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HomeGerman HousingWhat Expats need to know about keeping animals in rented apartments

What Expats need to know about keeping animals in rented apartments

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Keeping animals in rented apartments: what is allowed and what is forbidden

When in comes to keeping animals, it is important to remember that in Germany, not all pets are the same in the eyes of the German housing tenancy law. Small animals may be kept by tenants without the landlord’s permission. With dogs, cats and exotic animals, things get more complicated.

Keeping animals in rented apartments: the most important things in brief

  • A general ban on keeping animals is ineffective: Keeping small animals in rented apartments cannot be prohibited in principle.
  • The keeping of dogs and cats must not be prohibited in general. Reasons are needed for such a ban on keeping animals.
  • A pet ban can apply to animals that cause noise, smell or are dangerous.
  • If there are serious reasons, the landlord can revoke his permission to keep animals.

Cat or dog, rabbit or mini-pig: if the tenant decides on a pet, he is immediately faced with the question of whether he can keep it in the apartment.

The keeping of pets is not clearly regulated in German tenancy law, so it depends on the individual case: a golden retriever may get permission, a goldfish doesn’t even need it.

Keeping cats in apartments in Germany

Small animals: harmless enough for the home

Rabbits, fish, guinea pigs or budgies can easily be kept in the rented apartment. “The landlord is not allowed to forbid small animals,” confirms Gunther Geiler, managing director of the German Tenants’ Association in Nuremberg.

Because: they usually do not cause any problems, leave the apartment whole and do not disturb the neighbors. Your attitude is therefore part of the “contractual use” of the accommodation under rental law. This means that keeping small animals is generally permitted.

As is so often the case in life, there are exceptions here:

  • With rats, opinions differ. Some judges have already confirmed a ban on keeping animals because some people are disgusted with the animals.
  • Even ferrets can be prohibited rightly according to some courts because they stink and can pollute the apartment arg (AG Cologne, Az .: 2 C 340/11).
  • Keeping pet birds can also be problematic for tenants: Animal noises from parakeets and parrots that are too loud or occur during rest periods can lead to a ban.
keeping animals
Keeping birds in apartments in Germany

Keeping cats or dogs in the rented apartment: It depends

If tenants want to get a dog or a cat, things get a little more complicated. In general, landlords are not allowed to prohibit keeping cats and dogs in the rented apartment.

This was also confirmed by the Federal Court of Justice in a landmark judgment in March 2013 (Az .: VIII ZR 168/12). A corresponding clause in the lease is therefore ineffective, the judges said. However, the judges also emphasized that a tenant must not keep a dog or a cat without consideration for others.


In case of doubt, it must be decided which person has the more serious need: The tenant who wants to keep a poodle or Persian cat, or other people who might feel disturbed by the pet.

The decision is likely to be against the tenant’s request, in particular, if the animal is dangerous – then pets can easily be banned. To avoid trouble, tenants who want to keep a dog or cat should speak to their landlord beforehand.

Keeping reptiles in apartments in Germany

Exotic or dangerous: not without the landlord

  • Tarantulas, so-called list dogs, reptiles, poisonous or strangler snakes: If you want to keep dangerous animals in your rented apartment, you have to ask the landlord for permission.
  • Additionally: Owners of such unusual pets also need a holding permit in accordance with the provisions of the State Penal and Ordinance Act.
  • Exception: An exception are non-dangerous snakes, such as the corn snake: the tenant does not need a legal stopping permit for them. Similar to dogs and cats, the landlord can only prohibit keeping them for valid reasons.

Keeping pets in the rental agreement: That’s what it says – that’s what it means

  • “Pets allowed” : this clause is a good requirement for keeping animals in the rented apartment. She means the “usual” pets: In addition to the small animals that are already free of consent, they also include larger, harmless animals such as dogs, cats or domestic pigs. Dangerous animals like the boa constrictor strangler snake or a list dog are not included.
  • “Dog and cat only with the landlord’s consent” : That works, says Gunther Geiler, and then you should also get the landlord’s approval for pets (OLG Hamm; Az .: 4 RE 5/80 and 6/80). The landlord keeps the option open to decide in the specific case. For a “no” he has to give factual reasons. He may not make small animals dependent on his consent by means of a clause.
  • “Pets forbidden” : That doesn’t work at all. A rental clause with a blanket ban on pets, or in which the tenant undertakes to “not keep dogs and cats” is ineffective. Such a clause would unreasonably disadvantage tenants and would not take their individual case into account (BGH; Az .: VIII ZR168 / 12). In addition, the clause would also exclude the keeping of small animals, which is always permitted.
  • Nothing : If there is nothing in the rental agreement about keeping animals in the rented apartment, the individual interests must be weighed against each other, as in every case. Except for small animals.
Keeping ferrets in apartments in Germany

The animal has to go: a “yes” can be withdrawn

In the event that the landlord said “yes” to a particular pet, he can still withdraw his consent. But for such an outspoken animal husbandry ban, he has to give good reasons. If the reason is sufficient, the landlord can request the removal of the animal. “If this does not happen, he can even give notice to the tenant,” warns Fouquet.

