Friday, May 28, 2010

Swiss-Red Tape: Lease Termination and Utility Cancellation

Does everyone hate moving as much as I do? Don't you just dread making each phone call? getting estimates? going through every drawer separating out the trash from the keep piles? selling stuff? figuring out what goes with you on the plane, what gets air shipped, and what goes by sea? I am getting dizzy just thinking about it. The list could go on and on...and literally it is. My "moving to do list" has taken on a life of its own. Check one thing off. Add two more. It just keeps growing.

And now just for fun. Throw into the mix of the craziness that your mother tongue is not an official language of where you live. Oh. Such good times! I swear. The reason for me taking all those Deutsch classes has become apparent in the last couple of days. It is not to get you through the day-to-day living, it is to get you through moving out of the country. 

Each lease is a bit different, but for the most part you have to give at least three months notice to get out of your lease. We are a little bit of a special case because we are leaving before the three month period is up, making us responsible for finding a new tenant. Surprisingly, this doesn't scare me too much. Luckily, we live in a hot spot in Zurich with a crazy, huge balcony overlooking Üetliberg and plenty of green space to boot. I hope I am not eating these words later, but I think this challenge won't present many issues.

The hurdle with this step was just in having to contact the property management company. I wanted to make sure I knew exactly what was expected of us and how this process works. So, ich rief gestern. Check that German out! And, die Frau I had to speak to really didn't speak much English. I think she is the first person to actually say no when I asked if she spoke English. Not even an ein bisschen. Somehow I made it through that conversation. We need to send a registered letter to them letting them know our intentions, move out date, etc.

The next hurdle was not in writing the letter, but getting it translated to German. By no means does my little bit of Deutsch school get me to the level of writing a formal letter such as this. I lucked out and got someone on English Forum to help me out. And, to pay it forward, my letter is below (both in English and in German).

This letter will constitute written notice of the termination of our lease on 31.08.2010. We understand there is a three-month notice period under the contract, and - because we will be vacating our apartment on 31.07.2010 - that we are responsible for finding a tenant. Therefore we ask you to quickly send all necessary forms for interested parties, as well as the forms for the refund of our deposit. Thank you for your help.

Hiermit kündigen wir unseren Mietvertrag mit Ihnen zum 31.08.2010. Wir wissen, dass wir laut Vertrag eine dreimonatige Kündigungsfrist haben und - da wir unsere Wohnung schon zum 31.07.2010 abgeben möchten - dass wir verantwortlich dafür sind, einen Nachmieter zu finden. Daher bitten wir um schnellstmögliche Zusendung aller notwendigen Formulare für Interessierte, sowie die Formulare für die Rückerstattung unserer Kaution. Vielen Dank für Ihre Hilfe.

Hopefully, this really says what I think it does. To be on the safe side, I sent both.


This was also fun to do when English isn't an official language. Similar story as before. Somehow I navigated through the voice recordings picking somewhat random numbers to try and speak with someone who at least spoke Hochdeutsch. Only to ask them if they spoke English. Again I lucked out that my Germlish skills worked well enough to get me the answers I needed. I amaze myself sometimes. 

For most companies you will be required to send in a registered letter similar to the apartment notice, but some companies will require your de-registration form that comes from the Gemeide. There is sort of catch-22 with getting out of contracts, not with all companies but with some. You have to have this form, but you can't get that til about a month before you are leaving, and yet there is a three-month notification period. Just realized that you are going to get screwed and budget yourself accordingly.

Here's a list of possible places you will need to call. Make sure to have your account number handy. Cablecom, EWZ, Billag, Swisscom (or other cell phone company). Don't forget about other contracts you might have out there too, ie. health club membership, insurance, doctor bills.

And, here's a sample of my cancellation letters both in English and in German. These ones I sort of hacked together.

I would like to cancel my contract on 31.07.2010. We will be moving back to the States. Our account number is BLAH BLAH. Thank you for your help.

Hiermit möchte ich zum 31.07.2010 meine Vertrag im wegen meines Umzuges kündigen. Wir sind aus dem Land zu bewegen. Unsere Kontonnummer ist BLAH BLAH . Vielen Dank für Ihre Hilfe.

The next steps for us are getting this apartment listed everywhere I can possibly think of and to start selling most everything in this joint. More helpful steps to come. Aren't you wishing you could be going through this too?


  1. Good luck with your move and getting everything sorted out. We found that with the de-registration form all the utility companies accepted a one month notice. They aren't allowed to charge you if you've left the country and will even pay back money you have paid ahead. The only problem we are still having 2 months after leaving is with our medical insurance. Our papers got lost between the office we sent it to and head office where they sent it to. Make sure they confirm the cancelation before you leave!

  2. Good to know. I also have questions about what people did with their bank accounts. I have heard that UBS will make you close your account the day you leave Switzerland, but we need it to stay open for a couple months afterwards to make sure all bills have been paid and refunds are received.

    Any Americans have words of wisdom?

  3. Thanks for great information. You remind me, I have to take care of the cancellation letter. Fake tramp sramp tattoos


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