Using spare rooms/home for AirBnB - not always possible if outside building zone

I have story to tell. My parents own a mehrfamilienhaus, they live in the first floor, and they inherited the second floor 6 years ago when my grandmother died. Those are two completely independent apartments in the same home.
Last year my Aunt, who was living in the second floor, left the apartment and my parents started planning:

  • renovate the apartment (never been touched since the construction in 1970 basically)
  • used it for the visit of their children (me and my siblings), renting out as Bed & Breakfast the rest of the time on AirBnB.

They first inquired with the Town “Technical Employee”, the clerk working on this kind of cases, as well as with Ticino Turismo (the tourism association of Ticino). It seems the plan would work.

One year later and 50k+ of cost to fix it (which to be honest they needed to be spend anyway, they renewed the kitchen, the bath all of the rooms etc and very often my father did the work himself)…the canton refused to allow them to be a B&B.

The small details that the clerk and ticino turismo missed was that the home was a pre-1972 home, build outside of the construction zoning. (altbau ausserhalb Bauzone). It turns out that you need to properly change the “goal” of your home from primary residence to “affittacamere” (eg “Zimmervermieter”) but this requires a building permit, even without a single construction work, but is still a Baugesuch. For homes in residential zones with Baurecht, no problem. In the case of my parents, they had to rely on the cantonal decision based on article 24 of the Spatial Planning Federal Act:

Art. 24 a50 Changes in purpose outside building zones for which construction work is not required

1 If the change in purpose of a building or installation outside the building zone does not necessitate any construction work within the meaning of Article 22 paragraph 1, a permit shall be issued if:


the change of purpose will not have any new impact on space, infrastructure provision and the environment; and


it is not prohibited by any other federal enactment.

2 The exceptional permit must be issued subject to the condition that a new official ruling be made should circumstances change.

Unfortunately it seems from the cantonal office that point (a) is always an issue for changing from apartment for residence to B&B, and they automatically decline all such requests for homes ausserhalb Bauzone.
It’s a bit ridicoulous because they are allowed to rent it as primary residence to 6 adults (they have 6 beds, 3 rooms) in a “WG”/collocation which each one one car, but they are not allowed to change it to AirBnb for like 90 days a year, because it would have “new impacts on space, infrastracture and environment.”

So in the end, just be careful if you buy or inherit something outside of building zone. Because you are really limited in what you can do.

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This kind of thing is a major problem in Ticino because the land on which many homes built before current zoning laws stand was not automatically categorized as building land (as was done in most countries). So many homes, and particularly “rusticos” are technically still categorized as informal housing. This has to do with federal zoning laws introduced fairly recently which limited the amount of building land a municipality could have. Rather than kicking people out of their homes to suit the new rules, many municipalities just kind of ignored them while lawmakers worked on a solution (which has not yet been found). As long as the home doesn’t change ownership/status, it isn’t much of an issue, but it can become a nightmare when properties are sold, etc. For example, there have been cases in which people who bought and renovated homes with full permission from municipal building authorities were later forced to move out without compensation. You can find more on this topic here:

Thanks for the links!
I still think it is really outdated/insane that a homeowner of a home in a non-building zone cannot rent part of his rooms through Airbnb, even with 0 construction work needed.
At least in Ticino and some other cantons where you need to change usage “Zweck” in order to put it on Airbnb.

Well, this has something to do with primary and secondary residence. And since we voted to have max. 20% of secondary residences in every municipality they cant allow any change of use if they are over the quota.

You can just rent it out as “regular” appartment and have someone live there all the time.

I am surprised that the permit was easy to obtain, since those have to go to the cantonal office for a check.

Do you have any solution now?
Have you tried to fill out tje request form to “change destination of the appertment”?
You might get a woraround if you rent it as serviced appartment, but i think outside of construcion zone this also requies a permit.

EDIT: changed some misunderstanding on secondary residence. A home within the same building where the owner lives, count as primary residence if it is used by that family:

The following homes are deemed equivalent to principal homes:

homes that are permanently occupied by a private household that permanently occupies another home in the same building;

This has nothing to do with the secondary residence unfortunately, and that town has way less than 20% in any case.

Other local homeowners in the same town but within building zone can open Airbnb without problems, just a formality.

But not if you are outside of building zone, in homes built before the 70s for instance. There you cannot. So you have two similar homes, maybe just separated one km, and one can do it but the other cannot.

It is what it is. At least they are not needing that income desperately, but they invested a lot of energy and passion for nothing, caused by misinformed bureaucrats that told them it was ok.

There is worse in the world, but I thought to get the word out in case somebody wants to buy an old home somewhere outside building zone (eg old farm house) and make it an Airbnb as part of FIRE. Just really, really be careful.


Just rent it out anyway… do you really think they will check? just make sure to regularly pay the taxes on the income. The worst could be a fine…

yes in the past this may have worked. But in Ticino now in order to post on any online platform, you need an official ID number given to you by the Gemeinde & regional Turism office and this number MUST be placed on the online announcement. If an announcement doesn’t have the numbe must be taken down. They will be checking regularly because the regional turismo office needs to keep an eye open on the lodging possibilities in the region.

Ticino is the 6th canton with such a system, don’t know who are the others.

There is still hope noe that they could get an ID number anyhow if they rent out max 2 rooms (max 4 beds including baby cribs), because that doesn’t seem to require any “purpose” change of the home. We are looking what is possible now, will keep you posted.

The fact that you need a Baugesuch for change of purpose isnt caused by the construction date but simply because it is outside of the Bauzone.

After July 1972 by federal law they started to make a difference between Bauzone and nicht Bauzone. After that date it wasnt anymore possible to build „nicht Zonenkonforme“ buildings outside the Bauzone. That meant no more houses without agriculture outside Bauzone. So be lucky with the house built 1970, alternative would be probably no house on this location.

Canton Berne made A pretty good overview what the impacts are.

I would argue that the planned AirBnB thing has a lower impact on the environment.

  • less people living there
  • less car movements
    You can always talk to them and ask for their reasons. Maybe they give permission if you agree not to overpass a certain number of nights with your BB

Your tip is worth gold: before buying anything check if building permission exists and if there are any other limitations. And never forget to check in the Ă–REB Kataster, its free and tells you very much.