When handing over an apartment to the landlord, disagreements or even disputes might arise. In such a case it’s recommended you call in the help of an arbitrator from the community or a representative of a tenants’ association.
To avoid such disagreements, you should bring along to the handover the initial inventory and condition report prepared when you moved in. In this way both you and the landlord can easily establish which defects already existed in the apartment when you moved in.
Service life table
Prior to the apartment handover, it can be helpful to consult a service life table. In this way you have an overview of the service life of the most important appliances and systems in the apartment.
The basic principle is that damage within the scope of «normal wear and tear» must not be taken care of by the tenant. The tenant is liable only for damage which arises through negligent use of the rental property. Such things include, for example, doors and walls scratched up by pets.
Take preventative measures
In a brand new apartment you should also take preventative measures immediately and prepare a detailed incoming inventory and condition report which lists every defect.
During the handover
Inventory and condition report
What must you pay attention to when filling out an inventory and condition report? A checklist taken from the advice book «Mietrecht» (Tenancy Law) by the Swiss consumer magazine Beobachter can help with regard to this question.
by Peter Zihlmann and Martin Jakob
Both landlord associations and renter’s associations have published report forms. Large real estate companies sometimes also use forms they create themselves.
In any case, when filling out a form, be aware of the following rules: For every item where you have no objection, check it off.
Be precise when describing deficiencies (don’t say «spots on living room wall» but rather «grease spot, approx. 10 cm, on living room wall between the balcony door and the window»).
Also make a record of disagreements in the event they cannot be remedied during the apartment handover (tenant: «Oven unusable because of heavy burnt-on layers »; landlord: «Oven – normal condition after 10 years of use, operational»).
Where necessary, add limitations to liability clauses («The tenant acknowledges the damages listed above and promises to pay for the corresponding repairs»; added by the tenant: «except for the oven»).
Retain a copy of the completed report signed by both parties.
If the report contains incorrect or inaccurate statements, the tenant can refuse to sign it. The same holds if, by signing it, he would be obliged to pay for damages for which he does not believe he is liable. The landlord will then make his claims before the conciliation authorities.
If no damage is found for which the tenant is responsible, at the conclusion of the report he should demand the inclusion of a statement that releases the rental deposit.
The more detailed the takeover protocol is, the better. When moving out, it helps to have a detailed inventory and condition report which shows which defects were already there at the time of occupancy.
Be sure the inventory and condition report contains a list of all defects which is as detailed as possible. Standard preprinted forms make it easy to systematically check all the areas in the apartment. You should never be shy about determining the extent of the defects at each location during the inspection.
Record every detail!
Even small things (such as scratches or dented corners) should be documented. Don’t forget to check all the doors, windows, locks, fans, cooktop hobs, drains and the seals on taps.
Has all the work been carried out which might have been promised by the party renting out the apartment when you signed the rental contract? Once everything has been written down (don’t forget the attic, basement storage area, garage, balcony and secondary rooms!), both parties sign the completed report.
Keep the report in a safe place
The tenant must be given a duplicate copy (put it in a safe place). You can get blank inventory and condition forms from the Swiss Tenants’ Association.
If an inventory and condition report was filled out upon termination of the previous tenancy, the party renting out the property must make this available to the incoming tenant for examination upon request.
If at the apartment handover there are any defects which the incoming tenant must take care of at his own cost during the rental period (so-called small repairs), they must be put into proper condition by the property manager at the beginning of the rental period.
If the property manager refuses to document existing defects at the start of the rental period, you can put together a list of defects yourself and send this to the property manager immediately using registered mail. It’s worthwhile to determine the extent of defects and document them in detail.
If larger amounts of money are involved, you can also arrange to have an «official report» prepared. You can find the responsible department at your local municipal offices. The costs are set according to the amount of time expended and are to be borne by the party who commissioned the report.
Defects discovered later
If defects are first discovered only later despite a thorough check when taking over the apartment, you should immediately send the property manager a corresponding list using registered mail. The customary or contractual period to file a notice of defects is sometimes very short (as a rule, 10 to 30 days).
It is important that you list all defects exactly, even those that are not much of a bother. In this way you can, for example, document in writing which defects you would like to have taken care of and which you are reporting «for the sake of completeness». The idea behind this step is to avoid taking on liability for «inherited» defects.