Renovation cost in Germany. Who pays

Last Updated on October 9, 2023

Who pays renovation cost in Germany? A rumor somehow reached me that tenants are no longer obliged to make repairs. What surprised me was that it would be too simple. The clause on apartment renovation at the entrance and / or exit and regular repairs during the lease term is included in all standard lease agreements.

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Why do we speak about renovation cost in Germany

The point is that in many agreements this clause is written incorrectly. And this makes it invalid according to various court decisions. Not that the tenant shouldn’t do anything at all.

At the same time, there is no such provision in the law that regulates this problem.

As a rule, you cannot get rid of repairs so easily. If you want to try, most likely, you will have to contact the Mieterverein (an annual fee of 60-80 euros will allow you to get advice and assistance in the courts) or a lawyer (Rechtsschutzversicherung is useful here, which usually includes conflicts with Vermieter).

The reason to once again raise this topic was the decision of the federal court of 9.03.2017, which stated that the tenant should not repair the apartment if it was not repaired at the beginning of the lease. There is also a new law from 2019.

Now in more detail.

What is renovation (Renovierung) and who is obliged to do so?

Renovierung oder Schönheitreparaturen is the only type of repair a renter can force.

Renovation in Germany means wallpapering, whitewashing or painting walls and ceilings, heating and heating pipes, interior doors, windows and exterior doors from the inside. You must only clean traces of use. Parquet scrapping, exterior painting, floor changes are not cosmetic repairs.

The other variants are Modernisierung und Sanierung.

Sanierungen means repairs to the building or technical equipment. The landlord has to do that himself and also bear the costs..

Modernisierung means bringing the building up to the latest technical standard. The landlord may demand the costs for this from the tenant.
At the same time, we are not talking about modernization after the end of the lease contract, but about modernization during the rent. And the size of the cost is regulated by law.

Attention: lease agreements

In general, the law implies that Schönheitsreparaturen are made by the owner of the apartment. But this is not fixed as his duty, and here the lease agreement comes into play.

What matters is how exactly the owner’s requirements for the tenant are formulated. This or that word or its absence can make the controversial clause of the agreement valid or invalid.

If the tenant

  • moved into a already repaired apartment
  • or received compensation for an unrepaired apartment
  • and in both cases the repair clauses are formulated correctly,

then the repair must be done.

However, the cost of the renovation must match the cost of the apartment. Repairs can be made by tenant. The quality of a professional painter is not assumed. But there should be no gross mistakes (crooked wallpaper, incorrectly chosen paint, too thick paint layer, painted out rosettes and handles).

Do not forget that, in addition to cosmetic repairs, there is also an obligation to repair (or compensate for the cost of repairs, which, as a rule, is more expensive) damaged property (broken tiles, serious floor cuts, etc.). This is where private Haftpflichtversicherung comes in play. Some of this repair can be transferred to the owner if the item being replaced was already old. For example, we agreed to replace the door, which had to be broken (the lock broke due to old age), in half. And our half was paid by insurance.

What clauses in the contract are considered invalid?

I must say that small changes in wording can lead to the opposite result. Therefore, this list can only serve as an orientation. If you decide to argue with the landlord, it is better to consult with the Mietverein or a lawyer.

1. If the apartment was rented “dirty”

If you have moved into an unrepaired apartment, you should not make repairs either during the lease term or at the exit. An unrepaired apartment is considered if traces of use are visible throughout the apartment. If you renovated the apartment yourself, although you shouldn’t, you can ask the owner for the cost.

However, everything changes if you receive compensation for it. For example, you didn’t pay rent for a couple of months (half a month does not count). In this case, the claim becomes valid. Proof that the apartment has not been renovated lies with the tenant. That is, at the entrance you need to take care of the photos and confirmation in the transfer protocol.

2. If the contract specifies strict terms of repair, regardless of the real condition of the housing

The strickt terms (3 years for the kitchen and bathroom, 5 years for the living room, bedrooms and children’s rooms, 7 years for the other rooms), indicated as mandatory, make this clause invalid.

However, if it says “in allgemein / in der Regel” or flexible terms are given, then the clause is valid.

The following conclusion is also invalid. Anyone who moves out earlier than the indicated deadlines must pay for future repairs in part (for example, when leaving in a year, 30% for the kitchen, 20% for the bedrooms).

3. The contract specifies a strict requirement to repair when entering / leaving the apartment, regardless of the length of residence and the degree of use

The requirement to strip all wallpaper is also invalid.

4. The strict color indication is invalid

The tenant can choose any neutral light colors and wallpapers.

5. The wording “the tenant is obliged to carry out repairs if necessary”

is null, as the “necessity” can arise without the fault of the tenant.

The wording “if necessary due to the use of the property by the tenant” will already be valid.

6. The wording “return as it was”

is too inaccurate and therefore invalid.

7. Requirement to use or pay for an owner-selected paint company

is invalid.

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