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What you should take into account when handing over your apartment

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Moving out of a rental apartment is often connected with a look to the future and a new phase in life. But first you must look back – for the infamous apartment handover.

It’s not uncommon for exactly this situation after moving out to cause disputes between tenants and landlords. Our legal experts at AXA-ARAG explain what the rights and obligations of both parties are and what you should keep in mind during the apartment handover.

What does the apartment handover include?

During the apartment handover, the landlord examines the apartment very carefully: The state of the apartment is checked and documented. Are there defects or damage that were not present when you moved in? Does something have to be mended, renewed, or replaced? After going around all rooms of the property, the meter readings for water, gas, and electricity may have to be taken and noted. In this way, tenants can make sure they pay only what they actually used. Handing over the keys and signing the handover protocol form the end of the apartment handover appointment.

Did you know?

Landlords are not permitted to enter a rented property without the consent off the renting party. One exception: There is an imminent risk, by fire for example.

What a protocol for the apartment handover includes

An important element when handing over an apartment is the so-called handover protocol. This form documents the state of the rented property when you move out. It serves to create transparency and clarity between landlords and tenants. Both parties jointly document the state of the apartment. If they are in agreement on everything, then they both sign the protocol. Of course, the tenant cannot be blamed for defects that were already documented during the move into the apartment.

A handover protocol should include the following points:

  • Name of the parties involved
  • Details of the apartment
  • Date of the handover
  • Description of the apartment’s state
  • Damage and defects
  • Meter readings
  • Information on keys

It is important to describe the state of the apartment and defects in particular in detail. You should also take pictures of any damage. It is usually not necessary to involve legal counsel during an apartment handover. However, if you expect difficulties, the presence of an expert may be helpful. When you sign the handover protocol you undertake to pay for any damage indicated on the form.

Tip: Read through the protocol again carefully and only sign if you agree to everything.

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Rights and obligations when handing over an apartment

Regardless of whether you are the tenant or the landlord: In general, it is in the interest of both parties to end the rental relationship in an uncomplicated, conflict-free way. The apartment handover should contribute to this. But especially during this process there are often discussions about responsibilities. Who is responsible for what? Our list gives you clarity.

Tenant rights

  • An intact and clean apartment: The apartment you take over must be thoroughly clean and livable. If the apartment has damage or defects that cannot be attributed to normal wear and tear, then you have the right to repairs. In other words, your landlord must ensure that the previous tenant of the apartment leaves the apartment in a corresponding and usable state. 
  • Personal apartment handover: The handover is an important step to document the state of the apartment. For this reason, you have the right to such a handover – and not just when you move out: You are also entitled to this at the start of a new rental relationship. Use this important chance to respond to objections and express any questions or concerns you may have. In addition, as a tenant you are not obligated to be present during the handover. It is possible to be represented by a person you trust. Tip: If you find defects after you have moved in, make a list, including pictures, and send this by registered mail to the landlord within ten days of moving in. 
  • Repayment of rental deposit: The rental relationship ends as soon as the rental agreement has expired. Your rental deposit should then be paid back to you – at least if there are no open claims or damage to the rented apartment. If you still owe something, the landlord may keep the deposit for up to one year. Tip: After this time period has elapse, you can apply to your bank for payment of your deposit – even without the consent of the landlord.
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Tenant obligations

  • Proper handover of the apartment: If you move out of an apartment, you are obligated to leave it in an orderly state. An important point in this regard is cleanliness: The bathroom and kitchen in particular, as well as all other rooms including the shudders, blinds, and windows, must be thoroughly cleaned as well. In some cases, the rental agreement stipulates that the apartment can be handed over «broom clean». An external company is then hired to clean and the costs are charged to the tenant by the landlord in the form of a flat fee.
  • Rectification of defects and damage: According to Swiss rental law, you are obligated to maintain the state of your apartment during the rental term. Normal wear and tear must be accepted by the landlord, but not an excessive amount. If you are responsible for damage then you must repair it before moving out. You are also responsible for reversing any construction changes made to the apartment – unless you have agreed otherwise with the tenant. There are often uncertainties when it comes to who must pay for aesthetic repairs. Swiss rental law stipulates in Article 259: The tenant must remedy minor defects. They must only pay a share off the repair costs if there is excessive wear and tear.
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Landlord rights

  • Arranging an appointment for the handover: For landlords the apartment handover is also important because they can exclude or clarify liability. It is possible to set the appointment for the apartment handover in the rental agreement. However, an individual appointment is usually scheduled. The handover should take place on the last work day (including Saturdays) before the end of the rental agreement at the latest.  
  • Charging for repairs: Damage that exceed normal wear and tear must often be repaired professionally. Landlords can deduct the costs for this from the rental deposit. It is also your right to pass on the costs for a cleaning company if the apartment must be cleaned again. 

Landlord obligations

  • Compliance with deadlines: If the administration or landlord finds damage or defects during the apartment handover, the rental party must provide sufficient time for these to be remedied. They can only initiate legal action after a suitable time period has passed. The tenants can only be held liable if the landlord brings the damage to the tenants attention and explicitly asks for repair. But what about damage only detected after the apartment was handed over? In accordance with Art. 267a of the Swiss Code of Obligations, the previous rental party no longer bears responsibility for this. Exceptions include damages that «were not recognizable through usual inspection» (in german). They must be reported to the tenant immediately.
  • Being fair to the tenant: Landlords must accept normal wear and team and may not charge tenants for this. They are also obligated to take into account the generally accepted life span (in german) of flooring, wall and ceiling coverings as well as for appliances. This means that tenants may have to pay a percentage of the costs if the object has been amortized in part. After the expected life span has elapsed, replacement or renovation is solely the responsibility of the landlord.

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