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HomeGerman HousingApartment handover protocol in Germany: guidelines for tenants and landlords

Apartment handover protocol in Germany: guidelines for tenants and landlords

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So that there is no dispute when handing over the apartment, the tenant and landlord should draw up an apartment handover protocol when moving in and out. 

What do you do with the keys, any damage, meter readings. Find out everything you need to know about the apartment handover protocol below including a useful checklist.

Apartment handover protocol at a glance

Apartment handover protocol – the most important points in brief

  • When moving in and out, the condition of a rented apartment should be recorded in writing.
  • With the help of an apartment handover protocol, disputes between landlords and tenants about the question of whether there was damage when moving in and out or not can be avoided.
  • A handover protocol is not legally binding – for this reason there are no regulations as to what the form of the protocol should look like.
  • The handover protocol should contain various meter readings, possible defects, the number of keys handed over and the status of walls, windows, doors and floors.
  • The handover of the apartment works with the templates which you can fine online.

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Are all keys complete? Is there a crack in the sink? Both tenants and landlords must be careful when handing over the apartment. If the tenant takes over a damaged apartment and has not documented this in advance, he can easily be found guilty afterwards. Conversely, the landlord will find it difficult to prove new damage later if he has not recorded the condition of the apartment when he moves in.

An apartment handover protocol saves both parties a lot of trouble. Because it is a document that has evidential value before the court. It is recommended to draw up a handover report when moving in and out.

Apartment handover protocol

Before handing over the apartment: make an appointment

Tenants and landlords should make an appointment to hand over the apartment as early as possible so that everyone still has space in their calendar – at least one week in advance. But often not only these two parties, but also other people are present when the apartment is handed over.

Who has to be there when the apartment is handed over?

The handover of the apartment is mandatory for tenants and landlords.

  • The landlord must ensure that the tenant can move into the apartment on time for the start of the rental agreement. If he does not show up at the handover date without being canceled, he must bear the additional costs of the tenant – e.g. additional costs when moving if the tenant is standing in front of a locked door with his seven belongings and moving in is delayed by a few days (AG Köln, Az .: 209 C 542/02).
  • The tenant must ensure that the landlord receives his property back no later than the last day of the rental period (Section 546, Paragraph 1 BGB). If this day falls on a Sunday or public holiday, the handover may also take place on the following working day. If the tenant misses the handover date so that the landlord does not get the apartment back in time, he can claim damages from the tenant – in the amount of the agreed or local rent (§546a BGB).

The landlord and tenant are usually present when the apartment is handed over. But there is another way:

  • Authorized third parties can represent the tenant during the handover. For example, if he doesn’t have time at the agreed time. The tenant should issue a written power of attorney for this.
  • The landlord can also entrust the handover to someone else, for example his property manager or broker . He has to trust this person completely: “If the caretaker messes with the handover protocol, the landlord usually has to answer for his mistake,” warns Engel-Lindner. Because the tenant’s contractual partner is the landlord, not the administrator. However, the landlord can later take recourse against his administrator. This means that he can hold him responsible for his mistake and demand compensation if it has violated a property manager’s obligation.
  • In addition, it can be helpful to ask a neutral person to hand over the apartment, who will check the apartment for damage and co-sign the apartment handover protocol as a witness.
Apartment handover protocol

When handing over the apartment

On the day the apartment is handed over, the tenant and landlord should inspect room by room together. In this way, they are less likely to overlook damage than in dim light. You should also plan enough time for this.

In what condition the apartment should be

The tenant must always hand over the apartment swept clean – not only if it says so in the rental agreement. A swept-clean handover can also be derived from the legal obligation to return the goods in a proper condition (Section 546 (1) BGB, BGH, Az .: VIII ARZ 1/84). In order for the apartment to be “swept clean”, coarse soiling must be removed. According to case law, this includes:

  • In the case of carpets, coarse dirt must be removed by vacuum cleaning.
  • Rooms with tiles, parquet or laminate must be swept out properly.
  • Cobwebs in the apartment and rented basement rooms must be removed.
  • Windows only have to be cleaned if they are heavily soiled.
  • Limescale deposits and smear layers – for example in the kitchen or bathroom – must be removed.
  • Leftover food must be removed from the kitchen.
  • No groceries are allowed in the rented refrigerator.

