EXPLAINED: What you need to know about rental deposits in Switzerland
When you rent a flat or a house in Switzerland, you will have to put down an agreed-upon sum for your landlord as a form of security against damages and other mishaps.
A rental deposit is not a specifically Swiss thing — this form of down payment is required in many other countries as well when renting a dwelling.
This is how it works in Switzerland:
How much is the rental deposit?
The amount is spelled out in your lease, and can vary from one, two, or three months' rent.
However, the landlord can’t ask you to put down more than the equivalent of three months' rent.
Depending on your monthly rent, the deposit can add up to a tidy sum, so make sure you have that amount ready before you sign the contract — you will need to transfer the deposit to your landlord before the beginning of the tenancy; otherwise, you may not get the keys to the flat.
Where is this money kept?
You can be sure that your landlord can’t spend this money or use it for their own purposes.
By law, it is placed in a special account in a bank and is untouchable before you move out.
Not only that, but your landlord must let you know the name of the bank where your deposit is being held, so there is no secrecy (banking or otherwise) surrounding the whereabouts of this money.
Each year, according to Comparis consumer website, “the tenant receives an account statement listing the interest accrued and fees charged – which are usually paid by the landlord, although the tenant may be charged up to 50 francs per year".
So this is something you should keep in mind as well.
Will you ever get the deposit money back?
That depends on the state of your apartment when you move out.
If you leave your flat in an impeccable condition (which is difficult to do, especially if you have kids and / or pets), then the money will be refunded to you in its entirety, usually within 30 days.
More likely than not, your apartment will need some work before it can be re-let to another tenant. However, this doesn’t mean you (or, more specifically, your rental deposit), will have to pay for it.
The rule is that if damages are in line with ordinary use — for instance, the carpet is worn down — it is up to the landlord to replace or clean it.
But if the damage goes beyond the ‘normal’ wear and tear — like a cigarette burn in the carpet — then the landlord is justified in using the rent deposit money for repairs.
The extent of the damage is assessed during the inventory of the flat that is done by landlord and tenant once all the furniture is removed.
A list of damages, as well as their cost, is then established. You can decide if you will do all the necessary repairs yourself and bring the apartment up to snuff, or the landlord will use the deposit money for this purpose.
If the repairs don’t exceed the amount of the deposit, you will receive the remainder back; if they do, you will have to pay the rest.
Are there options other than rental deposits?
The alternative to the bank deposit is the security deposit insurance, which would pay for any damages in the end.
A number of insurance companies offer this option, for an annual fee typically equivalent to 5 percent of the deposit.
However, it is up to your landlord to decide whether they will accept this insurance in lieu of a rental deposit.