Rules and regulations

Still waiting to get your rental deposit back? Here's what to do

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Tenants moving into a new apartment often depend on their rental deposit being paid back as soon as possible. Source: iStock

The good news is that there are ways for tenants to reduce the time it takes to recover their rental deposit. But just how can you ensure your money is returned to you as quickly as possible?

Most of the time, the process of paying back a rental deposit is quick and straightforward – but there are cases in which tenants have to wait for up to year to receive their money, because the landlord refuses to release it. In this article, comparis.ch explains the legal avenues open to both parties in the event of a dispute.

Do rental deposits have to be released straight away?

A rental deposit is essentially a form of security for the landlord, intended to cover any rental fees which may still be outstanding after a tenant has vacated their property or any damages caused by the tenant which have to be repaired. However, if neither of the above apply, the landlord is required to release the rental deposit, including any interest accrued, without delay. Thirty days is generally considered an adequate period of time for the landlord to make the necessary arrangements.

No damages, no outstanding bills – and no sign of your money?

The bank must have received the account closure form, signed by the tenant and the landlord, in order to then release the deposit and transfer it back to the tenant. Should the landlord fail to sign the form, despite having confirmed that the property was handed over in perfect condition, the tenant should contact the landlord immediately in writing to request that the funds be released. The letter should include details of the savings account in question, the amount of the rental deposit and the required deadline, and should be sent by registered post. If the landlord still fails to release the funds, the conciliation authorities can intervene.

Are there any cases in which the rental deposit may be retained, and if so, for how long?

The landlord has the right to have any damages caused by the tenant repaired once that tenant has vacated their property. They are also entitled to wait until they have the bill for the repairs before arranging for the rental deposit to be released and sending the final bill to the tenant. Three months is considered sufficient time for landlords to complete this step The final bill must include any amounts that have been deducted from the deposit. The tenant also has the right to inspect any bills should they wish. Any objections the tenant has to the final bill must be submitted to the landlord in writing.

Twelve months on, time’s up

If you did not object to any items on the final bill, you signed the account closure form to receive your rental deposit, minus repair costs, but are still waiting for your money, now is the time to act. It is important to contact the bank’s legal department, the Swiss Tenants Association or the conciliation authority as soon as possible. According to Swiss law, once 12 months have elapsed, tenants may instruct the bank to unfreeze the savings account and release the funds without the landlord’s consent – provided the landlord has not initiated debt recovery or other legal action against the tenant.

There are many ways to speed up the process of getting your rental deposit back:

  • Play it safe: According to Swiss law, the rental deposit must be held in a rental surety savings account. A tenant should insist on this before occupying a property, given the obvious risks associated with a landlord keeping or using the money themselves.
  • Have your landlord sign a declaration approving the transfer on the day of the handover: The landlord may be willing to approve the return of your deposit in writing when they come to inspect the property before you move out – either for the full amount or with a few deductions for minor damages.
  • Send the account closure form to the bank: The account closure form, signed by the tenant and the landlord, should be sent to the bank immediately after the tenant has vacated the property. It is also recommended that you enclose a property handover document and confirmation of the end of the tenancy agreement.
  • Make a note of all important deadlines: After three months, any repairs should have been completed and the tenant should have received the final bill. Once twelve months have elapsed, the tenant can also contact the bank to request that the funds be returned to them without the landlord’s consent.
  • Use the support available to you: The bank’s legal department, the Swiss Tenants Association and the conciliation authority will all be able to provide advice and information on legal matters. They can also act as intermediaries between tenant and landlord to settle any disputes as quickly as possible.