What You Should Consider Before Renting Out Your House or Apartment on Airbnb

June 16, 2020
  1. Remember your obligation to report
  2. The visitor's tax is regulated by cantonal law
  3. Tax consequences for homeowners
  4. Rent out a condo via Airbnb
  5. Properly insured as a landlord on Airbnb
  6. Good to know: Handling subletting

The Corona virus is changing the travel behaviour of Swiss people. Many are foregoing holidays abroad this year and spending their summer or autumn holidays in Switzerland. That's why many hotels are well booked or even fully booked during the school holidays - and many guests are looking around for alternatives on platforms like Airbnb. No wonder more and more homeowners are considering renting out their homes during the holidays via Airbnb. Do you also want to rent out your house or flat via Airbnb? You can find out what to look out for here.

Remember your obligation to report

Anyone who rents out their house, condominium or rented apartment in whole or in part for a fee must report guests who are not resident in Switzerland to the local police. This also applies to houses, apartments and rooms that are rented out via platforms such as Airbnb. Most private occasional landlords are unaware of this obligation to register. That is why the Zurich Cantonal Police, for example, informs landlords directly if they suspect that they are hosting guests for money. In the canton of Zurich, private hosts can easily register their guests online.

The visitor's tax is regulated by cantonal law

The spa tax or local tax is a tourism or tourist tax. It is regulated on a cantonal basis. In the canton of Zurich, for example, it is 2.50 francs per person per night, 2.50 to 6 francs in the canton of Bern, but in the city of Bern, it is 4.30 francs. In individual cantons or municipalities, guests receive free additional services in return, such as the Basel Card in Basel. Airbnb has signed contracts with six cantons to date and automatically pays the tax to the tourism organisations: Zug, Basel-Landschaft, Zurich, Basel-Stadt, Schaffhausen and, since the beginning of 2020, Lucerne. In all other cantons, you as a host must collect and pay the local or visitor's tax.

Tax consequences for homeowners

As the owner, you must pay tax on the rental income for the house, apartment or individual rooms as income. In return, you can deduct the maintenance, operating and administration costs. In addition, the imputed rental value decreases in proportion to the length of the tenancy and you may deduct an apartment rate of 20 per cent of your net rental income for the furnishings.

If you rent out several houses, apartments or rooms or offer additional services typical of hotels, the rental is considered commercial. This makes Airbnb a self-employed sideline and you would have to pay tax on profits as well as social security contributions. If you earn more than CHF 100,000 in rent per year, you would also have to pay VAT and keep double-entry bookkeeping.

Rent out a condo via Airbnb

Renting out condominiums via platforms such as Airbnb is not regulated by law because the law is behind the times. In current legal literature, the practice has prevailed that occasional renting out does not constitute a change of use or purpose of the property and is therefore permitted. Unless, for example, the act of incorporation or the regulations of the condominium owners' association stipulate an obligation to provide a primary residence. Whether a qualified majority is sufficient for a subsequent restriction of use or whether unanimity is required for this is disputed and not conclusively clarified.

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Properly insured as a landlord on Airbnb

Hosts are protected by Airbnb through a host guarantee and liability insurance. The insurance assumes legal responsibility "under certain circumstances" (wording on the Airbnb website) in the event of

  • bodily injury to a guest (or others),
  • damage to or theft of property belonging to a guest (or others), and
  • damage caused by a guest (or others) to common areas, like building lobbies and nearby properties

This is only basic coverage and does not replace building, liability or renters insurance. Therefore, talk to your insurance advisor before hosting Airbnb guests. Tip: With a deposit that you request from your guests via the platform or directly, you additionally protect yourself from the financial consequences of damage to the house, apartment or furniture.

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Good to know: Handling subletting

If you rent out your condominium, your tenant must ask you for permission if he wants to rent out your condominium via Airbnb. This is based on the provisions for subtenants in tenancy law, because rules for Airbnb are (still) missing. As long as your tenant abides by these rules, you cannot refuse subtenants in principle:

  1. The tenant must state the conditions under which he/she is subletting your apartment.
  2. The tenant may not make a profit, i.e. may not take in more than he pays.
  3. The subtenant may not misuse your apartment, for example as a shop with many customer visits.

If your tenant sublets your apartment for a fee without your consent, you can give him a written warning and ask him to end the subletting relationship within a reasonable period of time. If he does not do so, you can give him extraordinary notice of termination at the end of the month with 30 days' notice. He is also liable for the behaviour of his Airbnb guests and any damage they cause.

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