Ask a JAG: German landlord-tenant laws

By Capt. Faisal Akhter (U.S. Army)
Stuttgart Law Center

Q: When I arrived in Germany, I wanted to live off post. However, now that I’m PCSing, my landlord is giving me a hard time. I regret not staying on post. Am I the only one with these issues?

A: Absolutely not. While living on the local economy and integrating yourself within the German community can be an exciting endeavor, this decision can cost you thousands of dollars. When you sign your rental agreement, you are entirely responsible for anything arising from the contract. You commit to either potentially losing your security deposit or hiring an expensive German attorney to represent your interests.

To prepare yourself, attend the German Landlord-Tenant class held at the In-processing Training Center in Building 2913, Panzer Kaserne.

The briefing targets newcomers to Germany but welcomes all members of the community seeking to learn more about local landlord-tenant law. If you cannot make the briefing, there is a video recording available.

A few key points everyone should know:

• All your agreements should be in writing. Oral agreements, while binding in Germany, are highly discouraged as they can be difficult to prove.

• You have a duty to notify your landlord in writing of required repairs. Failure to notify your landlord can result in severe costs.

• If you request an upgrade to your apartment, such as adding a garden, your landlord can increase your monthly rent.

• Use the standard Housing Services Office rental property agreement. It contains numerous protections many German contracts do not otherwise include.

• Read everything you sign. And especially do not buy a six-figure house without reading the entire contract. Additionally, buying a house is not a simple transaction. Expect to spend many thousands more than the cost of the house. You may also have to hire a German attorney to represent your interests.

German laws vary from U.S. laws. Do not make assumptions while hoping for the best. You can lose the entirety of your security deposit and also pay for damages that existed when you moved in. An unscrupulous landlord can pocket your money, repair nothing, and continue this cycle with their next tenant.

If the above issues make you think twice, great. You should not make this decision lightly. Living on post still allows you to enjoy a wonderful European experience.

This column is not intended as individual or specific legal advice. If you have specific issues or concerns, you should consult a judge advocate at 421-4152/civ. 0711-729-4152.