What is allowed in the stairwell?


Stairwells supposedly provide space for things that we’d rather not keep in our apartments, such as shoes, prams and bicycles. However, by law, these can only be left in the stairwell with the landlord’s consent.

Glance into any stairwell and you’ll often find some wellies and trainers piled up, paper and cardboard ready to be put out for collection or various tools stored in containers. Sound familiar? Doesn’t bother you?

That may be. However, the law’s opinion on leaving belongings in stairwells is clear: tenants are only allowed to store their belongings in one place – their apartment. They are not allowed to leave their belongings in the stairwell whenever they feel like it.

Safety in the stairwell – the following rules apply

While it might sound a little arbitrary, the rules are based on safety regulations. Swiss fire safety regulations stipulate that you should always be able to use stairwells as emergency escape or rescue routes. They must remain free of any objects, be safe to walk through and may not be used for any other purpose, other than as an entranceway to the apartments.

In many apartment buildings, stairwells are often the only emergency escape route. If there is a fire, the residents leave their apartment via the stairwell. Firefighters and paramedics also use the stairwell to get to where they need to go and do their job. In addition, leaving belongings lying around in the stairwell should be avoided as they can intensify fire or smoke. But what about your grandmother’s decorative, comfy armchair? Unfortunately, that’s not allowed.

Aside from the stairwell being free from objects, additional regulations also apply: surfaces must be non-flammable and the emergency escape route needs to be at least 1.20 metres wide. Defined fire compartments, which are built-in areas, prevent fire from spreading.

What can be left in the stairwell?

Doormats at the front door are generally tolerated, as are shoe racks made from a non-flammable material (up to 0.2 cubic metres).Pictures may also be hung up in the stairwell, as long as the minimum width of the emergency escape route is maintained.

If nobody minds, and provided the emergency escape route isn’t obstructed, the landlord can allow other belongings to be left in the stairwell. In this case, it’s usually best if these rules (as well as those for using the bicycle room or laundry room) are set out in a reasonable and objective set of house rules.

"Silently" agreeing to leaving belongings in the stairwell

Although tenants are only allowed to leave their belongings in the stairwell with the consent of the landlord, consent doesn’t have to be ‘expressly’ given, it can also be ‘silently’ given.

When the Meier kids’ shoes are left at the front door and the Müllers have put their yucca plant on the landing, this signals the landlord’s ‘silent’ agreement to tolerate shoes and plants in the stairwell. The landlord can always withdraw their consent due to fire regulations, or if the belongings are getting in the way of another tenant.

Political incorrectness in the stairwell?

Although it might go against our sense of justice, the landlord is not obliged to treat tenants equally. They might allow Lara’s pram to be kept in the stairwell on the first floor, but that doesn’t mean they will also be okay with your longboard lying around there, too.

If the landlord changes their mind about leaving belongings in the stairwell overnight, the tenants can then turn to customary law. If you cannot follow the regulations regarding leaving belongings in the stairwell, you shouldn’t just ignore them.

Terminating your contract because of this without first issuing a warning would be unlawful, but, if the tenant still doesn’t cooperate despite receiving warnings, the landlord can give notice. Such disputes are, however, a) discretionary and b) better off discussed with the landlord before the situation gets out of control.

Where can I store my pram, bicycle etc. if not in the stairwell?

It’s obvious that putting a pram in the narrow entrance of a stairwell can get in the way. But what should you do if there are no other places available to put bicycles, toys or similar items?

There is no easy answer. However, property is rented ‘as is’, which means if you didn’t see a bike rack for a tricycle during the viewing, you can’t demand that one is made available after moving into the apartment. This is why it’s worth asking questions about available storage spaces for prams and bicycles before you sign the rental contract for a new apartment.