damage rented home insurance

Damages to Rental Homes – Who Pays for What?

January 6, 2023 - Raphael Knecht

What damages to a rented apartment or house do you as a renter have to cover in Switzerland? How much can you be held liable for? Get informed in this moneyland.ch guide.

Stains on the carpet, a cracked sink, or a child’s scribbles on the wall: so-called renters’ damages can happen very quickly. When you want to repair the damages or move out of your rented home, you will likely ask yourself whether you will have to pay for the losses.

Which costs are insured, and which do you as a renter have to pay for? Could you lose your rental security deposit? This guide from moneyland.ch gives you the information you need when dealing with damages to your rented home.

Personal liability insurance

Rental damages are normally covered by your personal liability insurance, if you have one. Contact your insurance as soon as possible after damages occur. That also applies to claims from your landlord which you feel are not justified. One of the services provided by personal liability insurance is fending off unwarranted liability claims.

Personal liability insurance does not only cover repairs when you move out of your rental home. Damages which occur while you are living in your rental home are also covered, when your landlord holds you liable to pay for them.

The insurance company will generally require detailed information about the damages and how they occurred. Required information normally includes:

  • Information about the damaged property, including photographs.
  • Information about how and when the damage occurred, and who was responsible for it.
  • A cost breakdown from your landlord or property manager detailing the repair costs and the portion of costs for which you as the renter are liable.

You can generally report the damages online or over the phone. The procedure for filing claims can be found on your insurer’s website, or in your insurance documents.


Even if your personal liability insurance covers the costs of repairs, you may still have to cover part of the costs yourself. This coinsurance is normally 200 or 500 francs per claim, although some Swiss insurers offer 0-franc deductible models as well. As a general rule, the lower the deductible is, the higher the insurance premium you have to pay for your insurance is.

Gross negligence

Some damages occur as a result of gross negligence. For example, if a burning candle is left unattended, this is considered gross negligence. Your insurer has the right to pay less than they would otherwise be required to cover. In this case, you have to pay more of the costs out of your own pocket.

Swiss insurance companies generally offer gross negligence waivers as an optional rider for personal liability insurance. You pay a markup on your insurance premium for this rider, but you can rest assured that benefits will not be slashed when damages occur due to gross negligence.

Damages inflicted over long timeframes

Most personal liability insurance offers only cover damages which occur suddenly. They deliberately exclude damages inflicted over long periods of time. For example, if mold damage occurs as a result of your failing to properly ventilate, this generally will not be covered by personal liability insurance. The same applies to damages caused by smoking.

Long-term damages should not be confused with normal wear and tear (more on this below). You as the renter are liable to pay for extraordinary damages which you inflict (by smoking, for example). Standard wear and tear which results from normal use over long periods of time are not your responsibility as a renter.


Security deposit

If you do not have personal liability insurance, or if certain damages are not covered by your insurance, you will have to pay yourself. If you put down a security deposit when you rented your home, the landlord can demand to use all or part of this to cover the cost of repairs when you move out. They have to present you with a cost breakdown. The bank will only pay out money from your security deposit account if one of these criteria is met:

  • Both you and your landlord agree that demands are justified. Even if you or your insurance covers all repairs and you will get your full deposit back, both yours and your landlord’s consent is required before the bank can pay out the money.
  • There is a legal summons or court order which instructs the bank to pay out all or part of the security deposit to cover justified demands.
  • The landlord does not take legal action to claim payment for damages within one year. After one year, the bank becomes authorized to pay out the security deposit to you as the renter without the landlord’s consent.

The above-stated rules apply throughout Switzerland. Individual cantons may have additional rules governing security deposits.

Security deposit insurance

The rules are normally exactly the same when you use a security deposit insurance instead of a bank account. The insurance will only pay out money to your landlord if both of you agree to it, or if your landlord can provide a legal summons or order which justifies their demands.

Important: Security deposit insurance is not personal liability insurance. It advances money to your landlord to cover your damages, but you have to repay the money to the insurance company. So it protects your landlord rather than you as a renter,

Security deposit insurance only covers the amount stated in the insurance policy. If the cost of damages is higher than that amount, your landlord will have to demand the rest directly from you.

Swiss security deposit insurance providers give you the option of repaying the advances paid out to landlords in a series of installment payments. The size of installments may vary depending on your specific situation. In most cases, you are not charged interest on the installment plan unless you fail to make payments. Some insurers charge you an additional administrative fee when they pay out benefits to your landlord.

If you do not pay your installment payments on time, you will receive a late-payment reminder. If you fail to make the payment after this reminder, the insurer will file a debt collection case. All security deposit insurance providers charge interest in this case.


Residual value

If part of your rental home – a carpet or sink, for example – needs to be replaced, you as the renter generally do not have to cover the full replacement value yourself. This is true even if you are responsible for the damages. Just like with car leasing, the cost of repairing or replacing objects making up a home is calculated based on their residual value. The lifespan charts published by the Swiss renters’ association in collaboration with the Swiss homeowners’ association form the basis for calculations. You can find copies of these on the association’s website.

For example, under normal conditions, the lifespan of a standard white interior paint job should be eight years. After that period, the home should theoretically be repainted at the landlord’s expense. If a wall has to be repainted after just six years due to excessive wear and tear by you as the renter, then you have to pay 25 percent of the housepainter’s bill – or one-fourth of the total cost.

If, on the other hand, your children make a mess of a wall which was painted more than eight years before the claim is made, you do not have to pay anything at all. The paint job is due for renewal and has no residual value.


In some cases, damages you inflict will not be repaired at all. For example, replacing a whole sink just because it has a crack or chip may not be considered necessary, if the damage does not impede on its functionality. If the residual value of the sink is still relatively high, your landlord may demand compensation for the loss of value resulting from the damages. In this case, they may leave the sink in place without repair or replacement, while continuing to rent out the property. The amount of compensation you have to pay for the lost value cannot exceed the residual value of the damaged property, or the cost of repairs.

Normal wear and tear

Normal wear and tear is not classified as renter damages and your landlord has to carry this loss of value. Normal wear and tear includes, for example, color differences between the parts of a wall exposed to light and those hidden behind furniture. Holes drilled in walls for the purpose of fastening or hanging furnishings are also generally classified as normal wear and tear, as long as the number of holes is modest and you fill them in with plaster before moving out.

Repairs made necessary by normal wear and tear rarely occur while you are renting a home. It is assumed that under normal use, all parts of a home should last for the lifespans set out by the renter’s association, or longer.

Even when an item’s lifespan has expired, it may continue to be used for many years without being replaced or renovated, if that would be unnecessary. You cannot demand that your landlord replace items just because they have no more residual value.

Minor maintenance

You as the renter are responsible for minor maintenance, regardless of who is responsible for damage, and how old the property is. Minor maintenance includes repairs and maintenance which can be easily performed without the help of a qualified professional. You also have to cover the cost of minor spare parts like fuses and light bulbs. Minor maintenance is not covered by personal liability insurance.

In some cases, your rental agreement may include a cost threshold for minor maintenance. Maintenance costs which fall below this threshold must be covered out of your own pocket. There is no specific legal limitation on how high this threshold can be, but it must be relatively low. Typically, you should only have to cover maintenance costs which do not exceed 150 francs. If repairs require skilled craftsmen, you only have to pay for them if you inflicted the damages.

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Editor Raphael Knecht
Raphael Knecht was an analyst and a specialized editor at moneyland.ch until the end of February 2023. Since then, he is supporting the editorial team as a freelancer.
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