Termination for own use – a guide


Your life circumstances or needs have changed, or you want a change of scene? If you, as the owner, would like to move into a property that you own, the current tenant must move out. But how do you declare your intent to use the property for your own purposes and how does termination of tenancy for own use work? We’ll show you what you have to be aware of and what rights you have under tenancy law when terminating a tenancy agreement for your own use.

What constitutes own use?

Own use in the classic sense means that the owner of a property has ceased to rent out the property and has moved into the apartment or house themselves. As the property owner, you are legally entitled to live in your property at any time. And for good reason: you are the property owner, after all.

So if you want to use your property yourself, you can declare your intent to use it for your own purposes. There are a few points to bear in mind to ensure the process of claiming occupancy and terminating the current tenancy agreement runs smoothly. After all, clear legal regulations determine the circumstances under which tenancies may be terminated for personal use.

Aside from you, does own use apply to anyone else?

If you, the owner, want to move into your own property, the case is clear-cut. But who else can you claim own use for? Generally speaking, you may also assert your right to own use for family members or members of your household. But people other than your relatives may also move into your property – for instance, your spouse’s children. If you require a carer or a nurse, you are permitted to terminate a tenancy agreement with the current tenant in order to allow this person to move into your property. It is important that you, as the owner, can credibly demonstrate why you need to use the apartment or house yourself and can no longer rent it out.

How do I give formal notice of my intent to terminate the tenancy for my own use?

When terminating a tenancy agreement, you must ensure that you comply with all the formalities in order to ensure the legal validity of the termination. So bear in mind the following three points when terminating the agreement:

1. Address the notice of termination correctly

If the apartment is rented by several parties – spouses, partners or a flat-sharing community – the notice of termination must be addressed to all tenants individually. You must be able to prove that the notice of termination was received by the addressee: send the notice of termination for personal use​ by registered letter or deliver it in person with a witness. In a worst-case scenario, the tenant might dispute having received the letter.

2. Comply with notice periods

As an owner, you too must comply with the statutory period of notice as defined under Art. 266c of the Swiss Code of Obligations: in the case of apartment rentals, the parties may terminate a tenancy with a notice period of three months to any customary local date, or where there is no such local custom, to the end of a three-month tenancy period. The determining factor here is not the postmark, but the date on which the tenant actually receives the notice of termination. If, as the party issuing the notice, you fail to comply with the notice period for termination for personal use, the termination will be deemed effective as of the next possible date.

3. What should be included in the termination notice?

For your notice of termination for own use, you will first need a termination form approved by the canton. This must be signed by you. All notices of termination must be issued in writing.

It is not enough to state ‘personal/own use’ as a reason for termination. You must give details of why and for whom the apartment is required. However, you do not need to list each individual if more than one person is moving in. It is important that you provide a true and plausible account of the reasons why you require the property for your own personal use. You can also draw the current tenant’s attention to their right to refuse under Art. 271 of the Swiss Code of Obligations.

If you have taken these points into consideration, then your notice of termination for own use meets all the formal requirements.

Tenancy law on own use: points to bear in mind

Be prepared for the fact that some things won’t go to plan. However, equipped with the right knowledge, it’s possible to overcome many hurdles. Below we list three points that you should bear in mind if you want to terminate a tenancy agreement for personal use:

1. Inform the tenant in advance

Ensure that the personal use entitlement was not already known when you rented out the property. If this is the case, you must inform the tenant of this on conclusion of the tenancy agreement. 

2. Sale has no impact on tenancy

If you sell your property, any ongoing tenancies will be assigned to the buyer. If the new owner would like to assert their right to terminate for personal use, the statutory notice periods will apply afresh; i.e. they can terminate the tenancy with a notice period of three months to the next customary local date.

3. What happens if the tenant does not want to move out?

It becomes slightly more complicated if the tenant resists termination for personal use. If the tenant is facing specific circumstances of hardship, they may request that the tenancy be continued. Under Art. 272 of the Swiss Code of Obligations, this must be hardship that cannot be justified by the interests of the landlord. Such cases include:

  • Old age
  • Physical disability
  • Severe illness
  • Pregnancy

In such cases, the circumstances under which the contract was concluded and the personal and economic circumstances of both parties will be reviewed, as will the conditions on the local market for residential and business premises. The urgency of the landlord’s need for personal use will also be taken into account. The more urgent the reason for termination for personal use, the shorter the extension of the lease will be. The result will always depend on the individual circumstances – the arbitration body will weigh up the concerns of both parties and act as a mediator between the applicants.

As soon as you run into conflict, it is advisable to seek the advice of a specialist.

How do I terminate the tenancy amicably?

Generally speaking, terminations for personal use succeed without issue. If you want to terminate the tenancy as amicably as possible, ideally approach the tenant before serving the written notice and explain to them your reasons for terminating the lease for personal use. You can also offer the tenant alternative accommodation or an extended notice period to make termination of the rental agreement more pleasant.