In principle, tenants who wish to terminate their tenancy are bound by the statutory and contractual provisions (notice periods and dates). The tenant may, however, demand early release from the tenancy agreement if he provides a solvent and reasonable new tenant. But even experts are often not sure how to interpret the legal situation. 

In order for an early termination to be legally valid, certain requirements must be met. (Image:

There are many popular misconceptions about tenancy law, especially around the termination of a tenancy agreement. One of these misconceptions is: For example, if you sign a very long lease or a lease for an indefinite period, you will hardly ever get out of the contract. In any case, the tenant remains liable for the full rent until the contract expires or until an ordinary termination is possible.  

Article 264 CO, on the other hand, allows termination at almost any time – provided certain conditions are met. An early move-out according to the law always causes discussions in practice. In a nutshell, the legal regulation reads: The law allows the tenant to return the rented property early if he proposes a reasonable, solvent new tenant to the landlord who is willing to take over the property under the same conditions (same flat, same contract, amount of rent as before, etc.). 

As more and more people move at short notice (private reasons, change of job, etc.), the legal regulation is very relevant in everyday life. The aforementioned legal text is frequently applied especially to rented flats. However, the right to terminate a tenancy extraordinarily and to present a new tenant also applies to other tenancies, i.e. parking spaces, commercial leases or office leases, for example. If everything is well prepared, a professional administration will usually accept new tenants.

When are you released from the tenancy agreement?  

However, in practice, the question of how to interpret the legal regulation comes up again and again. Is a tenant then released from the contractual obligations if he succinctly gives the administration one or two names (i.e. presents persons who would possibly take over the flat)? Or are the requirements more stringent? Many administrations take the view vis-à-vis the tenants that the matter is only settled when a new tenancy agreement has been concluded.

This practice of the industry is generally correct, as Paul Stämpfli, lawyer at HEV Switzerland, explains: “A tenant is released from the contract when the landlord accepts the early return and the new contract is concluded”. At most, it should be noted that a tenancy agreement can be concluded both verbally and in writing.

However, the legal regulation (in the same article of the law, paragraph 3) also contains some indications that the landlord may not remain completely inactive. He is also obliged to keep the loss for the tenant as low as possible and to take into account any savings or other use of the flat that will become free. This is what the legal regulation says, mutatis mutandis. 

Tenancy law correctly interpreted 

Lawyer Paul Stämpfli from HEV-Switzerland states: “What is meant here is a certain duty to avert, minimise or mitigate loss on the part of the landlord”. For the whole interpretation, it is important to know that the tenant is released from the contract either way under certain conditions: Namely, if the new contract is not concluded merely because the landlord fails to do certain things or wants to change the conditions or the tenancy agreement: 

  • The landlord takes the change of tenant as an opportunity to increase the rent. 
  • The landlord does not fulfil his obligations (such as to check the presented new tenant in time). 
  • The same applies in the event that the landlord does not react at all. 
  • The landlord does other things that lead to a less favourable tenancy than before (for example, longer fixed contract period, renting with one room less, other contractual changes to the detriment of the tenant, etc.). 

If the previous tenant has demonstrably presented new tenants and there is no reaction from the landlord, the tenant could return the property as such. Here, it is best for the tenant to return the keys by registered mail. 

What does an acceptable new tenant mean?

The tenant is also dismissed and no longer owes rent if the administration rejects a proposed new tenant for reasons that are not plausible. Thus, it would not be permissible to reject certain persons or households on the basis of their origin, religion or gender.  

Above all, the new tenant must be solvent. As a rule of thumb, the household income should exceed the rent by more than three times and the debt collection register extract must not show any significant debts.  (Rental fees: Which flat can I actually afford?)

It is simply important that there is communication between the contracting parties. In principle, an extraordinary termination or early return can also occur relatively informally: Namely, when the landlord signals his willingness to accept the early return. If he then also agrees to conclude the new contract with a registered new tenant, the case is clear: From this point on, the previous tenant is released from the contract and also no longer owes rent. 

How many new tenants are to be provided?  

Finally, it is important to note that under Swiss law, one new tenant is sufficient. You do not need three interested parties or new tenants as some people believe. However, the new tenant must be reasonable and solvent. Furthermore, he must also be expressly prepared to take over the flat “as seen” and on the same conditions. For example, if the landlord has previously concluded a fixed-term contract, this precondition would also have to apply to the new tenancy. 

Finally, it should be remembered that the statutory provision of Art. 264 CO only applies if a tenancy is terminated extraordinarily. The case is different insofar as the contract is terminated in an orderly manner, in compliance with contractual or customary periods and termination dates. In this case, the tenant does not owe anything and does not have to worry about finding a new tenant.

Conclusion: Early move out 

If both sides know their rights and obligations, conflicts and delays can be avoided. Let us briefly summarise the correct procedure again: 

The tenant informs the landlord of the intention to terminate the lease early. It is best to deliver the letter by registered mail.

Next, you should very actively look for new tenants (online platforms, word-of-mouth).  On newhome you can advertise the flat for 15 days here free of charge.

Most potential new tenants want a viewing to see for themselves what is on offer. Those who are looking for a new tenant themselves are also responsible for managing the viewings.

It is best to record the personal details of all interested parties (name, email address, telephone, if possible request an extract from the debt collection register). A form for finding a new tenant will help you with this: New tenant: A sample form facilitates formalities (German)

Forward the documents to the administration and stay in contact with the administration. Have all the documents been submitted? Depending on the interpretation, the administration should have 10 to 30 days to consider the new tenants. For private landlords, a slightly longer period of about 30 days can be assumed, while a professional administration needs less time.

After two weeks, ask again if everything is all right. Either you must be able to prove that you have found at least one reasonable substitute tenant, or you have to have it confirmed in writing that the administration agrees to the early move out.

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