The law and you: My home is uninhabitable following a flood. Who pays?

The law and you: My home is uninhabitable following a flood. Who pays?
The law and you: My home is uninhabitable following a flood. Who pays?

My home is uninhabitable following a flood. Who pays?

Vera Beutler – Lawyer at TCS

Published today at 10:37 a.m.

The tenant does not have to pay anything for unusable accommodation. Any household insurance covers, depending on the policy, the costs of replacement accommodation. For her part, the lessor is compulsorily insured against natural damage, even if this insurance does not automatically cover all damage caused to the building.

If a flood destroys a home, the landlord is unable to fulfill her part of the contract. Conversely, the tenant no longer has to pay rent. The tenant, however, remains liable for the costs of possible replacement accommodation if their household insurance does not cover these expenses. Natural damage insurance, compulsory in most cantons, covers certain damage to the building. Depending on the canton, cantonal property insurance or private insurance companies offer insurance in the event of damage due to the elements. The scope of coverage and premium rates of insurance for damage due to elements are uniform and obligatory for all insurance companies.

Attention: Elemental damage insurance covers all major natural hazards, but not damage caused by earthquakes. Building owners can insure themselves privately; in addition, certain cantonal insurance establishments provide optional benefits in the event of an earthquake. Currently, the cantons, cantonal property insurance companies and private insurance companies have launched the “Seismic Damage Organisation”. On October 13, 2023, the TCS takes over the operational operation of this “Seismic Damage Organization”. It supports and organizes advice, protection and assistance with the assessment of damaged buildings in the future.

No rent for uninhabitable accommodation

A flood, earthquake or other natural disaster is a circumstance “not attributable to the debtor”. Furthermore, as a general rule, a natural disaster is neither predictable nor preventable.

However, if a home is uninhabitable due to flooding, the lessor can no longer make it available as provided in the contract. For his part, the tenant must not pay for uninhabitable accommodation. As the lease contract is a long-term contract, there is no withdrawal of services already provided, the tenant is therefore not entitled to reimbursement of rent paid before the natural disaster.

If the natural disaster completely and permanently destroyed the accommodation, the lease ends without compensation. But if the tenant can return to the accommodation, the impossibility only concerns the individual debt and the lease remains in force. If, again, the renovation work lasts so long that a return is not reasonable, the tenant can terminate the lease for any date within the legal deadline.

Tenant responsible for replacement accommodation

The tenant must first cover the costs of replacement accommodation himself. If he has household insurance, this at most covers additional living costs. In addition to renting replacement accommodation or paying for a hotel room, these insurances can also cover moving costs. The costs saved are deducted, in particular the rents which are no longer due for the uninhabitable accommodation.

The excess is set by law and amounts to 500 Swiss francs per event.

Weather damage insurance covers damage to the building

If the flood has destroyed the home and the equipment items that are securely attached to it, such as the kitchen or washing machine, the weather damage insurance covers the renovation costs. or repairs by the lessor and, in part, the clearance work.

The excess is set by law and amounts to 10% of the compensation, with a minimum of 1,000 francs and a maximum of 10,000 Swiss francs.

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