How quickly the animal has to get out of the apartment depends on the situation: The landlord should give the tenant a period of two weeks, that doesn’t happen overnight. But if an animal is dangerous for other residents, it may have to be removed immediately.

Keeping rats in apartments in Germany

Hospitality also applies to animals

Even if the desired pet is not allowed to move in, there is a small ray of hope for tenants. The landlord cannot forbid him to be visited by people with animal attachments in the apartment.

The animal guests have to respect etiquette: They should behave in such a way that they do not bother anyone and do not stay too often or too long. The question of where a visit begins and where it ends is difficult to answer. A visit that lasts longer than six weeks can no longer be a visit. But it cannot be delineated in general terms.

Keeping animals in the rented apartment: In case of doubt, the individual case decides

Dog ownership prohibited: Clauses in rental contracts that generally prohibit dog ownership are ineffective after a BGH decision (Az .: VIII ZR 168/12). A clause would be effective that makes keeping dogs dependent on the consent of the landlord.

Enough space for two: keeping two Labrador Retriever dogs in a 50 square meter apartment is in accordance with the contract (AG Reinbek 11 C 15/14, WuM 2014, 480).

Any number of small animals: a tenant may keep more than two pet birds in your apartment. According to a ruling by the Higher Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia, this keeping of small animals is part of normal residential use. (Ref .: 10 A 985/14). However, this could find its limits if too many animals lead to an impairment of the rental property or of roommates.

Big dog, small apartment: Landlords, if keeping dogs are allowed, cannot retrospectively prohibit keeping them in a species-appropriate way in the apartment (BGH, Az .: VIII ZR 329/11).

Hedgehogs are not small animals: Small animals such as ornamental fish, canaries or hamsters can always be kept without a permit. Hedgehogs are not small animals, but wild animals and are not allowed to spend the winter in the apartment without permission (AG Berlin-Spandau, Az .: 12 C 133/14).

Mini dogs are to be treated like small animals: Tenants may keep a Yorkshire terrier the size of a guinea pig in the rented apartment without the consent of the landlord (LG Kassel 1 S 503/96).

FAQ: Animal husbandry – what is allowed, what is forbidden?

Pets in apartments: Can the landlord prohibit dogs, cats & Co.?

A clause in the rental agreement that generally prohibits keeping dogs and cats is ineffective. 
Only clauses are effective that make the attitude dependent on the consent of the landlord after a weighing of interests.

Can the landlord revoke the permission to keep pets in the rented apartment?

Under certain conditions, a landlord can revoke a given permit, for example if a dog turns out to be vicious.

Can the landlord terminate the tenant for keeping pets?

Unauthorized keeping of animals in violation of the contract can constitute a serious breach of contract, which can also result in (immediate) termination.

If allowed – how many pets can you keep in the apartment as a tenant?

There are no exact regulations as to how many pets a tenant may have. 
However, the limit is always reached when the keeping of animals leads to impairment of the rental property or of the roommates.

What can the tenant do if the landlord prohibits pets?

According to recent BGH rulings, a landlord cannot simply prohibit the keeping of animals – including cats or dogs – across the board. 
There must always be a weighing up of whose interests carry more weight. 
If no disadvantages are to be expected if a tenant gets a cat, the landlord can hardly forbid that.

Which animals cannot the landlord prohibit?

The landlord may never prohibit keeping small animals. 
A rental contract clause with a general ban on keeping animals is therefore ineffective.

Small pets for the home: what species can you keep in your home?

The usual small animals such as hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs and the like are problem-free. However, the consent of the landlord may be required for dangerous smaller animals such as poisonous spiders.

When can the landlord prohibit a dog?

Whether a dog can be kept or not is a matter of weighing up mutual interests. 
If the dog poses a danger, if roommates are frightened or if the dog damages things in the residential complex, a ban can certainly be considered – even afterwards.

What are pets?

Pets are usually those animals that can be bought at a pet store. 
No pets are usually wild and farm animals.

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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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