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Moving without any nasty surprises

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After terminating their rentals, tenants of residential or commercial properties are sometimes confronted with excessive demands from their landlord. Being aware of the legal provisions can help you prepare better – and hence defend yourself.

A move to a new property is usually planned to the last detail. But it's also advisable to consider some important aspects on handing over the old apartment or commercial premises. This will prevent conflicts with the landlord and any unwelcome surprises.

Minor repairs and replacement of small objects: responsibility of the tenant

Apartments and commercial premises must generally be cleaned before you hand them over. A "good sweep" is only allowed if agreed in the contract or agreed in advance with the landlord. That'll generally suffice if the apartment or commercial premises is due to be renovated or converted prior to the next tenancy. Small repairs that you can carry out yourself without the need for specialist expertise are to be carried out by the tenant. Small maintenance of this sort includes the tightening of screws and the plastering over of holes left by nails and screws. Small items that are damaged such as a broken tooth glass, a worn shower hose, or a scratched baking sheet must be replaced by the tenant – even if the present value has fallen to zero. Purchasing these items in advance of the move on one's own initiative can save tiresome discussions during the handover of the apartment or commercial premises.

Normal wear and tear: included in the rent

For both apartments and commercial premises: Normal wear and tear is covered by the monthly rental payment. The departing tenant only has to pay the costs of rectifying damage/loss that has arisen during the tenancy due to excessive wear and tear or through carelessness. And only the damage/loss that the landlord points out during the handover has to be compensated by the departing tenant. The landlord has no right to submit claims for any defects (s)he fails to specify at the time of the handover. In any case, the costs to be assumed are based on the present value of the items concerned. Details on this can be found in the lifespan table, published jointly by the Swiss Tenants' Association (MV) and the Swiss homeowners' association (HEV). If the damaged item has already exceeded its normal lifespan according to the lifespan table, the replacement costs are to be borne by the landlord – even if the loss/damage is pointed out during the handover.

Handover protocol: protection for both parties

The handover protocol is a record of the damaged items to be paid for by the tenant and any further tasks or costs – for example, an additional clean or small repair work. This protocol is used by the landlord in drawing up the final invoice and should therefore be checked carefully. In case of doubt, the tenant can apply a restriction or refuse to sign the protocol. Loss/damage listed in a protocol signed by both parties is considered to be accepted.

What you need to know:

  • Small maintenance work and the replacement of small objects are the responsibility of the tenant. 
  • Normal wear and tear is included in the rent. 
  • The costs for excessive wear and tear and any loss/damage need only be assumed if they are correctly pointed out at the time of the handover. 
  • The costs for replacements and damage repair are based on the normal lifespan of the object concerned. 
  • Examine the handover protocol carefully and apply a restriction if necessary – or refuse to sign it. 

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