Swiss Saturday: Checking Out of Your Apartment

My new garden

I mentioned earlier that we moved to a neighboring town. Our lease required three months notice before moving and in order to get the new house, we needed to take over before that time period ended. That’s not terribly unusual and we knew that was in the contract when we signed it.

So, this means our contract with the old apartment didn’t end until April 30. Because there’s nothing more fun than procrastinating, we weren’t ready to do the handover until late April. But we did, and now we’re done, and woo-hoo–we only have to pay rent on one house.

All that is not surprising, but the whole move out process is a bit different. Here are a few things.

Light fixtures don’t come with the apartment. I still find this super odd. When you go look at a house, you’ll see single lightbulbs hanging from the ceilings. You’re expected to provide your own light fixtures. Now this is all fine and good because now I don’t have to buy new ones for the new house, except the house is very different, and therefore, I’m stuck with some light fixtures I don’t need, and still have to buy new ones.

I would have been happy to leave all the old light fixtures for the next tenants, but that’s not how it works. It’s a bit of a pain.

On the other hand, I’m thrilled that it’s not like much of Germany where you have to bring your own kitchen. Talk about a waste! Kitchens are generally custom so you spend a fortune putting in a kitchen, and a fortune tearing it out, and it won’t fit in your new kitchen!

Cleaning. Every time I moved in the United States, the requirement was that you left the place “broom clean.” Not so in Switzerland. You leave that place spotless. And by spotless, I mean you’re expected to take q-tips to clean every millimeter of the rubber around your windows. They are super duper picky. I knew that my lousy American standards would not ever meet their standards–plus, it’s just not worth my time to do that level of clean. So, I asked the management company for a recommendation for a cleaning firm. They did and I hired that firm to do the cleaning.

Their cleaning, which made this 1980s era apartment absolutely sparkle, wasn’t sufficient. Fortunately, this firm offered a guarantee, so they had to come back and re-clean. Seriously, I don’t know what they missed. But, like I said, I’m an American.

The Checkout Involved 7 People. There is no such thing as giving the apartment a quick check, handing over the keys, and going on. This is a multi-hour process that involved measuring the apartment. Why? I have no idea. Did they think we had shrunk the apartment? Or slowly pushed our walls out, making our apartment bigger and encroaching on our neighbor’s space? They used lasers to measure, which my brother the real estate appraiser assures me are standard and fun. I now wish I could measure things with lasers.

The Costs. Moving costs everyone, but the Swiss have rules about it. (The Swiss love rules.) For instance, landlords are required to repaint every 10 years. But if you move out after 7, you have to pay 30 percent of the cost of repainting. If you’re there 10 years, you pay nothing. There are rules about when floors have to be refinished, windows have to be replaced, and how long appliances should last. So, if the rules say a refrigerator should last 10 years, but yours dies at 8, the landlord is only obligated to pay 80 percent of the cost of a new one. (Note: I don’t actually know what the rules for refrigerators are.)

Finding the Next Tenants. When I was looking for a new home, almost every apartment/house I looked at was empty. That’s because landlords don’t typically start advertising their homes until the last tenant has moved out. The ones I did see with humans still living there were ones where the tenants were hoping to find new tenants to cover the rest of their leases. It certainly is easier from a renter’s perspective–you don’t have to do the hurried clean up when you get a call saying someone is coming to see the apartment. But, from a house hunting perspective, it’s kind of a pain. Because the apartment is already empty when you see it, the landlord is anxious to get someone in. The market where we live is pretty tight, which means you don’t want to give notice on your old place until you have a new place, but the new landlord wants the lease to start immediately. That’s how we ended up paying two months of double rent.


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9 thoughts on “Swiss Saturday: Checking Out of Your Apartment

  1. Hearing about your life in Switzerland is very interesting. The light fixture thing intrigues me. I think I’d be inclined to stay put – a LOT of work to move.

  2. QUITE a different process, that is for sure. I knew about the kitchen thing but not about light fixtures.

    Everywhere is different. Not necessarily better, or worse, but different.

    Glad you are loving the new space.

