Defects in the rented apartment: Who is responsible?


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Does your rented apartment have issues and you are not sure who at fault? How can defects help you lower your rent? Learn how to recognize when a defect exists and how to proceed to effectively lower the rent.

No matter how flawless the apartment is when you move in – sooner or later something always breaks. But who has to fix the shortcomings? Before you, as a tenant, pick up the tools yourself or order the craftsmen, you should find out what you have to pay for yourself and what is on the bill of the landlord.

Basically, the landlord is responsible for both maintenance, i.e., measures that ideally prevent damage completely, and repairs, i.e., the repair of damage. Only cosmetic repairs and the repair of minor damage can be transferred to the tenant in the rental agreement, but only to a limited extent and under certain conditions.

The tenant, in turn, is always subject to the notification requirement, i.e., he must inform the landlord of any defects. This is a prerequisite for the landlord to be able to and must meet his maintenance obligation.

What is a defect?

A defect is present if the contractual use of the apartment is no longer possible (this is usually based on the condition when moving into the apartment), or if a criterion guaranteed in the contract is missing or does not apply during the rental period.

If the tenant’s quality of life and / or living is significantly impaired by a defect that has not been remedied, he may, if necessary, claim damages or terminate the contract without notice. Conversely, the landlord can also assert termination without notice if the tenant does not repair damage, he has caused himself and thereby endangers the apartment. In such severe cases, you should seek advice from the tenants’ association if necessary.


Repair defects

The landlord is not entitled to pass on the costs of repairs to the tenant in the rental agreement. Except for minor damage, such a clause is ineffective. This means that the landlord must fix all defects that do not fall under the category of minor repairs.

Only if the tenant was aware of the defect when the rental agreement was signed or is responsible for any damage himself does he have to pay for it. This does not apply to normal signs of wear and tear in the apartment.

However, there are so-called minor repair clauses that can be valid in rental contracts. Then, on the one hand, an upper price limit must be specified, on the other hand, in these cases the tenant is only obliged to pay, but not to commission. If these requirements are not met, the tenant does not have to pay anything, even for small repairs.

If the rental agreement contains an ineffective clause that relates to repairs, the statutory regulation applies, which states that the tenant does not have to remedy defects, unless he has caused them himself. All repair measures, including minor damage, are then borne by the landlord.

If the landlord employs a caretaker, the costs incurred by the landlord are distributed among the tenants as operating costs. A caretaker is not generally responsible for repairs, but it is not uncommon for him to take on minor repairs. However, the costs for this may then not be billed additionally as operating costs.

If the tenant refuses an urgent repair measure, for example in the case of pipes or lines, he can be forced to allow them with an injunction. If there is no imminent danger, for example if only modernization measures are planned, this is not possible.

Small repair clauses in the rental agreement

According to the law, all damage that the tenant has not caused himself or through gross negligence is the responsibility of the landlord. The tenant only has to report defects immediately, then he has fulfilled his duty.

However, the rental contract may contain so-called minor repair clauses, which oblige the tenant to repair minor damage at his own expense. Such clauses are only permitted under certain conditions:

  • A single repair must not cost more than 75 euros.
  • There must be an upper price limit for all minor repairs within a year. For example, the total cost of all repairs may not exceed 150 to 200 euros or may not exceed eight percent of the annual rent.
  • The tenant must not be obliged to commission the repairs himself. Only the assumption of costs within the agreed framework is permitted.
  • The clause must not refer to parts of the apartment or house that the tenant seldom or hardly uses or can use directly, such as cables.

If the agreement on minor repairs is ineffective, the renter does not have to bear any costs for repair measures. In the event of ineffectiveness, the statutory regulation comes into force again, according to which the landlord is responsible for all types of rectification of defects.

If the tenant has paid for minor damage in the past, although he was not obliged to do so due to inadmissible clauses, he can claim the costs back from the landlord. Here you should seek advice from the tenants’ association in individual cases.

Rent reduction possible

If the landlord does not comply with his maintenance obligation, the tenant can either initiate the repair himself and reclaim the costs from the landlord, or reduce the rent until the defect has been remedied.

The list of reasons for a possible rent reduction is long. Mainly because it is irrelevant whether it is even possible for the landlord to remedy the defect. Noise on the construction site or the filth of the master’s pigeon can also justify a rent reduction, for example.

The right of reduction cannot be restricted by the rental agreement. Corresponding clauses are ineffective.

  • The defect must not have arisen through the fault or negligence of the tenant.
  • The living quality must be significantly impaired by the deficiency.
  • The tenant must not have been aware of the defect when the tenancy agreement was concluded. Otherwise, by accepting the contract, he has also accepted the defect, unless he reserves his rights. If a defect was not visible during the inspection, the right to a rent reduction remains.
  • The tenant must have reported the defect to the landlord in good time. If the tenant has violated his obligation to notify, his right to a rent reduction also expires.

He can also withhold a certain rental amount and only pay it to the landlord after he has taken care of the repair. Of course, none of this works if the tenant is responsible for the damage himself. Even if he has not fulfilled his obligation to notify, i.e., has not immediately informed the landlord of the defect, these rights expire.


Michelle Halterman
Michelle Halterman
USA, China, South Africa and now Munich - Michelle has come a long way in the world. She is an outdoor person and loves to be in nature with friends and on her mountain bike. Or she meets up with friends for pasta, vino, cappaccino & Co.


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