Advice for tenants: how to apply for an apartment

Some things shouldn't be left to chance, and applying for a new flat is one of them. These top tips will help you to make your application stand out, win over the landlord and, with a bit of luck, secure your new dream home.

The end of March, end of July and the beginning of April are the most popular times of year to move. If you want your rental application to be successful, you've got to be quick. After visiting the property, you need to get your forms to the landlord pretty much straightaway, after all the competition never sleeps! In cities, open days and mass viewings for rental properties are increasingly common. There are some things that shouldn't be left to chance, and applying for a new flat is one of them. These top tips will help you to make your application stand out, win over the landlord and, with a bit of luck, secure your new dream home.

Cover letter

Submit your application dossier straight after your visit. Keep it as short and concise as possible. The first document to consider is the cover letter (maximum one page). This should include your photo, followed by your reasons and motivation for wanting to move into this particular flat (moving in with your partner, relocating for work, etc.). 

If you're applying for a room in a shared house, write about why YOU are the best match for the existing tenants. Introduce yourself and any other prospective occupants and provide a brief overview of your employment and family situation. Make your application a bit creative and individual. The aim is to make your application dossier stand out from the many others. Our suggestions:

  • Design a colourful booklet in which you give seven reasons why the letting agency should select you to be the new tenant. You could also include some photos of yourself. Make sure that you appear likeable and positive in the pictures. At the same time, there is nothing wrong with a little bit of humour (see photo below). 
  • Put together a video and show how tidy you keep your current home. If you have pets, you can introduce them at the same time and show how well house-trained they are. 
  • For the musicians amongst you: write a song declaring your love for the new flat. That’s bound to butter up even the most stern-faced admin officials or owners.



We also recommend including a reference. Ask your current landlord or employer to write a couple of lines about you. But don't overfill the page, landlords normally have a heap of applications to get through.

Excerpt from the Swiss debt collection register

When applying for a rental property in Switzerland, it is important to include a copy of your debt collection record in your application dossier. This informs the landlord about your previous and current financial status and serves as a good indicator of your ability to make payments. You can obtain a report from the relevant debt enforcement office in your area. It is not obligatory to provide an excerpt from the debt collection register, but refusing to provide one could be a real dealbreaker. Make sure that you obtain your record before applying for a flat so that you don't lose any time.

Application form

Tenancy application forms are usually available to pick up during your viewing. However, if there are no application forms to hand when you visit, it’s worth having a look on the letting agency’s website. If there isn't anything on there either, then you could use this template here. You will need to provide information to questions regarding contact details, employer, profession, annual income, marital status, number of children, pets and smoking. However, legally you don’t have to answer this last question.

Tips from Zebrabox:

  • Preparation: Prepare your documents in advance if you know that you want to move house. Then as soon as a flat becomes available, you can simply tweak your application and send your documents off straightaway. Trump card: if you view a rental property on a Saturday, your best bet is to post your documents directly through the letting agency's letterbox. This should improve your chances of receiving a quick positive response. While all the other applications are still in the post, yours will already be in the landlord’s hands.
  • Speed: Submit your documents straight after the viewing. By e-mail is the fastest option. 
  • Creativity: Give your ideas free reign. Make yourself stand out from the competition. Don't just design the cover of your dossier – everyone does that.
  • Photo: Avoid using a traditional application-style photo. Instead, use a photo that shows you in a natural, approachable and positive way, perhaps riding a bike out in the countryside.
  • Honesty: Don’t lie and be upfront from the outset about things like smoking, pets and musical instruments. After all, you’re likely to be found out sooner or later anyway.
  • Contactable: Make sure that you are available to be contacted via the contact details that you provide, e.g. e-mail, telephone, home address. Otherwise, the landlord might just move on to their second choice.

Residence permit    

If you are a foreigner, you should include a copy of your residence permit in your dossier. It is also a good idea for foreign applicants to include a reference from their employer. This can help to eliminate any possible preconceptions and therefore avoid any unnecessary stumbling blocks.

Other documents

You might also choose to include other documents, such as a copy of your salary certificate or employment contract. A photocopy of your passport or identity card might also help. If there is a lot of competition for the tenancy, providing these extra documents might just give you the edge. Generally speaking, the more information you provide, the more confidence your prospective landlord will have in you. According to a survey of 1000 landlords by, the most important criteria when awarding a tenancy are the completeness of the dossier (77%) and the information about the personality of the applicant (55%).

More space thanks to self-storage

Temporary storage with a professional

You have to move out of your old flat and the new one isn't ready yet? With Zebrabox you can get through this transitional period smoothly. Easily store your belongings in 1-50m2 storage units and collect them on the day you move in. Thanks to our partnership with removal specialists, we are able to organise your entire move.