Subletting and Short-Term Letting Regulations in the Swiss Cantons of Zurich and Geneva

What are the rules for short-term letting and sub-letting in Switzerland?

The rules of short-term letting have seen a considerable shake-up since the popularity of short-letting platforms such as Airbnb has created an easy option for almost any property owner, or resident, to make a little extra money from their properties. As with many of the new online business systems, a drastic shift can occur in the way we approach existing services and business models. In turn, this requires a new way of looking at the law, to make sure these new ways are both fair and legal.


An introduction to the general regulations when hosting in Switzerland

Guest registration

Depending on your canton, you could well be requested to gather specific guest information: for both Swiss and international visitors. You will have to check with your canton’s hospitality laws or authority for the particular requirements.


Agreements and permits

There are instances where the terms of a lease, building regulations, contracts, and even community rules may prevent you from leasing your property.


Visitors and income taxes

As you will be accruing additional income by leasing your property, you must find out if the money you make is liable for taxation. More recently, with a view that the rise of the short-term let offers real competition to existing tourism operations, some cantons are introducing the existing tourism/visitors tax to these hosts.


Short-term letting regulations in Geneva and Zurich

The short-term letting regulations in the major cities of Geneva and Zurich follow very similar practices as those of other European capitals. There are national income tax rules to take into account, and of course the local regulations, but the main issue that has developed throughout the industry over the past few years is the cap placed on short-term letting.


Canton of Geneva

The Canton of Geneva Department of Planning, Housing and Energy regulates the short-term rentals in Geneva. Where short-term stays exceed the 90-night a year limit, hosts must change the assignment from residential to commercial. Any exemptions are considered by a case-by-case basis.


Canton of Zurich

A City Tax is charged for guests staying in Zurich of CHF 2.50 per person per night. For hosts using Airbnb, this will be collected automatically and forwarded to Zurich Tourismus. It will also be listed separately on their invoice and added to the amount total. Hosts are required to notify the Zurich Police of any guests paying to stay within their accommodation.


Geneva extends short-term let cap to 90 nights

2019 saw an increase in the short-term cap period to 90 nights. It was introduced in 2018 with the limit set to 60 nights.

As is with many other European capital cities, the new limits are designed to combat the amount of movement in the tourism market. The array of websites operating on an Airbnb style system are introducing vast numbers of properties to an additional means of income. And why wouldn’t they? They utilise such simple marketing and advertising systems—one that works incredibly efficiently—that almost anyone can, and is, taking advantage of.


Worldwide, tourists are looking more than ever to apartments for a true home from home experience

Houses and apartments in Switzerland’s major cities of Zurich and Geneva are in high demand. With more and more homes being utilised for tourist profitability, providing the residential housing the city needs has become an issue for the authorities. The most common current method to attempt to put the issue straight, taken on by a number of the EU’s capitals, limits the number of days each year a property can be rented out as a short-term let. If property owners are going to operate in excess of the new set limit, the properties in question require further permission to work as such, either subject to additional taxes or changing the use from domestic and residential to commercial and business. This way, the authorities have more control over the tourism taxes and business rates that become available for collection.


Sub-letting in Switzerland

Sub-letting in Switzerland has been around since 1990. More recently, this common practice has been taken advantage of by the possibilities provided by the short-letting platforms. To counteract the problem, each canton is looking at ways to remedy the situation. The main issue is that more homes are turning into short-term tourist lets as opposed to residential opportunities. The authorities want to see a fair split and are obviously concerned by the current shift. On top of that, this popular new trend is providing direct competition for existing traditional tourist accommodation.



The rules of subletting in Switzerland

Switzerland has a very popular and successful option for subletting long-term let rentals. The idea was to help tenants meet costs by offering a home-sharing system during the times they were staying away from the property for any significant period. The laws have been in place since 1990, and until recently, were well accepted and respected by the residents they applied to. With the correct checks in place, the system worked satisfactorily, offering what were seen as financially fair advantages to both parties.


The subletting agreement

The subletting agreement contract should be almost identical to the original rental agreement. The landlord must approve the terms before the tenant is permitted to carry on with the process. If the terms were to outline a breach of the rules, you can imagine that any landlord would have plenty to say about it—and expectedly, forbidding the sub-let from taking place. A verbal contract is often acceptable during the process. Yet, for better protection throughout the process, a written contract would be a much more appropriate option and far more advantageous.