Question: I’m about to move into a rental house on the economy. What do I need to know about Germany’s tenant-landlord laws?
Understanding your rights and obligations as a tenant is a good way to steer clear of legal trouble.
First, the right to privacy and enjoyment is a tenant’s fundamental right. If your landlord wants to enter the premises, he or she must provide 48 hours notice and a stated purpose (normally in writing or via email). Your landlord may not access your property without consent, unless in the case of emergency.
Second, in Germany tenants have an obligation to notify the landlord if there is something wrong with the premises. If a tenant does not notify the landlord and the problem worsens, the tenant may be liable for any increased costs due to lack of prompt notification.
Generally speaking, resolution time will depend on the severity of the problem. For instance, if hot water or heating is defective in the middle of the winter, the problem should be resolved within 24 hours. However, if a dishwasher is out, a landlord may take longer.
If a tenant wants the problem resolved promptly, he or she should not wait until the weekend to notify the landlord. Keep in mind that if a problem must be resolved during a German holiday or the weekend, this can increase costs, and a landlord may be more reticent to request same day repairs.
Prompt notification of real property issues will minimize inconvenience, damage, and monetary loss to you and the landlord.
Finally communicate with your landlord about Internet and telephone providers. In some areas Telekom has a monopoly and in others, Kabel BW controls the market. If your building is pre-wired, ask your landlord what service is available in the building before signing up for, or renewing, Internet and phone contracts.
Remember, most issues can be easily handled through open communication with your landlord. The Housing Office has bilingual representatives who are able to facilitate communications in case there is a language barrier. Legal problems only get worse with time so if you have an issue, address it.
Editor’s Note: Do you have a legal question you would like to see answered in a future edition of the “The Citizen?” If so, contact “Ask a JAG” at firstname.lastname@example.org.