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How tenants and landlords terminate a lease in Germany

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Usually, the rental contract for an apartment runs for an indefinite period. The termination of an unlimited lease is therefore an everyday thing.

In Germany, a tenants can terminate a rental agreement and the associated apartment very quickly and easily in almost all cases. Landlords, on the other hand, don’t have it that easy. You can only give notice to your tenants under certain conditions.

Regardless of whether you are a tenant or landlord: In both cases there are a few things to consider.

Tips for tenants: notice periods, rules for new tenants and the right letter of termination

The German Civil Code (BGB) and its paragraphs on tenancy law protect the tenant quite extensively and so tenants are largely non-terminable. It is relatively easy for you to cancel yourself. At least if you have signed a standard rental agreement. 

Notice periods for tenants

With a standard lease, the notice period is three months to the first of the month. This means that as soon as the landlord receives the notice, the lease will remain in place for at least three full months. During this time, the tenant must pay the full rent.

It looks different when it comes to a temporary lease. In this case, the lease is limited from the outset to a certain period of time, which the contracting parties are free to specify. Neither the landlord nor the tenant can easily terminate such a lease. The same applies if the tenant has signed a waiver of termination. However, this is only permitted if it also applies to the landlord. In general, a waiver of termination is valid for a maximum of four years. 

terminate
How to terminate a lease in Germany

How to terminate tenants without notice

In the case of a normal rental agreement as well as a temporary rental agreement and a rental agreement with a waiver of termination, tenants may under certain circumstances terminate the contract without notice. 

This is the case if the apartment cannot be used in accordance with the contract, for example if only rusty water comes out of the taps, the apartment is heavily infested with vermin or the condition of the apartment is hazardous to health. 

However, these cases are often complicated, for example because an expert’s report is necessary. The landlord is also entitled to a period within which he must remedy the defect. In many cases it is therefore advisable to discuss termination without notice with a specialist lawyer in advance.

Terminate: Here’s how

In order to terminate a rental agreement in compliance with the deadline, an informal document without justification for the decision is sufficient. In addition to the actual wording of the termination, the letter should contain the address of the apartment, the time of termination and the signature of all main tenants. In addition, the request to the landlord to confirm the termination. To ensure that everything arrives on time, it is best to send the document to the landlord by registered mail.

Looking for a new tenant

When moving house, there may be overlaps with the new rental agreement. Such a transition period is extremely convenient for moving and any renovation work that may be required in the old or new apartment. But paying twice the rent for up to three months can be very expensive. One solution could be to help the landlord find a new tenant. 

Tips for landlords: deadlines, termination for personal use and the correct handling of the deposit

Landlords find it much more difficult to terminate their tenants than the other way around: Once the contract has been signed, it is valid. Either until the tenant quits or a fixed time frame expires.

Notice periods for landlords

For landlords, notice periods only apply in a few cases. One of the exceptions are two-family houses in which the landlord lives in one of the apartments himself or houses with a separate apartment. Then an informal letter is enough for the landlord to terminate the lease. In this case, the period is six to twelve months, depending on the length of the tenancy.
Further exceptions are termination due to personal use and termination without notice. 

Termination due to personal use

If the landlord needs an apartment for his own purposes, he can terminate the rental agreement . This means that he himself or close family members must then move into the apartment. In addition, termination may also be given due to personal needs, for example if the required nursing staff is to move in or the children of an illegitimate partner. 

The deadline for such a termination is at least three months, but increases with the length of the tenancy. In the case of a tenancy of five years or more, the period lasts six months, and in the case of eight years or more even nine months.

This is how landlords pronounce termination without notice

With all legitimate tenant protection, there is also too much. If the tenant owes something serious, the landlord can send him out without notice. Whereby without notice, strictly speaking, is a wrong word. Because the tenant has a minimum period of two weeks to pack his belongings and move out of the apartment. If the tenant stays, the last resort is eviction and eviction.

When the landlord can terminate the tenant without notice

In some cases, the landlord has good reasons to terminate his tenant without notice – for example, if he does not pay the rent or if he significantly disturbs the peace of the house.

Getting your deposit back

Pay back the deposit

If the tenancy ends, the landlord must repay the deposit. But they shouldn’t do that without checking. This sum is used for security so that outstanding costs can be easily settled. Landlords should check whether such costs exist. The deposit may be used if the rented property has been damaged, renovation or cosmetic repairs are pending, which are the responsibility of the tenant or if there are rent arrears.


The tenant is entitled to the deposit including interest. If the landlord wants to keep part of it, he has to prepare a statement. This must have happened within three to six months after the end of the tenancy. There is one exception: landlords may withhold part of the deposit for a longer period in order to cover an expected additional payment of the operating costs. However, this must also be settled properly and within a year.

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