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5 mistakes to avoid when moving out of a rented apartment in Germany

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What rights and obligations do tenants have when they move out? There are numerous misconceptions that persist. Learn more on the mistakes to avoid when moving out of a rented apartment in Germany.

Tenancy law in Germany is complex. Many tenants only know their rights and obligations from hearsay and, especially when it comes to moving out, some misconceptions have accumulated. This article explains and clarifies the 5 mistakes to avoid when moving out of a rented apartment in Germany and what tenants have to consider if they want to move out.

Mistake #1: Assuming that if you look for a new tenant for the landlord you can leave early

mistakes to avoid when moving out

Misconception: Anyone looking for three new tenants for their landlord will get out of the lease earlier.

This belief is widespread, but a rental mistake. Even if the tenant has a number of interested parties at hand – the landlord does not have to accept a new tenant suggested by the previous tenant. He decides himself to whom to leave the apartment. Even if the tenant presents a large number of potential new tenants, the tenant has no chance of breaking out of the tenancy. Unfortunately, this statement has persisted for decades.

However, there are special cases in which the tenant can look for a new tenant and move out earlier.

Mistake #2: Refusing the deposit

mistakes to avoid when moving out

Misconception: After the termination, the tenant no longer has to pay rent. The landlord can take the remaining payments from the deposit.

After the termination, the tenant no longer has to pay rent. The landlord can take the remaining payments from the deposit.

That is wrong and very dangerous. Anyone who does that is in default of payment. Tenants are not allowed to withhold the deposit. You have to pay the full rent by the last day. The deposit serves as security for the landlord for all claims against the tenant. For example, due to back rent or missing cosmetic repairs.

Mistake #3: Painting and renovating when moving out

mistakes to avoid when moving out

Misconception: The tenant always has to paint the walls after moving out – even if he has taken over the apartment unrenovated.

Whether the tenant has to do painting work depends on the regulations in the rental agreement. Basically, the landlord has to carry out cosmetic repairs. That’s how it is regulated by law. However, he can transfer his obligation to renovate to the tenant – with a corresponding provision in the rental agreement. The landlord can only enforce his claims if the clause is effective.

For example, a rigidly formulated clause that stipulates that the tenant must always delete when moving out is not effective – regardless of the condition of the apartment. The judges of the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) made this clear in several decisions. Otherwise, the tenant would be obliged to paint even though there is still no need for renovation. By the way: The landlord has to accept dowel holes to the necessary extent without a claim for damages.

Clauses in the lease on cosmetic repairs are just as ineffective if the landlord hands over the apartment to the tenant unrenovated. This was decided by the BGH in an important landmark judgment (Ref .: VII ZR 185/14).

Any fixtures made by the tenant during the rental period may have to be removed when moving out – this has nothing to do with cosmetic repairs. Damage caused by the tenant that is not part of normal wear and tear must also be repaired by the tenant.

Mistake #4: Not paying utilities when you move out early

mistakes to avoid when moving out

Misconception: If the tenant moves out in April, although the tenancy does not end until June, he only has to pay the basic rent until the end of the term.

Some tenants think that if they move out early, they no longer consume water, do not use electricity and do not produce any waste. So therefore they don’t need to pay the utilities. Wrong! Even if the tenant moves out earlier, that does not relieve him of his obligation to pay the ancillary costs. If there is an overpayment, the landlord will reimburse it – as usual – with the utility bill.

Mistake #5: Refusing to pay rent to trigger an eviction

mistakes to avoid when moving out

Misconception: There is a trick to get out of the tenancy prematurely: simply stop paying the rent and the landlord will give notice without notice.

Tenants should better refrain from doing that. Otherwise you face high claims for damages from the landlord – for example for legal fees. The tenant is obliged to pay his rent by the end of the rental period. With this “trick”, you do not get out of the tenancy cheaper and earlier, but more expensive and often associated with long-term legal disputes.

Technically you are risking a termination without notice with all claims for damages that are associated with it. It does not matter that the landlord can no longer implement the termination without notice because the tenant is moving out soon anyway. Because according to the law, the landlord is entitled to terminate the contract without notice if there are significant arrears in rent , which is the case when the deposit is waived (Section 543 BGB).

Mistakes to avoid when moving out: Summary

Be nice and reasonable. In addition to all contractual agreements and paragraphs, the landlord and tenant can of course still agree non-contractual and by mutual consent. “That works very well in many cases.


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