Problems with Your Landlord in Germany: What To Do?

Problems with the landlord arise more often as we wish. As a tenant in Germany, you shouldn’t tolerate everything. You have more rights than you think. Therefore, tenants should take a look at the tenancy law and find out about their rights and responsibilities.

If you experience any problems with your landlord, for example, if they are failing to fix something or being unresponsive, you could take some of the following steps:

  • Submit a complaint to your landlord in writing
  • Consult with your local tenants’ association or ask them to represent you
  • Contact a lawyer

Consequently, if you experience any problems with your German landlord, you should get advice from a tenants’ association (Mietervereine and Verbraucher­schutzzentrale) or from a lawyer specializing in tenancy law first. Read more about tenancy and how to deal with difficult landlords in Germany in this article.

What to do when you have problems with your German landlord?

Generally, tenants are entitled to legal protections in Germany. In case of conflict or problems with your landlord or neighbour, you can seek advice from a tenant protection association (Mietschutzbund or Mietschutzverein).

You will have to become a member and pay an annual membership fee (approx. 50 EUR – 80 EUR) to receive comprehensive advice and legal assistance from them. At mieterbund.de, you can find a tenant protection association in your area.

If you are discriminated against by your landlord or your neighbour, you can contact the Anti-discrimination Office. To find a counseling center nearby, check antidiskriminierungsstelle.de.

So what should you do when having a problem with your landlord? If you experience any issues with your landlord, for example, if they are failing to fix something or being unresponsive, you could take some of the following steps:

1. Write your landlord an email with the issue or problem you are experiencing. Describe it objectively and thoughtfully, never emotional.

2. Wait till a landlord responds and try to solve the issue between you two. Good correspondence with your landlord help to figure out who is right and who isn’t. If it’s not possible, proceed with the next step.

3. Get advice or help from your local tenants’ association or the Mieterschutzbund.

4. Refer to the lawyer of the tenant law if the local tenants’ association couldn’t help.

Reasons for conflicts between tenants and landlords

But firstly, it’s good to know the base of your disagreement with the landlord and whether further investigations make sense.

The most common reasons for disputes between tenants and landlords in Germany are:

Service changes / auxiliary costs35,2%
Defects and issues in the apartment16,5%
Rent increase12,7%
General contractual problems 12,0%
Landlord’s termination5,9%

1. Rent increase

The widespread reason for disputes is a rent increase. If your landlord decides to increase the rent, you should check whether it’s legit. There are special regulations when it comes to the rent increase in Germany. You can read more on it below.

Rule of thumb: If the price is more than 10% above the comparable local rent, you can claim back the overpaid rent.

2. Service changes / auxiliary costs

The annual settlement of operating costs, which everyone knows as the ancillary costs statement, often becomes a point of conflict between the tenant and landlord.

The billing process is complex; therefore, it’s not always clear what is due for payment and who must pay. In fact, about half of the utility bills are considered to be incorrect in Germany. Tenants can save themselves unnecessary costs by regularly checking their bills.

Read more about utility bills in Germany (electricity in particular).

3. Defects and issues in the apartment

You might have noticed defects or issues in the apartment that need a fix. Sometimes landlords aren’t very active in resolving issues. This can cause conflicts.

In the end, fixing the apartment is the landlord’s responsibility unless you cause the damage. In the latter, tenants are obliged to make corrections themselves and pay for it as well.

Nonetheless, when moving in, make sure that your contract or house rules contain the scope of repairs for you and the landlord.

Mold is particularly common. In many cases, landlords blame tenants and don’t take any action. Although lack of ventilation can indeed lead to mold, it’s often structural defects that cause mold to sprout – and the landlord is responsible for this!

In addition to mold, there are frequent complaints about water damage, noise from construction sites or neighbors, defective heating systems, broken windows, and doors. Often tenants have to live with the defects for days or weeks before the landlord takes action.

As a tenant, you have a right to a rent reduction if the landlord is slow on fixing the issue.

What defects is your landlord responsible for? Typical apartment defects include:

  • leaky windows
  • leaking roof
  • defective electrics
  • defective heating
  • damages due to the moisture

In addition, some defects come from the outside, such as construction noises or unpleasant odors. If defects are due to external influences, the landlord cannot eliminate them, hence, can not fix them.

Keep in mind that tenants are obliged to report to the landlord about any problems and damages in the apartment; otherwise, they might become responsible for them.

Liability insurance

Don’t forget about liability insurance that every tenant must have in Germany. It will cover costs for damages you ever make in the rented apartment. Get coverage from Getsafe, it starts already at 2,87 EUR per month.