    Burlington ON Canada

  3. Nice looking “garden” even though it is more terrace (walkway) than a garden. If we had here, even a semblance of check-up like they have for renters there, about half the court proceedings would be dropped. Every time, I have moved from one apartment to another, even if I leave the place clean by American standards, I don’t get the deposit back, because somehow their cleaning fees seem to equal it. I have been in my apartment for 8 years so far and the only benefit I have is that my rent is now stabilized that’s to the landlord using the senior citizen clause. I would love to paint the walls but I don’t think the landlord would appreciate the higher quality paint I would use. ( most landlords use the cheapest flat paint possible). When and if I ever leave this apartment, it will be to a place that my son will own (condo, apartment, house, etc.).
    We, here in the USA, have so many people that don’t regard their place of dwelling as needing maintenance that even basic cleaning doesn’t happen. and if you live in a subsidized housing unit paying below market rent, the landlord doesn’t care anything about keeping the housing maintained. Rents of units for the market value, are ridiculously too high, especially in urban settings.
    I hope you got a fair value for the rent you are paying and it falls near that 30% of monthly income as recommended by financial budgets, unlike the rents here in the USA which is between 40-50% of a person’s monthly income. Enjoy the new apartment.

    1. I’m not sure where you got your information, but landlords for subsidized housing units definitely “care…about keeping the housing maintained,” because they have annual inspections by the housing authority providing the subsidy, in order to renew it. I currently live in an apartment complex in which some of the units are subsidized; mine isn’t. I’ve lived here 4 years, and have never had an inspection; whereas, my subsidized neighbors have been inspected annually.

      1. I suppose it could depend on the resources in the areas where each of you live. Some areas may not have enough inspectors to do annual inspections.

  4. I’m not sure if U.S. standards have changed or if I have just lived in really picky areas, but I’ve never been able to broom-clean a place in any of the four states I’ve lived in and get any of my security deposit back. We’ve actually started taking before pictures everywhere we move in and document the tiniest thing wrong (missed paint by a light switch, rust ring on the tub) on the move-in documents, because we’ve had so many landlords try to make us pay for things that were like that when we moved in. One was so bad that they tried to make us pay for cleaning all the blinds in the apartment that we’d already cleaned (at $25/blind with a total of five blinds), because they found a smudge of dust on one of the horizontal blinds beside the string that runs through it–not on every horizontal piece, just one piece on one blind. I pulled the rag out of my back pocket, swiped the dust, and said, “Now all the blinds are spotless, so add that $125 back to our security deposit refund.”

    And we just discovered that even with all of the hours of scrubbing that we had done for final walk-through of our last apartment (when we moved to a new state) that it didn’t matter. The landlord automatically charges anyone who moves out for at least an hour of “cleaning” anyway ($85/hour), so we were charged for that and the cleaning staff didn’t actually have to do anything. (We also have to pay for carpets to be professionally cleaned by a specific company or the landlord charges for that as well.)

    I like the idea of hiring a cleaning company to do the work, though, so maybe we’ll just do that next time we move and show the receipt to the landlord to verify that cleaning was done. Hmmmmm…

  5. The last apartment we moved out of (and into our house – yey!) was in a 200+ unit garden apartment complex we had been in for 7 years. We 1) broke our least and 2) had wall to wall carpeting. With house rabbits. That liked to dig. Sounds bad, right?
    Well, the super decided because we’d been such good tenants (read – they didn’t even know who we were at the leasing office at first because there was nothing in our file because we’d never caused a problem) that our entire security deposit was refunded. there logic was the rug needed to be replaced anyway, so they didn’t charge us for it.
    Sometimes it works out 🙂

  6. Some landlords make a practice of not refunding security deposits, regardless of the condition in which the housing is left. Therefore, tenants in rental housing have to be militant about documenting their full compliance with the lease provisions and in demanding the return of their security deposit.

  7. I have always left the place spotless and have always gotten my deposit back, but I was very happy to help my neighbor document why his tenant was not getting hers. She called 911 because we were doing a walkthrough!

    BTW, I helped Keith clean after Betsy moved out. He started cleaning at 3 a.m. and I went over at noon and spent four hours scrubbing with him. It. Was. Gross.

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