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Handing over an apartment: what damage does the tenant have to pay for?

If the walls need painting, the cost has to be borne either by the landlord or the tenant, depending on the extent of wear and tear. Source: iStock / hanohiki

There are several things to watch out for when moving into or out of a rented apartment so as to avoid unpleasant surprises. What damage has to be paid for by the tenant, and what by the landlord?

Agree a clear date for the handover

By law, a rented property has to be given back on the last day of the notice period, but this is often also explicitly noted in the contract or can be agreed with the manager on an individual basis to suit you. If you know in good time when the handover will take place, you can prepare yourself and find out about the following points.

Draw up an apartment handover document

When you move in you should note any existing damage in an apartment handover document, also known as a damage document. Ideally, you should also take photographs. That way, when you move out you can prove what damage did not occur while you were the tenant. You should definitely ensure that the handover document is consulted again when you move out, and that any new damage is recorded correctly.

Wear and tear – assessing damage

A fundamental distinction is made between normal and excessive wear and tear. Sometimes it is hard to draw the line and an individual decision has to be made. Damage arising from normal wear and tear does not have to be paid for by the tenant, whereas damage caused by excessive wear and tear does. Liability insurance may apply though. Don't hesitate to report any damage to the insurance company.


Normal wear and tear: normal wear and tear covers minor damage caused by daily use. This includes, for example, nail and screw holes in the walls, provided these are properly filled in and not too numerous, marks left on the walls by pictures and furniture, faded wallpapers, etc. Such damage does not have to be made good by the tenant; this is a matter for the landlord.

Excessive wear: damage caused by excessive wear and tear includes, for example, deep scratches in parquet, stained carpets and essentially any damage that goes beyond normal wear and tear. According to the Swiss Tenants Association, the following rule of thumb applies: anywhere you have to admit you “had a little mishap”, that's where excessive wear and tear starts. Such damage has to be paid for by the tenant. Only the current value though, not replacement value. It's therefore worth consulting a lifespan table, such as the one from the Tenants Association (in German only).

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