But: If the rental agreement states that the apartment is to be handed over “carefully cleaned” or in a “clean condition” , this agreement is also effective and the tenant must clean it accordingly.

When renovating, the following applies: Damage that the tenant has caused himself must also be remedied himself. When it comes to cosmetic repairs such as painting and wallpapering, it depends: The apartment must be handed over renovated and the renovation clause in the rental agreement must be valid so that the tenant is obliged to undertake this renovation work.

What to look for when handing over the apartment

Apart from whether the apartment is in the right condition, all parties should pay attention to other things:

  • Read meter readings: on water meters, gas and electricity meters
  • Are all keys available?
  • Check walls and ceilings: Are there any damp spots, water stains or mold?
  • Examine the wallpaper and paint: Have the walls been repainted? Are there many drill holes?
  • Examine the floor: Are there scratches in the parquet or stains on the carpet? Are there dents in the floor? Are skirting boards missing?
  • Opening and closing windows and doors: do they close well? Are the windows tight? Are all the locks intact?
  • Turn on the taps, flush the toilet: is the water running properly?
  • Test electrical appliances you rent out – for example the stove in the fitted kitchen: Are all appliances fully functional?
  • Shake the fixtures: Are the wash basin, toilet bowl, bathtub, sink and drains permanently installed? Are pieces chipped or cracks visible?
  • Turn up the heating: Does the heating get warm?
  • Don’t forget the stairwell: Damage may have occurred when moving out
  • Check the attic and basement: for example, are there traces of past water damage?

If damage is discovered or the apartment does not correspond to the contractually agreed or legally prescribed condition, this should be recorded in the apartment handover protocol.

The apartment handover protocol

Apartment handover protocol

The handover protocol represents a comprehensive inventory of the apartment at the time of handover. It records the condition in which the apartment was when moving in and in which condition when moving out, which damage was already there and which was not.

Tip in case of damage: Photos are important evidence

Any damage should be documented with photos. Usually, courts accept such images as evidence. Tenants or landlords should take photos, for example, of damage to tiles, fittings and the fitted kitchen, but also damage caused by moisture, deep scratches in the parquet or broken glass.

Important: Tenant and landloord each get an apartment handover protocol

If both parties do not receive a copy of the protocol after the apartment has been handed over, this can become a problem. The landlord could theoretically write something in the log afterwards – or the tenant could say so. Therefore, the handover protocol must always be available in duplicate.

Both tenants and landlords sign the protocol at the end of the appointment. One copy is given to the tenant, the other to the landlord.

What belongs in the apartment handover protocol

Documenting the damage to an apartment makes sense, of course. In addition, there are no legal requirements as to how an apartment handover protocol should look like. Experts recommend that you definitely include the following content:

  • Name and address of the tenant and landlord and, if applicable, of witnesses – by the way: the broker can also be a witness
  • address of the apartment
  • Date of handover, moving in or moving out and the last renovation
  • Gas, water and electricity meter readings
  • Contents of the heating oil tank, if any
  • Handover of keys: Type and number of keys handed over, for example front door and apartment keys, as well as mailbox and cellar keys
  • All existing defects and damage – cracked tiles, scratches in the parquet, chipped paint on the door, missing skirting boards, etc.
  • If rooms are in perfect condition and are handed over swept clean, this should also be mentioned

Agreements about pending repairs are also part of the protocol.

It is best to name all rooms individually in the handover protocol and to describe existing defects as precisely as possible. For example, paint is peeling off the inside of the kitchen door. The more precise the description, the more evidential value the document has. If the tenant and landlord are not in agreement about the damage, they should nevertheless enter it in the handover protocol together with their different opinions.

After handing over the apartment: act quickly in the event of damage

If the apartment is damaged, the landlord must promptly ask their ex-tenant to repair it. Because after the return of the apartment, your claims for compensation usually expire after six months (§ 548 BGB).

