Trash disposal: Rights and obligations


This article will tell you everything tenants and landlords need to know about trash disposal and recycling.

Functioning and proper trash disposal need everybody’s combined efforts. Including those of the tenant and landlord. It is high time for a ruling on the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords regarding trash disposal.

Trash disposal: Rights and obligations
Image: Vuilnis, Wikicommons

There is nothing more disgusting than a bag of garbage rotting for days in the hallway. Or to have bags of bulky household trash sitting in front of your house day after day. What are the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords?

According to figures from Swissrecycling, the recycling rate in Switzerland is 52%. This is an excellent rate in the European environment, but certainly no reason for complacency or to rest on one’s laurels. Certain types of recycling (e.g., disposing of batteries) have a lot of room for improvement in order to significantly increase the recycling rate.

Tenant Rights and Obligations

Renters are required to pay their own trash bag fees or for their own trash bag stamps. This helps fund the majority of the trash pick-up costs. Those who fail to do so risk having to pay fines. Depending on the canton, trash inspectors check whether trash is illegal, and issue fines accordingly. This also applies to trash that has been set out too soon.

According to the Tenant and Landlord Association, tenants must pay to cover the following costs that landlords incur (these costs are above and beyond the utilities costs).

  • The fee share for those costs that the landlord incurs for providing the trash dumpster. Note: Paying this annual fee to  management does not absolve the tenant of the obligation of paying the trash bag fee. Tenants still have to pay the fee for the trash bags/stamps.
  • Green trash disposal: Landlords can even pass these types of costs on to tenants—but this is a controversial issue.

What many people do not know: the staircase is not part of the rented apartment and may not be used for intermediate storage of stinking trash (unless the lease allows this).

Tenants are responsible for disposing of glass, paper, cardboard, electronic trash, etc. themselves. Broken panes of glass and light bulbs should not be placed in the glass trash collection, but should rather be placed in their proper collection or in the regular household garbage.

Depending on the municipality, there are various disposal centers for bulky household trash, hazardous trash, etc. Go to the website page for an overview. Tenants need to get smart about these issues.

Depending on the municipality, cardboard and paper are either collected separately (in normal situations) or mixed (e.g., in the case of commercial “garbage collectors”).

PET, batteries, textiles, glass, electrical trash, oil and other chemicals, etc. will be collected at trash pick-up centers (often at the points of sale). You can get this or other related information at your municipal offices.

Landlord Rights and Obligations

  • Landlords have to pay for the cost of clearing-out actions themselves. They cannot legally pass these costs onto the tenant.
  • Disposing of public discarded garbage/bulky refuse may not be passed on to the residents.
  • If tenants put their trash out on the street too early, the landlord is only allowed go through that trash for clues as to the disposal company under the following conditions: all tenants in that apartment house have agreed to this procedure and the cantonal laws allow it.
  • Landlords who provide dumpsters must secure them (this includes a lock, monitoring). Often, the threat of a camera surveillance or a dummy camera is enough to reduce dumping of public garbage.