New tenant-friendly judgement on renovation obligations for apartments and houses rented
The BGH (“Bundesgerichtshof” = Main Court in Germany) just recently had to decide on a tenant’s obligation to renovate the apartment he lives in. The decision has been made in the tenant’s favor and gives him a significantly better position than in the past. It is valid for all rental agreements independent of when they were entered into.
The case brought to justice was an apartment handed back non-renovated by the tenant. Whilst the agreement contained a valid stipulation on “Schönheitsreparaturen”, basically renovation by painting the walls, the court still decided that the tenant was not liable to paint any wall of the apartment. The decision was based on the fact, that the tenant took the apartment over in a non-renovated state. In this case it was undisputed that three rooms of the apartment were not painted when the tenant originally moved in.
Most of the new rental agreements will now contain a clause stipulating whether the apartment will be handed over in a renovated or non-renovated state. Whilst in most of the cases this will reflect the true state of the apartment the judgement of the BGH did not include very specific definitions as to what is considered “renovated”. In the above case they found it was non-renovated; but what, if there are only some stains on the walls – ie. the room has not been painted but you could still “live” with the stains? There is still a lot of room for interpretation.
Another important factor is the handover protocol. The landlord is not obliged to issue or sign any protocol, yet this is the principal proof for a non-renovated state of the apartment. Should you run into such situation we recommend to take pictures on the day of the handover, let a third person confirm the state in writing and with signature and file all carefully.