination of the agreement in the Conciliation Body. If the termination results in serious financial or family problems, the tenant may ask for the prolongation of the agreement.


Termination of the rental agreement on the agreed date

Early termination of the rental agreement


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