Find out everything on how you can terminate a rental agreement in Germany, in particular the special rights of termination.
Move in, move out, move. As an Expat you will need to know how to terminate a rental agreement in Germany. If you believe the statistics, tenants in Germany don’t stay in the same apartment for more than ten to twelve years on average. According to the German Tenants’ Association, more than two million tenant households in Germany move every year. If you also want to change the apartment, you should heed a few tips – so that the move goes as smoothly as possible.
It’s always a good idea to avoid nasty surprises
A great thing to do shuld be to, plan a move on a longer-term basis and observe the notice periods in your rental agreement in order to avoid double rent payments.
You should also give notice in writing. And make sure that you can prove that the termination really reaches the landlord. This is the only way to ensure that you do not get a nasty surprise – and the landlord later claims that there will be no termination.
As a rule, tenants must terminate unlimited rental contracts with three months’ notice. It is important that the landlord receives the signed notice of termination by the third working day of the month. Only then does this month count in the calculation of the deadline. If the letter of termination arrives even one day later, the rent must be paid for another month.
The three special cases terminate a rental agreement in Germany
Of course there are exceptions to the rule. Here are the special cases:
- Insofar as a 14-day notice period was agreed in old GDR rental agreements, this continues to apply.
- Another exception is the so-called qualified temporary lease, which is rarely concluded. The rental is limited in time, whereby the reason for the limitation must be recorded in writing. If the tenant and the landlord have concluded a temporary lease, both sides must adhere to it. During the planned term of the contract, the tenant cannot cancel either, and he must continue to pay rent until the last day. He only has a special right of termination (see below).
- Third special case: The right of termination can also be excluded for a period of up to four years through a mutual waiver or exclusion of termination in the rental agreement.
1. Special termination
In addition, the tenant has special rights of termination under certain conditions:
- Announcement of a modernization
- The landlord must announce the modernization at least three months in advance. After receiving the letter, the tenant has until the end of the following month to give notice to terminate a rental agreement. The lease ends one month later. An example: If the landlord announces a modernization in May, the tenant can cancel until June 30; the lease ends on July 31st.
- Raising the rent to the local comparative rent
- The landlord must always announce a rent increase in writing. The tenant then has time to terminate the contract until the end of the month after that following the month in which the letter was written. The tenancy ends two months later. Example: If the landlord announces a rent increase for June 1st in March , the tenant can cancel until May 31st. The lease ends on July 31st.
- Rent increase after modernization
- The same deadlines apply here as for the increase to the local comparative rent. If, for example, the rent is to increase on June 1st, the tenant can cancel at the end of May, so that the tenancy ends on July 31st.
- Rent increase for social housing
- A separate regulation applies to social housing. If the landlord announces a rent increase, the tenant can cancel it up to the 3rd working day of the month from which the new rent is due. The termination will take effect at the end of the next month. So: If the rent is to be increased by June 1st, the tenant can cancel until June 3rd; the lease ends on July 31st.
2. Termination without notice
Irrespective of these special termination rights, the tenant may, under certain circumstances, terminate a rental agreement without notice: if he can no longer use the apartment in accordance with the contract due to severe housing defects or if the apartment poses a significant health risk.
Termination without notice is also possible if the landlord disturbs the peace of the house so persistently that the tenant cannot be expected to continue the tenancy.
3. Special deadlines
Special deadlines apply to time-limited graduated leases. These can only be terminated at the end of the fourth year.
But which regulations apply in the event of the death of a tenant? It depends on who signed the rental agreement. If both spouses are tenants through your signature and one of the two dies, the statutory notice period remains. The surviving spouse can – as usual – terminate a rental agreement within one month with a notice period of three months.
It is different when there is only one contract signer and he dies. If family members live in the apartment, they can enter into the rental agreement. Or they declare that they do not want to enter into the contract and can then cancel within one month after the tenant’s death. If a single tenant dies, the heirs can terminate a rental agreement after a period of one month with a notice period of three months.
Terminate a rental agreement due to Subtenant refusal
If the landlord refuses his permission to sublet the entire apartment, the tenant can give notice of three months’ notice to terminate a renatl agreement. Unless the proposed sub-tenant is unreasonable for the landlord. Attention: It is not enough to ask the landlord in general for permission to sublet; a specific person must be suggested to him.
Further information on the right to terminate and a summary of important judgments can be found in the brochure of the German Tenants Association “Termination and Tenant Protection”.