What is included in a rental agreement?


The rental agreement is signed before you move into your new home. According to the Swiss Code of Obligations, it must comply with certain provisions, but otherwise there is room for flexibility. The rental agreement doesn’t even need to be made in writing, although this is recommended. Here we look at everything that you need to include.

What needs to be included in a rental agreement

The rental agreement sets out the rights and obligations of the two contracting parties – the tenant and the landlord. The following points should be included in a complete rental agreement:

  • Description of rental property
    • Including description of any adjoining spaces, e.g. a garage or laundry room
  • Rental start date
  • Rental period (limited or unlimited)
  • Termination conditions
  • Net rent and service charges
  • Security deposits, e.g. rental deposit or security for rent
  • Special agreements

What to bear in mind before you sign the rental agreement

Before you sign a rental agreement, you must read it carefully. The contract will be long and details may be hidden. Certain points deserve special attention:

  • Does your rental agreement prohibit subletting?
    This prohibition is invalid. According to the law, you must be able to sub-let in principle. However, you must let the landlord know who the subtenant is and how much rent this person will be paying.
  • Is there a partial termination clause?
    If you rent an apartment with friends or a partner, you should have a partial termination clause built into the rental agreement. This means that individual parties can simply opt out of the contract without undue complications.
  • Is the benchmark interest rate specified in the rental agreement?
    You can find the current benchmark interest rate on the website of the Federal Office for Housing. If the rental agreement does not state the current interest rate, you should ask the landlord why.
  • How is the notice period regulated?
    There is usually a period of three months to the end of the six-month period, to the local termination dates or to the end of the month.
  • Are service charges included in the rental price?
    In Switzerland, service charges are usually included in the stated rental price, but you should double-check whether this is stated in the rental agreement.
  • How much is the rental deposit?
    The rental deposit cannot be more than three months’ rent.

General questions about rental agreements

Can I sub-let my apartment?

You must obtain the landlord’s consent if you want to sub-let the apartment. Ideally, this should be done in writing in advance. The rental agreement may stipulate the form that such a request should take. You must share the following information about your subtenant with the rental company:

  • Personal details
  • Rent
  • Rooms concerned
  • Special conditions

Approval for subletting may only be refused in three cases:

  • If the tenant refuses to disclose the terms of the sublease
  • If the tenant makes a profit from the sublease (i.e. the rent for the sublease is higher than the original rent)
  • If such subletting would cause major disadvantages to the landlord, e.g. if the rented property is misused. This would be the case, for instance, if an apartment were used as a band rehearsal studio.

What is the limit for a rental deposit?

The rental deposit must not exceed three months’ rent. This amount is deposited in a bank account, which must be in the tenant’s name.

An alternative is rental deposit insurance, which many banks and insurance companies offer. They take over your deposit, and you transfer them an annual premium in return. However, the Tenants’ Association advises against taking out this kind of rental deposit insurance. The deposit must be returned to you when the tenancy ends – including any interest that it has accrued. With rental deposit insurance, you do not get this repayment.

Is smoking permitted in my apartment?

Smoking is generally permitted in rented apartments. This applies even if the tenant has agreed to a ban on smoking when they signed the rental agreement. According to the current legal opinion, imposing a smoking ban through the rental agreement constitutes a violation of personal rights, so it is non-binding. However, you have to be considerate of your neighbours, otherwise you risk a fine. You will also have to pay for any damage caused by smoking. 

N.B.: When you move out, you will have to pay for the cost of rectifying any smoking-related damage to paint that has not been written off, and for anti-nicotine treatment of ceilings and walls. Personal liability insurance does not cover damage caused by cigarette smoke.

Basic rules for keeping pets

The rental agreement may state that pets are banned. If not, hamsters, budgerigars and other unobjectionable small animals are allowed as long as there are not too many of them and they do not give rise to complaints. Ornamental fish are also allowed as long as the installation of their aquarium does not require any interference with the building structure. Dogs and cats are allowed unless otherwise stated in the rental agreement. For all other animals, the rental company must issue written permission. If in doubt, it is a good idea to ask the rental company.

Basic rules for playing music

You are allowed to play music in a rental apartment for two or three hours a day outside of the statutory quiet periods, provided that you are considerate of the neighbours and aren’t playing the drums. This right cannot be restricted by a rental agreement or house rules.