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Basic Vocabulary

Counting rooms in accommodation

Geneva counts rooms differently to France and the canton of Vaud. Geneva counts the kitchen as a room, unlike France and the canton of Vaud, which do not.

Examples :

A 3-room flat in Geneva includes a kitchen, a living room and a separate bedroom.

A two-bedroom flat in France (T2) includes a kitchen, a living room and a separate bedroom.

Real Estate Agencies – « Régies »

  • A “régie” is a company mandated by property owners to take care of the administrative and technical management of their buildings or apartments.
  • Owners almost never rent out their apartments directly in Geneva.
  • In 90% of cases, you’ll be dealing exclusively with a régie.
  • Don’t ask a régie if they have an apartment that matches your criteria – it’s your responsibility to look for ads on their websites. Only relocation agencies will search for you (for a fee – see below).
  • Régies often require you to visit the apartment before submitting an application.
  • Newly hired employees are subject to more questions and requests for guarantees. This is a general attitude with all people arriving to Geneva.
  • The tight property market in Geneva puts a lot of pressure on régie employees. The welcome can be cold and the contact sometimes difficult at first. After that, you’ll be dealing with efficient, competent people.

Lease Contract/Agreement – « Contrat de bail »

  • A lease is a contract by which the lessor undertakes to assign the use of a thing to the lessee, in return for rent” (Article 253 CO, Federal Law supplementing the Swiss Civil Code).
  • You will receive a lease contract to sign once you have been selected for an apartment.
  • The duration of a lease contract can vary, and this is non-negotiable. Leases can be for 1, 3 or 5 years, renewable. Generally speaking, from the 2nd year onwards, a lease contract can be terminated each year on the anniversary date, with 3 months’ notice. However, you can always terminate the lease with one month’s notice for the middle or end of a month, if you present the régie with the application of a person who has the necessary financial guarantees and who accepts the lease under the same current conditions. This is a very common practice in Geneva. (See “Lease surrender” sub-section below for an explanation).
  • Fixed-term leases cannot generally be renewed unless otherwise specified by the régie.

Lease Surrender/Lease Takeover (« Remise / Reprise de bail »)

  • When a tenant wishes to terminate their lease before the due date, they must find a new person willing to “take over the lease”, i.e. rent the property under the same conditions.
  • There are many ads for lease-takeovers.
  • Please note: the régie is under no obligation to accept an application from the leaving tenant. This is non-negotiable.
  • Sometimes tenants donate or sell their furniture or appliances when they leave, and you are free to accept or reject them. If you accept, you become responsible for the furniture and appliances.

Check-in and Check-out Visits (« Etat des lieux d’entrée » and « Etat des lieux de sortie »)

  • This is a formality to be followed at the beginning (inventory check-in visit) and at the end (inventory check-out visit) of a rental to carry out an inspection of the condition of the accommodation (for more information).

Calculating a Person’s Financial Viability

If you are looking for accommodation in Geneva’s private market, the rent must be less than 33% of your gross monthly salary (including your 13th salary).

For example: gross annual salary of CHF 85’000 (with 13th salary)
85’000/13 = 6’538.-
33% of CHF 6’538.- = CHF 2’157.- maximum rent.

Relocation Agencies

  • A relocation agency provides personalised support for tasks such as house-hunting, moving-in and moving-out services, and so on.
  • An agency usually charges one month’s rent or more for its services.

Work Order – « Bon de travail »

A document issued by the régie stating that a company will be working in your home to repair/replace something damaged or broken.


The person in charge of the building maintenance and security. They usually live in or near the building.

In some buildings, the concierge is replaced by a cleaning company.