Did a real estate agency ask you for a proof that you had no legal proceedings? For most foreigners, the Swiss system of ‘Poursuites’ which we translate as Legal Proceedings is entirely new. This article offers you 7 pieces of advice on its functioning in Switzerland, which will help you avoiding them – something important to get your place to rent over here.
1) Accept it: you are being tracked!
The system in Switzerland has this particularity that the Non Payment of debts is recorded in a systematic manner at cantonal level at the ‘Office des Poursuites’. In most other countries (in Europe for what we know) there is no such centralised system regarding debts except for bankruptcies. It is helpful for the rental market as a leaser (or an agency which represents him-her) will hesitate to offer the property to rent to someone if he knows that the tenant candidate is not paying his debts. Indeed, it is probably more likely (everything else being equal otherwise) that he or she will not pay their rent or even that she will damage the property.
2) Don’t worry – forgetting a payment does not lead immediately to Legal Proceedings ‘Poursuites’.
Indeed, it’s not because you do not pay a bill that you will be immediately sent of to Poursuites in Switzerland. In general, a company or individual will only put someone to these Proceedings after several reminders and as a last resort.
3) No need to Panic if you receive such a Proceedings.
Indeed, any individual or company can submit a proceedings against you at the ‘Office des Poursuites’ of your canton. Here is a summary of the process:
– The creditor simply presents himself at the Cantonal Office of the residence of the person he or she wants to submits a proceeding against, and simply fill in a form.
– The document mentions the cause of the obligation but requires absolutely no proof and is verified by nobody at this stage! In practice, of course it will be an unpaid bill, a contract that was not respected, etc.
– The debitor that is pursued receives a request for payment by registered mail and will have 10 days from the notification to oppose it. If he (or she) does not oppose it, it will go to judgement and could result later on asset seizure or bankruptcy later on. See below an illustration – it’s in French, sorry.
Illustration of the Process for Proceedings in Switzerland (source: Canton de Neuchâtel)
4) Pay your bills on time or get them spread over.
It’s much better to ask for your bills to be spread over a longer period of time in Switzerland rather than not paying them which will result in a mark being set on your persona at the Office des Poursuite with Proceedings. Simply write to your creditors (always by registered mail) and ask for your bills to be spread over a few months for example and why, and provide your contact details of course. It can happen to anyone. And if you move residence, don’t forget to notify all your current creditors.
5) Oppose your Proceeding if they do not make sense.
If a ‘Poursuite’ there is, you will receive a letter by registered mail asking you to pay the initial debt as well as the extra proceedings fee, OR to oppose this proceeding. Imperatively think to oppose it by registered mail if it does not make sense (e.g. you never received reminders, etc.) as it will be registered on your name otherwise.
6) Keep yourself on check.
These proceedings are saved at cantonal level (and not at confederation level) for a duration of 5 years. This allows to list the bad payers in theory. While this period is relatively long, the creditors or rental agencies will only wonder if you have proceedings right now that remain. Get yourself in order and it should be fine.
7) Obtain an Attestation de Non Poursuite.
The ‘Attestation de Non Poursuite’ which means Proof of Absence of Proceedings – is an official document provided by each canton. It certifies to the creditor – and agency in this case – that you have no legal proceedings currently and that you made no asset default (type bankruptcy). This attestation remains a precious indicator for an agency with regards to your aptitude to pay the rent to come. We come back to it with examples and how to obtain the Attestation de Poursuite in this other article.
While it can happen to anyone to have legal proceedings, we hope these advices will help you to avoid them. Understanding their functioning is of course the first step but we recommend you consult a lawyer in case of need. Good luck!