Apologies for using all caps but this message was intended to be shouted.
If you are looking for an apartment in Geneva you'll have noticed how the search turns out to be a nightmare. Not only it is difficult to find, but the tenants are usually victim of abuses and the prices are artificially high.
In fact, Geneva is a city inhabited mostly by expats which don't know the regulations here (and often don't even speak French) so they are an easy prey for greedy and ruthless homeowners.
Did you know that you have the right to pay a fair price for your rent, and therefore have your rent lowered if it is overpriced?
Here's how you do it:
1. Don't discuss the rent. Wait until you have signed the contract and received the keys of the apartment.
2. You should receive an Avis de fixation de loyer with your contract. It's a green sheet, and it says on the bottom that once you receive it you have 30 days to renegotiate the rent. If the homeowner/Régie don't give it to you you'll have even more time!
3. Within 30 days (but do this as soon as possible) go to ASLOCA in rue du Lac 12 and submit your case. It'll cost you 70 CHF per year but you will save thousands! ASLOCA will examine the characteristics of the flat you're renting and tell you if the rent is overpriced. If it is, they'll start a legal procedure.
4. In a few months you'll be invited to a Commission de Conciliation where you'll negotiate a lower rent with the homeowner. Your presence is mandatory, and you'll be assisted by a lawyer from ASLOCA. Should the negotiations fail you'd need to go to Court, but this rarely happens -- the homeowner know well they are in the wrong so they'll try to avoid it.
5. The new (lower) rent is then applied retrospectively since the signing of the contract, which means that not only you'll benefit from a lower rent from now on but the homeowner/Régie will have to partially reimburse what you paid in the past.
Some important points:
- You can require a rent to be lowered only if it is abusive concerning the characteristics of the apartment (size, number of rooms, floor, age, neighborhood, orientation, etc.). If you're living in a brand new 6-rooms penthouse in the city center with view on the lake and you're paying an astronomical price for it, it might well be legitimate. However, rents in Geneva are systematically pumped up by 30% or more, so it will always be worth a try. Ask ASLOCA.
- Some Régies/homeowners/relocators write in the contract a clause specifying that you waive the right of renegotiating the rent. This clause is invalid (and they know it) so you can wipe your ass with it. The right of having a fair rent is inalienable (provided that you exercise this right within 30 days).
- It is illegal to throw you out of the apartment because you want to exercise this right.
- Not only you'll feel good because you aren't being scammed anymore, not only you'll save a lot of money, but you'll also help to fight speculation and definitely make Geneva a better place!