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What to do if the tenant does not pay?

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Tenant does not pay – For landlords, rent is an important source of income. Missing payments are therefore not only annoying, but also financially significant. Here we look at how you can take action within a short space of time with the help of so-called “fast tenancy law”. This ranges from a reminder to extraordinary termination. In this article, we also tell you how to proceed in extreme cases, what formal errors you should avoid when giving notice and how you can avoid defaulting tenants altogether in future.


Within what period must the tenant pay?


Before you get annoyed about a missed payment, you should first check the applicable deadlines. According to §257c of the Swiss Code of Obligations, tenants are in arrears if they do not pay the rent on time at the end of the month.

In this case, the tenant is therefore automatically in default. However, it is important that there are no other provisions in the tenancy agreement (such as a quarterly rent for commercial premises).

Although the tenant is automatically in default, you must send a reminder for the rent in arrears so that the default is official. Otherwise, it will be difficult to prove that you are in the right if you have to go to court. Do not wait too long with the reminder and also set a default interest rate, which according to the law may be up to 5% of the amount due.

Incidentally, there is also a case in which the tenant does not actually have to pay the rent: This applies if the property has a defect that you have to rectify. As long as this has not been done, the tenant must deposit the rent with an office designated by the canton. The tenant must also initiate proceedings to reduce the rent.

Also remember that the security deposit of three months’ rent may not be used to cover outstanding rent. You may not access the deposit account at all without authorization.


What is the “fast rent law” for defaulting tenants?


So if you fail to pay the rent without good reason, tenancy law is strict: after a reminder in which you set a payment deadline of 30 days, you can terminate the tenancy by way of extraordinary termination. This can be done within a further 30 days.

This so-called “fast tenancy law” therefore allows you to evict defaulting tenants within two months. It is important that you adhere strictly to the deadlines set for this. There are also formal errors to avoid, which you can find out more about below.

We would also like to point out that you do not necessarily have to initiate termination proceedings despite being in default. Outstanding rent is often an honest mistake. If you have a good relationship with the tenant, you can contact them first.

Sometimes tenants also announce that they would like to pay a little later. You can, but do not have to accept this. In any case, make sure to document such agreements in writing to safeguard yourself in the event of any difficulties.


How do I deal with tenants who are unwilling to pay?


If tenants are unwilling to pay, it is important that you follow a set procedure to demand payment of the rent and, in extreme cases, to give notice. The following steps are important:

  • Demand the outstanding amount in writing and set a deadline of 30 days; the threat of termination should also be included in this document, which is best sent by registered mail.
  • If the tenant does not settle his debts despite the written reminder, you may terminate the tenancy without notice. To do this, send a written notice of termination with at least 30 days’ notice to the end of the month. This requires a form approved by the canton.
  • Check that the tenant has actually moved out.

By the way: We have compiled further information on the topic of terminating tenancies for you in this article.


What to do if the tenant refuses to vacate the apartment?


Unfortunately, it sometimes happens that the tenant does not move out despite a reminder and notice to quit. In this case, you have the option of claiming the rent due through debt collection proceedings. To do this, you must have a payment order served by the competent debt collection office.

You can also access the deposit in this way. This is because the security deposit is held in an account or custody account in the tenant’s name. You can only redeem the amount with a legally binding payment order.

If this is also unsuccessful, you can have the tenant evicted by a court. This is a judicial obligation to vacate the rented property. The competent municipal office issues an enforcement order and can also execute it. However, this may involve high costs for you.

In the worst case, the termination and expulsion process is delayed for several months. You may also incur high costs, as an insolvent tenant is usually unable to pay the court costs and the fees for eviction or enforcement themselves.


Tips: Avoid these mistakes when giving notice


If your notice of termination and reminder are not 100% correct, the tenant can quickly contest them. You may still send a new reminder or termination notice, but you will lose time. It is therefore better if you take care to avoid common mistakes right from the start.

The following tips will help you to issue the notice of termination in the correct form:

  • You may only claim amounts due, such as rent and ancillary costs, in the reminder
  • You must list the outstanding receivables in as much detail as possible
  • You cannot claim costs such as rent deposits or deferred rents
  • In the case of married couples, registered partnerships and shared flats, you must send the reminders and notices separately and in separate envelopes to all parties
  • Pay close attention to small details, as even typing errors in the tenant’s name may enable the tenant to contest the termination
  • It is best to send the documents by registered mail to ensure that they are delivered correctly

How can I avoid defaulting tenants in the future?


Of course, it’s even better if you don’t let any defaulting tenants, or even worse, rental nomads, into your rented apartment in the future. Although you can never be completely sure, you can exclude many potentially risky people by making a careful selection.

The application form that the prospective tenant fills out is particularly important for the selection of tenants. Among other things, the tenant must provide details of their income, which should be at least three times the rent.

You may also obtain an extract from the debt collection register and information from the ZEK to find out whether the candidate has any outstanding debts. In addition, information from the tenant’s current landlord helps to assess the tenant’s creditworthiness and reliability.

We also recommend that you rely on your gut feeling. Although even rental nomads can make a good first impression, the combination of the above information and your gut feeling is usually the best way to find a reliable tenant. Further tips for landlords can be found here.


Do you have further questions on the topic of “Tenant doesn’t pay – what to do?” Then we would be happy to offer you a free, no-obligation consultation – just get in touch!


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All data are without guarantee. The information on these Internet pages has been carefully researched. Nevertheless, no liability can be accepted for the accuracy of the information provided.

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