- Tenants are increasingly resisting the higher rents. The arbitration boards have their hands full.
- New figures from the Federal Housing Office from the first half of 2023 show an increase in arbitration proceedings of over 42 percent compared to the previous semester.
- The situation is unlikely to ease – there is a risk of a further increase in the reference interest rate on December 1st.
The problem is high in Zurich: the Zurich district’s rent arbitration board has to process 2,300 cases; in the summer there were now over 3,000, says Anna Isabel Altieri, senior clerk of the Zurich district’s rent arbitration board.
Although demand is decreasing, the rental arbitration board has its hands full. “We are in the process of trying these cases,” said Altieri. There are a considerable number of “extra-official transactions”. Tenants and landlords with pending proceedings sometimes reach an agreement on their own.
We continue to plan to conduct negotiations additional days per week.
The arbitration board has increased personnel resources by around 25 percent, says Altieri. If the number of cases remains at the current level, “we expect that the first wave will perhaps be over by spring 2024.”
More staff, more negotiations
However, experts expect that the reference interest rate will be raised again on December 1st. This means that rents could rise again. Will there be another wave of challenges? “If there is a second round in December, the two rounds would overlap, which would make it very difficult for us,” said Altieri.
Rush on Zurich tenants’ association
The tenants’ association also notices that tenants increasingly want to defend themselves against rising rents. There was a real rush on the Zurich association. Membership additions have increased by a third in the last six months, says the spokesman for the Zurich Tenants Association, Walter Angst.
“We have hired additional staff,” says Angst. “There were literally thousands of people who called, sent us documents and needed coaching when the arbitration hearing came,” says Angst. There was quite a bit of chaos because the arbitration authorities did not yet have a uniform practice.
According to Angst, the situation has now improved somewhat. The Zurich arbitration boards have issued clear guidelines so that tenants can better assess whether a challenge is worthwhile, explains Angst. However, the Zurich tenants’ association is also expecting a new wave of challenges in December.
In Basel they are preparing for another “wave”. The arbitration board for rental disputes in the canton of Basel-Stadt is examining whether “personnel resources could be increased somewhat on a temporary basis,” says the head of the arbitration board, Elena Herrmann. “And in order to cope with the workload, we continue to plan to hold negotiations on additional days per week,” says Hermann.
There was also a sharp increase in the number of rental arbitration proceedings in Basel: from the beginning of June to November 22nd, 517 disputes were received. In the same period last year there were just 30. So far, this rush has been managed, says Elena Herrmann. If there is another rush on the arbitration authorities at the beginning of December, there could also be longer waiting times in Basel.