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Sample contracts, general conditions, standards and recommendations which can serve as the basis for contracts are available from the Swiss Engineer’s and Architect’s Association (SIA) and the Association of Swiss Building Contractors (VSGU).
Contractors and builders have a legal lien on a building site in the event that they are not paid. The danger that a builder’s lien will be entered on your property exists particularly with construction undertaken by building contractors. Be sure to examine your prospective contractor’s references.
Whether you’ve built a home or purchased an existing one, you should carry out an inventory of defects, which should be signed by all the contracting parties.
In accordance with SIA and VSGU norms, you are entitled to have visible defects caused by the contractor and the construction workers rectified within two years of completion and concealed defects within five years.
When buying a residence ready for occupancy, have the vendor assign the guarantee claims against builders and suppliers to you. Under certain conditions, in the event of a claim still covered by the guarantee, you might be liable for the costs yourself.
Make sure you obtain a complete land register extract, as this lists all easements, ground rents (servitudes), and comments. Please note that the objection that someone was unaware of a land registry entry is not legally permissible.
It is essential to clarify the extent to which the property is connected (roads, supply lines, electricity, water, gas, drains, etc.) and the condition of the ground (beware of contamination).
You should ensure that payment of real estate transfer tax and real property gains tax and the applicable charges is covered in the purchase contract. Cantons and municipalities generally have a legal lien on the property covering such levies and may have recourse to the property in this way.
Ownership of the property is not definitively transferred until entered in the land register. Official certification alone is not enough.
If you acquire the property jointly – together with your spouse, for example – the law offers you two ways of establishing ownership together with other people: shared ownership or joint ownership. Advice on this issue should be obtained from a notary, a registrar, or a lawyer.
For architect-designed houses
To give your architect the clearest possible basis on which to work, you should prepare for him/her a written list of job specifications that describes in detail what you want done and sets down in no uncertain terms the maximum amount of money you are prepared to spend.
Normally, when you are having your home individually built the costs for planning start from the first draft on. Come to an agreement with your architect on a separate price for the planning, for the designing up to and including the construction permit, and for the actual construction. Reserve the right to terminate the contract without additional cost after each phase is complete.
A detailed building and site description and cost estimate can be decisive in determining whether a building is successfully realized or not.
For the construction itself a detailed timetable should be drawn up. The dates stipulated by it form the basis for timely completion of the building.
For existing properties
When considering a quotation from a housing company or building contractor for a constructed house you should have the individual changes (including supplemental fees), additions, ancillary costs, fees, etc., listed and confirmed in writing. Only then is the real purchase price apparent.
Pay attention that the architect hires only qualified engineers, contractors and construction workers. In addition try to obtain multiple bids to make a price-performance assessment of the work to be carried out in each area.
Document the construction process as thoroughly as possible (e.g. with photos, sketches, notes, etc.). Discuss any problems with your architect.
For ongoing information and coordination and to help come to any necessary decisions you should schedule regular meetings with your architect. The decisions should be put in writing, just like all other important construction-related information.
Should you notice any defects or irregularities, consult with the architect about them rather than with the contractor or the construction workers. Defects such as damp walls or cracks in the masonry should be brought up with the architect without delay, because they can lead toother problems later on.
Don’t let yourself be pressured into agreeing to the final building sign-off inspection or property takeover prematurely. A careful, detailed inspection and inventory of defects takes time.
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