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Subletting with Airbnb: What needs to be considered?

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A mountain cabin in Entlebuch, a loft in Zurich, or a houseboat on Lake Geneva: In Switzerland, over 50,000 accommodations are currently offered through Airbnb. Are you thinking of subletting a room or your entire apartment from time to time with Airbnb? 

Kathrin Ramseier, attorney at AXA-ARAG and specialist in real estate law, and Oliver Zimmermann, legal expert at AXA-ARAG and specialist in rental law, will share with you how to avoid legal disputes with your landlord. 

Is subletting allowed at all?

If a rental property is fully or partially sublet, this is called subtenancy. In Switzerland, subtenancy or subletting is essentially permitted under the law. Individual rooms or an entire apartment can be sublet if the landlord knows about it.

And how is subletting with Airbnb governed by law?

Subletting with Airbnb is not yet governed by rental law; treatment varies among the cantons. For this reason, the following also applies for subletting with Airbnb: The renter must ask the landlord for permission. Theoretically, the renter has to ask for permission from the landlord for every new booking. The conclusion of a written agreement between the renter and the landlord which stipulates that the landlord grants general consent for subletting can be useful. 

When can the landlord refuse to grant consent to subletting?

Consent to subletting can only be refused in the following cases:

  • The tenant does not reveal the conditions of the sublet. 
  • The conditions of the sublet are improper compared with those of the rental relationship. 
  • The landlord suffers considerable disadvantages due to the sublet.

What information should you pass on to the landlord?

The main information you must pass on to the landlord when subletting is the rental charge. The identity and number of tenants, the duration of the sublet, and the purpose of use are also relevant information. The simplest way for the tenant to keep the landlord informed is generally to forward them the planned Airbnb entry. Incidentally, this duty to inform also applies during the entire duration of the sublet. This means, for example, in the case of changes during the ongoing sublet as well.

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What conditions are deemed to be unacceptable?

Conditions are regarded as unacceptable, in particular, if the subletting charge the subtenant is paying is excessive compared with the rental fee that the principal landlord charges. 

A modest premium is of course allowed since the Airbnb host is usually offering the rental property as fully furnished and is taking care of cleaning and supplying fresh bedding and towels. At the same time, the property may not be sublet commercially. The principal renter must still have the intention of using the apartment themselves. 

When does the landlord suffer considerable disadvantages?

The landlord suffers considerable disadvantages when, for example:

  • A rental property is over-occupied due to a sublet, or
  • A subtenant carries out an unapproved or immoral act at the rental premises, or
  • Guests disturb neighbors due to their behavior – for example by being too noisy. 

In cases of this sort, the landlord is entitled to refuse or withdraw their consent to the sublet.

Do I have to get the consent in writing?

We recommend requesting consent to subletting your apartment or a room in writing. Only then can you prove in the event of disagreements or misunderstandings what you have agreed with your landlord. 

What happens if the landlord does not respond to my request to sublet with Airbnb?

Your landlord should grant permission in writing and by registered mail as soon as possible after they have received your request. However, the law does not stipulate a deadline by which the landlord must respond to the request to sublet. If they do not respond, the silence may in some cases be interpreted as approval – even they are not in agreement.

Do Airbnb guests have to pay tourist tax?

For operators of hotels and guest houses, collecting tourist tax for each night stayed is standard procedure in many municipalities. Since intermediation platforms increasingly represent competition to the traditional hotel business, some municipalities have modified their regulations: They now require Airbnb hosts too to collect tourist tax from their guests. The tax is often combined with a ticket for the local public transportation system, offering added value for the guest. It's certainly worth your while to obtain the corresponding information from your local municipality.

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