Landlord and tenant obligations in Germany

If you are currently renting out an apartment in Berlin, there are many things to know about tenant protection in rental agreements in Germany. For instance, who is responsible for paying the cleaning service in the building? Or perhaps the windows need to be changed, and you are not sure if this is included in the landlord obligations? ADEN Immo explains it all to you.

Keep in mind that ADEN Immo is a real estate agency and recommends you consult the official publications from the Berliner Finanzamt and Senate. This article is provided for your information only, based on our knowledge and experience as real estate brokers in Berlin. ADEN Immo bears no liability for omissions or errors.

Rental contracts and tenant protection

In Germany, whenever an apartment is rented out, a rental contract (Mietvertrag) has to be signed by both the landlord and the tenant. The contract must contain information about the duration, costs (rent and monthly charges), terms of notice, deposit, and redecoration once the tenant moves out. It is common practice for landlords to ask their tenants to redecorate the property when moving out. This involves painting the walls white and leaving it in the same state as it was received… while of course signs of usage are expected, the tenant is responsible for broken appliances or furniture (see below: the importance of the Übergabeprotokoll).

In the rental contract, the house rules (Hausordnung) should also be specified (or added in a separate document). These will necessarily mention quiet hours, which in Germany are usually from 22:00-7:00 and 13:00-15:00. If the tenant consistently disregards these quiet hours and disturbs the building, if there are many complaints from the neighbors, this can constitute grounds for an eviction without notice.

Ending a rental agreement: tenant protection

There are many myths about the almighty tenant status in Germany. In 1971 in West Berlin, a law was passed that made evictions virtually impossible. Since then, the law has been repealed but there are still very strict reglementations on ending an unlimited (unbefristet) contract. These are still the standard rental contract in Germany:
The notice period is usually 3 months. It may increase to 6, 9 and 12 months, when the tenant has occupied the apartment for over 5, 8 and 10 years respectively
A shorter notice period may be agreed upon in the lease. Often, the notice is just one month for short-term contracts like Zwischenmiete. If the landlord wants to terminate the lease before it is up, he still needs to justify it)
The lease may be terminated if the tenant has broken the conditions of the contract on repeated occasions. This has to be proven and documented.
Eigenbedarf: the lease may be terminated if the tenant wants to use the property for himself or a relative. This also must be proven and justified extensively.

Generally, terminating a lease is a very restricted affair for landlords in Germany! Furnished apartments are usually treated a bit differently (shorter contracts with shorter notice periods, for instance). Discover everything in ADEN Immo’s Guide to being a landlord in Berlin !

Deposits: Importance of the Übergabeprotokoll

Etat des lieux d'une maison

Before moving in, tenants are usually asked to pay a deposit (Kaution). This represents up to 3 months of rent (Kaltmiete). At the end of the tenancy, this must be paid back to the tenant, usually within one month. However, if there were damages to the property or furniture, the landlord may keep part of it. So how do we determine if there were damages? Before getting the keys to the apartment, the tenant and the landlord must inspect the apartment together. They fill in an Übergabeprotokoll which defines the condition of the property. For instance, holes in the walls, defects on the floor, issues with the electricity must be indicated, as well as the state of the furniture or appliances (kitchen, bathroom etc.).

Therefore, at the end of the lease, a new Übergabeprotokoll is made and compared to the old one. If there are damages beyond normal signs of usage, the tenant is given a reasonable amount of time to do some repairs. Only after this, the landlord can retain part of the deposit if the repairs have not been duly conducted.

When preparing a new rental agreement for an apartment, there are many things to look out for! Is the square footage of the flat accurate? Have the monthly expenses and side costs been adequately calculated? Was the rental brake law, the Mietpreisbremse, been taken into consideration? ADEN Immo details all these questions in the Guide to being a landlord in Berlin !!

Legal note: This article does not constitute tax or legal advice in individual cases. Please have the facts of your specific individual case clarified by a lawyer and/or tax advisor.