International Geneva Welcome Centre (CAGI) – The one-stop shop for housing
CAGI's housing team at an information session at UNOG ©CAGI
Posted on 4 Sep 2020
Categories: Focus on
Study for a British university degree in Geneva

Finding the right place to live, at the right price, in the right location, is always one of the biggest challenges when moving to a new city. Geneva is no different. It is never too early to look for an accommodation, particularly regarding Geneva.

The main tasks of CAGI’s Housing Service are to assist employees of International Geneva (Permanent Missions, International Organisations and NGOs) in the search for an accommodation and to explain:

  • where and how to search for accommodation
  • how to submit a tenancy application
  • the different types of tenancy agreements, required housing insurances and deposits or bank guarantees
  • the importance of entry and exit inspections to avoid unpleasant situations when leaving the accommodation
  • the lease contract’s termination conditions

The International Geneva Welcome Centre’s Housing Service assistance is free of charge.

Before planning or starting the search, it is highly recommended to watch CAGI’s short video first at www.cagi.ch/practical-geneva that summarises the different steps and documents needed when looking for an accommodation.

Mix & Mash event with Internationals and local community ©CAGI
The search for accommodation 

CAGI’s search platform ‘bourse du logement’ (https://www.cagi.ch/en/housing.php) is an excellent tool to start with: once registered, offers matching the search criteria will be sent to the applicant. Word of mouth with colleagues and friends and the noticeboard at work can also be helpful. 

CAGI’s Housing Service also offers a VIP service for a personalised search for Permanent Representatives, Heads of International Organisations and their deputies. It also helps identifying offices space for Permanent Missions, International Organisations and NGOs. 

Before signing any lease agreement, it is strongly recommended to contact CAGI’s Housing Service for the proofreading of the contract in order to avoid any surprises at the end of the stay. 

Accommodation is found – the required formalities 

Once the ideal property is found and visited, a detailed application has to be submitted to the real estate agency, also known as a ‘Régie’. The following documents have to be added to the application: 

  • A valid copy of an ID or passport, together with a copy of the official Swiss work permit or ‘légitimation’ card.
  • The last 3 salary slips or a copy of the work contract, stating the income.
  • A copy of an ‘attestation de non-poursuite’ – which is a document showing that the applicant is not the subject to any legal debt-collection proceedings. See ‘Offices des poursuites’ website for more information on how to obtain this document. 

The application will only be considered if it contains all required documents. 

When the ‘Régie’ has selected the future tenant, he/she will receive a lease agreement. Before signing it the following key points have to be checked: 

  • Termination period of the lease contract: generally, the notice period for termination is at least 3 months before the end of the lease agreement. Normally and without the termination notice, the agreement is automatically renewed for another 12 months.
  • A bank guarantee or a no-deposit guarantee (caution) amounting to up to 3 months’ rent equivalence will be requested by the lessor.
  • A private liability insurance is always required in Switzerland; it also covers damage or injury to third parties, including in public space.
  • Household contents insurance is not mandatory, but highly recommended (cost will depend on the value of the insured items). 

Proof of payment of the first (monthly) rent, the bank guarantee and liability insurance attestation must be produced before the entry inspection. The entry inspection report needs the tenant’s acceptance regarding the state of the accommodation. Make sure all defects are dully noted, since the tenant might be liable for repair costs at the end of the lease. 

Official formalities for Canton of Geneva (for Canton of Vaud, check with the municipality of residence): 

  • The new tenant with a Swiss work permit is required to announce his/her arrival at the local commune and with the ‘Office cantonal de la population’ (OCP) or through the employer with the Swiss Permanent Mission to the UN for legitimation card holders.
  • The ‘Services industriels de Genève’ (SIG) have to be notified with the new tenant’s name in order to receive access to water, electricity and gas. The same notifications need to be done when leaving in order to avoid ongoing charges https://ww2.sig-ge.ch/.
  • Every household is obliged to pay a radio and television fee (broadcasting fees) to SERAFE (www.serafe.ch), with the exception of diplomatic staff and senior management of international organisations.

Important to know 

  • Check traffic and public transport conditions before deciding where to settle.
  • Get familiar with the local terms such as ‘Régie’, ‘rive droite’ (Right bank / UN side), ‘rive gauche’ (Left bank / old town, Plainpalais, etc.).
  • Never pay any money before visiting the accommodation. Visiting and applying for accommodations is at no cost.
  • Considering the strong competition (especially for lower/medium priced accommodation), it is recommended to submit several housing applications at the same time.
  • When doing the entry inspection take pictures and ask for the exit inspection report of the previous tenant.
  • If it is tricky to manage the 3 months bank guarantee on time or financially, CAGI’s member Helvetia Insurances can quickly provide an alternative called “cautionnement” (the lessor’s approval is required to validate that option).
  • Never pay in cash or transfer the rent guarantee directly to the lessor (it should be on an account opened under the tenant’s name, or done as a “cautionnement”).
  • Consult our FAQ section for tips about the rental application, sublet, and breaking the lease early: https://www.cagi.ch/en/housing/faq-housing.php. 

CAGI’s Housing Service is reachable at immo.cagi@etat.ge.ch for any advice needed. Monthly housing lunchtime conferences are organised for a direct exchange – follow CAGI’s Twitter account at @CagiGeneva to get the latest information about the next gathering.

CAGI
La Pastorale, ” La Dépendance”
106, Route de Ferney
1202 Genève
www.cagi.ch
+41 (0)22 546 14 00
welcome.cagi@etat.ge.ch

* https://www.cagi.ch/