Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It’s a thief. It’s a robber. It’s a landlord with no regard for tenants.

We used to own a house in Virginia before my husband and I sold it to come live in Switzerland. And lately, I’ve been missing it. The fireplace, the screened-in porch, but mainly the fact that it was ours and no one did anything to it unless we said.

So combine this longing for my own place again with coming home last night to discover dirt and pieces of jagged plastic (some more than a foot long) all over the rug in our entrance room, both of our bathrooms, and our hallway. I could only think one thing—my apartment had been robbed.

But no. Apparently, our landlord decided to replace all the skylights without telling us (except via an unintelligible message on my husband’s work phone around 9.30 am after we had both left for work that day, and which he didn’t discover until late) and just left us to come home and deal with the mess afterwards.

No prior notice. No regard for the fact we might have jobs. Just jagged pieces of plastic and dirt all over our apartment to welcome us home after a long day at work. (Talk about a perfect setting for an American lawsuit—I stepped on a piece of the old skylight this morning while getting out of the shower. Thank goodness I don’t have kids.)

So this weekend will be spent washing the white bathroom rugs that are now speckled, picking up jagged pieces of skylight that we overlooked, vacuuming again and again, probably all serenaded by a few unavoidable curses here and there.

I am shocked by the treatment we have received while renting here in Switzerland. For the price we pay there is really no regard for our rights at all. It doesn’t seem fair to come home to what we experienced last night, with only our neighbor (who works from home) to have the courtesy to come by and reassure us that we were not robbed.

A Swiss friend has helped me to compose a letter in pefect German to our landlord, explaining our shock and asking nicely to please give us advance notice for things like this—but I’m sure it won’t do any good. I’ve also documented the event in photos in case they try to deduct some of our deposit for floor damage where these jagged foot-long pieces have dented and scratched the floor. I don’t know what else to do. Anyone have a suggestion?


mrsmac said...

After our experience switching apartments in our building, I'm dreading moving out of our current apartment. They do have a way of doing things, don't they?

I'd love to hear if you get a response to your letter!

Chantal said...

Yeah, good luck with moving. I'm dreading that day too. Will keep you posted on the drama.

Tina said...

That is so rude! I would be furious! There has got to be more laws protecting tenants!

Chantal said...

I agree. Just spent my evening vacuuming. Sigh. Didn't want to step on any more plastic pieces in my bare feet!!

Unknown said...

As I work in the real estate business I can tell you that this was not allowed. It is true that you have to let them in to fix things but Wincasa should have informed you at least 48 hours in advance! And they are not allowed to have keys for your appartment. I suggest you will get membership of the mieterverband ( For a small annual fee they help you with issues, give advices and you can book them for appartment hand-over.

M'dame Jo said...

What Urs said. I was going to suggest too. I'm a member of the Welsch section and they're really helpful.

Also, it's not only the landlord's fault, the workers are supposed to clean the mess once they done working, it's not your responsability and certainly not your job to clean after them.

Chantal said...

Thanks so much for the advice.

cadiz12 said...

what a terrible thing to come home to! i don't think any landlord in the states could get away with that?

Chantal said...

No probably not. And they wouldn't do it in the first place because they'd be too afraid that they would get sued!

M'dame Jo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
M'dame Jo said...

I have a theory. It's only a theory, so to be taken with a grain of salt.

I've read so many horror stories from expats - from rental agencies, neighbors, laundry etc - I'm starting to wonder if it's not /because/ you're expats.

I mean, I don't think it happens to swiss people as much, if ever. I've never heard such stories from my friends and never had them myself. And it may because they're swiss, they speak the language, they know how things work.

And thus, they (neighbors, agencies) may take more liberties with you, the foreigners...

For example, if someone didn't clean the detergent compartment from the washing machine, it has to be the new american couple that arrived last year, they don't know how things work here, you know?

Swiss people may not sue for such things, but there are laws that protect the tenants, you can be sure of that.

I wouldn't be totally surprised if it wasn't a mild form of xenophobia.

With a grain of salt.

Chantal said...

Yes, I think you might have a point. When we moved in and met our landlord for the first time, apparently she said some mean things about us to our relocation agent. We had no idea since they were speaking in Swiss German together. But our relocation agent told us what she said after the fact (pissed that we didn't speak German, etc) and seems to have been against us since the start.

It sucks. Don't know what to do about it, but luckily our Swiss neighbor is fantastic, so it's not everyone. But still. It's hard to feel at home when you're living in a place where you know you're not liked by who you're paying the rent too!!

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