In Switzerland you as a renter will normally be expected to put down a deposit on your rental home. Your deposit is placed in a so-called rental deposit savings account, also known as a rental surety savings account. Depositing this money in a personal bank account or appropriating it for any other use is not an option.
Rental deposits: An untouchable asset
A rental deposit savings account is untouchable. Your money remains in the account for the entire duration of the rental period, and you will not be able to touch it without getting a green light from your landlord.
What you can access whenever you choose are the annual yields earned on the money deposited in the account.
Your deposit should be made available to you within 30 days of your rental contract’s expiry. That is, of course, as long as there aren’t any damages or rental payments that need to be covered.
Any disputes between you and your landlord regarding the repayment of your rental deposit can be brought before the arbitration office for settlement. If your former landlord fails to repay your deposit within 1 year from the time your rental agreement expires, the money will automatically be returned to you as the renter. That means you will receive unrestricted access to your deposit 1 year after the termination of your rental contract, even without your former landlord’s consent.
Rental deposits: The limits
A rental deposit serves as a safety buffer which a landlord can fall back on to cover unpaid rental dues or additional charges, and damages to the property caused by the renter. But the maximum deposit you as a renter can be expected to put down should never be more than 3 months worth of rent. Your deposit is covered by deposit protection, up to a 100,000 franc cap.
The landlord picks the account
The choice of which bank your deposit will be held at goes to the landlord, rather than the renter. But you have every right to suggest using a different bank if your landlord’s pick doesn’t suit your style. The rental deposit savings account can be opened either by the renter or the landlord.
Comparing interest rates across rental deposit savings accounts
As with regular savings accounts, the interest you earn through a rental deposit savings account varies from bank to bank. Generally, interest rates will either be equal to those of regular savings accounts, or slightly lower. Banks excuse the lower rates by citing the higher administrative costs involved in closing the account at the end of a rental period.
Deposit savings rates at leading Swiss banks (as of: November 2018):
Securities as rental deposits?
From a legal perspective, you also have the option of covering your deposit with a securities deposit. Before you opt for a securities-based rental deposit, make sure you understand that it brings both a higher chance of gain and a greater risk of loss.
Rental deposits: The cost
Many banks won’t charge you to open, maintain and close a rental deposit savings account. However, there are banks which deduct postal charges (normally one category B postal delivery per year).
Several banks also charge an administrative fee for the transfer of your deposit. For example, if you bank with the Zürcher Kantonalbank (ZKB) and need to transfer money to a rental deposit savings account at a different bank, you will pay a 20 franc transfer fee.
In keeping with universal fee hikes across the banking sector, some banks have even begun to charge maintenance fees for rental deposit accounts.
Savings accounts compared