This is how landlords should proceed when making claims for compensation:

  • Send the tenant a request to remedy the damage. This includes: A deadline by when this should be done and the threat to otherwise repair the damage at the tenant’s expense.
  • After the deadline has expired: Check whether the tenant has removed the damage.
  • If the damage has not been repaired: Commission a company to repair it and bill the tenant for the costs. Or: If a rental deposit has been deposited, the landlord can use this to settle the costs.
  • Note the statute of limitations: If the tenant refuses to have the damage repaired, file a lawsuit or apply for a payment order.

As soon as the tenant and the landlord negotiate the repair of the damage, the statute of limitations is suspended unless the tenant immediately and clearly rejects the landlord’s claim. During the suspension, the limitation period has been put on hold – if the suspension ends, the pointers for the limitation period begin to tick again. This is the case as soon as the tenant refuses to continue negotiations. The landlord’s claim can expire at the earliest three months after the end of the suspension (§ 203 BGB).

If the landlord wants to prevent his claim from becoming statute-barred so early, he must act. He can sue the tenant or claim damages in court by means of a dunning notice . The statute of limitations is suspended for the duration of such proceedings. If the landlord wins this dispute, it becomes an enforceable title. This usually only expires after 30 years. But: As soon as the tenant makes even a partial payment or the landlord has an enforcement act carried out, this period begins again.

INFO

Other limitation periods apply to the other claims of the lessor:

  • A limitation period of three years applies to back payments from the utility bill . The period begins after the end of the billing period
  • A limitation period of three years applies to rent arrears . The period begins at the end of the year in which the claim arose.

If a rental deposit has been deposited as security, the landlord can also use this to settle the expenses for repairing the damage.

You overlooked damages – what can you now do?

Once the tenant and landlord have put their signature on the handover protocol, it is considered correct and fully accepted. If easily recognizable damage was overlooked, you can hardly complain afterwards: If the tenant has suffered damage when he moves in, he cannot reduce the rent.

When moving out, he can theoretically be held responsible for all scratches and burn holes that were already present when moving in and which do not appear in the document. If, on the other hand, the landlord overlooks damage when moving out and does not record it in the apartment acceptance report, he can usually no longer claim compensation for it.

An exception is only possible if the damage was not so easily recognizable.

Hidden defects: this is how tenants and landlords should proceed

Damage such as a defective telephone socket cannot be seen at first glance. In the case of such hidden defects, action is required: If you as the tenant only notices the defect after the apartment has been handed over, you should inform his landlord immediately, and preferably in writing. Then you both can record the damage in the apartment handover protocol . If the landlord is cross, in the worst case only going to the lawyer will help.

If the landlord discovers hidden damage after moving out, the landlord is expected to report such hidden damage to the former tenant immediately. The parties should add it to the handover protocol afterwards. If the tenant refuses, the landlord must, in the worst case, take the route through the court. If the former tenant has demonstrably fraudulently concealed the damage, the landlord can contest the handover protocol.

When can the landlord withhold the rental deposit?

The rental deposit serves as security for the landlord, which he can set off at the end of the tenancy against claims to which he is still entitled from the tenant – for example due to damage, neglected cosmetic repairs or rent arrears. To do this, he must make his claims comprehensible for the tenant and substantiate them with reliable reasons and costs. According to case law, the landlord has three to six months for the settlement. If the tenant does not agree with the amount of the repaid deposit, the only option left is to file a lawsuit.

Conclusion: handover of the apartment is better only with the apartment handover protocol

With a carefully drawn up apartment handover protocol, landlords and tenants are on the safe side. It protects the tenant from the landlord later making unjustified claims. But after the handover of the apartment, the landlord also has evidence in hand with the apartment acceptance protocol in order to justify his claims, for example in the event of damage. Handing over the apartment does not cost anything, except time – and tenants and landlords should definitely take it to avoid stress later on.

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Expaturm aims to help educate Expats in Germany on key issues that they will have to deal with while living in Germany by providing everything you need to know about Banking, Healthcare, Lifestyle, and Housing in Germany
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