Is your landlord charging you for maintenance or for modernization?


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Tenants in Germany no longer have to pay extra rent for maintenance. What about modernization?

Do you know what rights you as a tenant have in the event of modernization by the landlord? Below is a summary on what landlords are allowed and not allowed to do in the event of modernization.


When is modernization lawful?

If the landlord announces modernization measures, the tenant must tolerate these in the following, mostly typical cases:

  • if this saves energy in the long term,
  • if the measure protects the climate,
  • if the water consumption is reduced, as is the case with the installation of water-saving cisterns instead of flushing valves,
  • if the utility value of the apartment is greatly increased, such as with new bathrooms, showers or toilets,
  • if, as with changes in the law, the landlord is not responsible for the modernization himself,
  • if the general living conditions are improved in the long term.

In Germany you law (BGB) specifically mentions a tenant’s obligation to tolerate modernization.

What counts to improve general living conditions?

If a children’s playground is built on the property and new play equipment is installed or, for example, an elevator is installed in the house, the living situation improves for everyone.

By and large, modernization work is meant from which the entire house community benefits and not just the individual tenant.

This can include setting up a bicycle cellar as well as installing smoke alarms, planting green spaces or building garages and parking spaces.


What is the difference between modernization and maintenance?

A fundamental distinction must be made between modernization measures and maintenance work and repairs.

The landlord is legally obliged to carry out maintenance measures such as repairing the heating.

The landlord of the apartment must maintain and maintain the contractual condition so that the rental purpose can be fulfilled.

Attention: In contrast to modernizations, the rent cannot be increased for maintenance measures.

When does the landlord have to announce the modernization?

The landlord must inform the tenant of what he is planning to do at least three months before the work begins.

The three-month period is a statutory minimum period – it may be exceeded, but not fallen short of. This is also referred to as a reflection period.

Before it has expired, the tenant does not have to put up with any modernization measures.

The period begins when the notice has been sent to the tenant.

What has to be announced to the tenant?

According to the law, a landlord who wants to modernize must inform:

  • which work he wants to carry out in detail,
  • what scope the work is likely to have,
  • when the measures are likely to begin,
  • how long the work is scheduled to take,
  • how high the expected rent increase is if he plans an increase,
  • what the expected future operating costs are.
  • Both modernization measures inside and outside the apartment must be communicated.

How should modernization be announced?

The landlord must announce the modernization work in writing.

The verbal announcement does not meet the legal requirements.

In addition to the letter form, the landlord can also submit his declaration as a copy, fax or email.

What are the consequences if the landlord does not comply with his information obligation?

Then the tenant is not obliged to put up with the modernization work.

This also applies if the notification obligation has not been properly fulfilled or the three-month period has not been met.

Which costs can the landlord pass on and which not?

Only the modernization costs actually incurred may be taken into account.

material costsRepair costs
Labor costsFinancing costs
Building costsCapital raising costs
Own work by the landlordunnecessary and inexpedient costs

When do tenants not have to put up with modernization?

You are not obliged to accept an apartment modernization planned by the landlord

✔ if the measure for the tenant

✔ for the tenant’s family

✔ or another member of his household

means a hardship that cannot be justified.

In the case of hardship tests, the interests of the tenant and landlord are weighed up against each other.

But the interests of other house residents or questions of climate protection and the way in which the utility value increases are also taken into account.

The savings that could result from an energetic modernization are also taken into account.

The law specifies the following as reasons of hardship:

  • the work to be carried out as part of the modernization,
  • the structural consequences,
  • previous uses of the tenant,
  • the rent increase expected due to the modernization.

When is the modernization unreasonable for the tenant?

The reasons for hardship are the type and intensity of the planned work. Noise, dirt or the restriction of the possibilities of use must be taken into account.

For example, construction work for older or physically disabled tenants can be unreasonable due to dirt, noise and other pollution.

When can the structural consequences for the tenant be unreasonable?

The structural consequences of the modernization can be unreasonable for the tenant if the character of his apartment is fundamentally changed.

This can be the case, for example, with extensive installations or conversions.

Tip: Even if the lighting conditions deteriorate due to smaller windows or if the installation of insulating windows may cause moisture damage, the limit of reasonableness may be exceeded.

What are previous uses?

This is particularly about cases in which tenants have made investments in the apartment themselves.

This can become a cause of hardship if these become worthless as a result of the planned modernization, although they are not yet worn out.

This is the case, for example, if a tenant installed heating at his own expense not long ago with the consent of the owner.

Can the rent increase be unreasonable for the tenant?

Yes. Rent increases of more than 30 percent can be unreasonable. The limit of reasonableness is also exceeded if more than half of the tenant’s pension is to be paid for a subsequent rent.

With a corresponding objection, however, the tenant can only take action against the modernization rent increase.

For this reason, modernization cannot be prevented.


What can I do about improper modernization?

Circumstances that represent a hardship with regard to the tolerance or the rent increase must be communicated to the landlord in text form.

Attention: The tenant must justify his objection!

The window must be with the landlord by the end of the month following the modernization announcement at the latest.

For example, if you were informed in January, your objection must be submitted by the end of February.

Can the landlord then give me notice?

If the tenant objects to the planned modernization measures, the landlord has to sue him for tolerance.

The owner may not simply start with the measures or terminate the lease without notice.

The court decides on the landlord’s action by examining whether the tenant has to put up with the intended modernization or not. 

How high can the rent increase be after a modernization?

In free residential construction, the landlord is currently allowed to allocate eleven percent of his modernization costs to the annual rent.

This share is divided by twelve according to the months of a year and added to the existing rent.

In the event of a rent increase due to modernization, landlords are not bound by the local comparative rent.

Example calculation: Two new insulating glass windows for your apartment cost your home owner 1320 euros including installation. He can allocate eleven percent of this to the annual rent. That’s 120 euros. A twelfth of this is added to the monthly rent: In future, you will pay ten euros more per month.

Attention: Even if the owner has recovered 100 percent of the modernization costs through the rent, the rent increase remains.

How does the rent increase have to be done?

The request for a rent increase, as it is called in tenancy law, has content and formal requirements:

The landlord must submit the rent increase declaration to the tenant in writing or in text form.

The rent increase is only effective if it is explained in detail.

The landlord must describe the construction work so precisely that the tenant can use it to derive the improvement in residential value or the energy or water savings.

The explanations must be designed in such a way that the calculation of the rent increase and the allocation of the modernization costs can be checked and assessed without any special prior knowledge.

Are to be given

  • the total amount of modernization costs,
  • the allocation of costs to the individual modernization measures,
  • the division according to trades within the individual construction measures and
  • the rent increase per month.

When is the increased rent due?

Even an effective modernization rent increase does not apply immediately.

Only with that

✔ Beginning of the third month

✔ after you have received the rent increase in writing tenants have to pay

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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