Duplicate key for the landlord – allowed or not?


Are landlords allowed to have a duplicate key for their temant’s home? The legal situation is clear. Whoever rents an apartment has no right to retain a key to the flat. Tenants, on the other hand, have good reasons to deposit a duplicate key anyway.

In the movie „Duplex,“ Ben Stiller as Alex and Drew Barrymore as Nancy experience a living nightmare: An elderly lady lives in the same house and is always unwelcome in her four walls. At night, she turns her TV to full volume and during the day she makes use of the two. Does this happen ony to American actors in a movie taking place in New York? Naturally. However, it does not hurt to think about whether somebody should have a second key to your home.

Duplicate key for the landlord – allowed or not?

All keys to the renter

The answer to the question whether the landlady or landlord should retain a dupliate key is short and sweet: No! The „Tenants Association“ refers to articles 253 and 257h of the Swiss Code of Obligations as legal bases. If you rent an apartment, it belongs to your privacy and nobody else has uninvited access to the home. Therefore, the landlord must hand over to the tenant or tenants all apartment keys or master key. When handing over the keys, it is worthwhile to take a closer look. Because even you as tenant have the obligation to return all keys given to you at the end of the tenancy. It is best to note on the rental agreement how many keys you have received! If the number of keys is not sufficient, you must ask the landlord for permission to have one or more keys made. Then you as tenant assume the costs incurred.

No visits without invitation – except in case of emergency

Thus, landlord or landlady may not just stop by. Access to the apartment must be granted only for maintenance or in an emergency. Examples are fire or water pipe break. In such case, however, both fire department as well as the landlord may enter or break into the apartment without asking – key or not and at your expense. Pending maintenance work, such as a heating control or repairing joints in the bathroom, must of course be carried out, but always at a time agreed with you by appointment. Have you decided to move out? Then you are obliged to allow the landlord to show your apartment to potential tenants – again by appointment and at reasonable times of the day. At eleven o’clock in the evening, you do not have to show your apartment to anyone.

Don’t jump to conclusions

A landlord has no right to visit his tenant spontaneously. If the former enters an apartment without prior agreement, he commits trespass and makes himself liable to prosecution. If you learn the landlord has retained a key, you have the right to claim it. In both cases, you can go to court. But do not jump to conclusions: False accusations make you punishable in turn.

Deposit a second key with a person you trust

Sometimes it may make sense to deposit a key with a trusted person, for example during a long absence or in the event you can no longer find your own key. This person should be easily accessible. For this purpose, it is best to put the key in an envelope, close it and sign it over the flap. This way you can see at first glance whether the key was needed or not. Your landlady is very nice and lives right upstairs? Very welll! Then, of course, she can be your person of trust, and you’ve won the lottery right away.