4. Deposit (Kaution)

After moving out, you should get your security deposit back in full, assuming everything is fine. However, it’s not always the case. In some insurances, landlords keep deposits for months or don’t return them at all.

It’s a valid reason to have a conversation with a landlord or start investigating.

5. Landlord terminates the lease contract

Many tenants are afraid to lose their apartments. However, in Germany, you shouldn’t. There are strict rules on when a landlord can terminate a lease agreement. If it happened to you, and you don’t see a valid reason – start investigating.

Whether ordinary termination, termination without notice, or termination due to own need, the landlord must show good reason for each type of termination. Terminations without a legit cause are invalid – arbitrary cancellations are impossible.

If your landlord terminates your lease, contact a tenants’ protection association and seek advice.

Learn how to terminate your lease contract in Germany.

Germany protects tenants

German state protects tenants in particular. Overall they have more rights than landlords. In fact, tenant protection has existed since the late 19th century.

There are plenty of organizations representing tenants’ rights in Germany. They are called tenants’ protection associations (Mieterschutzverein).

Not only tenants but also landlords have their rights in Germany. Knowledgeable landlords use it to their benefit. A common way how landlords take advantage of their rights is the rent increase due to the modernization of the apartment.

Tenants, therefore, must know when a rent increase is justified and when it’s not.

What a foreigner needs to know about renting apartment in Germany?

Tenants associations in Germany

As a tenant in Germany, you can join one of the local tenants’ protection associations (Mieterschutzverein). They protect tenants and will give you professional support or legal advice in exchange for a small monthly fee.

Once you become a member, your Mieterschutzverein will represent your interest when having conflicts and disputes with a German landlord.

Overall, it’s your first place to seek help as a tenant.

An annual membership fee is very reasonable and ranges between 50 EUR and 80 EUR. At mieterbund.de, you can find a tenants’ protection association in your area and seek help.

What do they do?

Services of tenants’ association usually include:

  1. Comprehensive legal advice on all aspects of tenancy and homeownership law from the lawyers.
  2. Legal correspondence from the lawyers on your behalf (correspondence with authorities, requests for rent increases, replies to letters from lawyers and tenants’ associations, warnings, payment requests, notices of termination).
  3. Support related to service changes (Nebenkosten).
  4. Help with rental contracts, handover protocols, etc.

Being a member of such organization definitely worth it in Germany. Besides, it’s pretty inexpensive. For example, a membership at Vermieterschutzverein.de starts from 6,99 EUR per month, and Mieterschutzbund.de charges a fixed annual fee of 80 EUR.

For example, a Mieterschutzbund.de will assist you with the following:

  • Protection against dismissal in termination
  • Help when dealing with cosmetic repairs and their costs
  • Claims for defects and damages
  • Noise claims
  • Review of the ancillary and heating costs statement
  • Help with rental agreements
  • Rental deposits and issues with them
  • Maintenance or modernization of the apartment
  • Subletting
  • Rent increases

Such associations usually advise members by telephone, in writing, e-mail, or in person. You can find their office in most German cities.

Liability insurance for tenants in Germany

All tenants must have liability insurance to protect themselves from paying for damages made in the apartment. Read more about liability insurance and how much it costs.

Get a legal insurance

Legal insurance is helpful if you ever need to deal with legal disputes, whether with your landlord, your employer, or a stranger. Such insurances cover lawyer costs and other related expenses. Check out our recommended provider for expats.

Additionally, by having legal coverage, you can call a lawyer and get free advice on dealing with a landlord when in conflict.

Landlord and tenant law in Germany

As a tenant in Germany, it’s essential to know what rights and obligations you and your landlord have.

What are your rights as a tenant in Germany?

As a tenant in Germany, you have the following rights:

1. Pay rent deposit in installments

You have a right to pay a security deposit in monthly installments. For example, if the landlord charges three rents as a deposit, you may pay it in three equal monthly installments, with the first payment due at the beginning of the tenancy.

Rent deposit insurance

If you don’t have enough cash to secure a deposit, you can opt for deposit insurance. It will replace a cash deposit by providing a guarantee to your landlord.

In return, you pay a small fee. Check out this provider to get this guarantee.

2. Decide who can enter the apartment

After signing the lease, you determine who can and cannot come in. This also applies to your landlord. They can enter the apartment without a significant reason.

Once you have signed a contract, the landlord doesn’t have any right to come and get into your apartment without your permission.

3. Invite guests and visitors

Your landlord can’t forbid you to invite someone home.

4. Get a roommate or move in with a partner

As a tenant in Germany, you are free to let other people move into your rented apartment. However, this first must be agreed upon with a landlord. Moving in without their permission may lead to the immediate termination of the rental agreement.

5. Demand fixing things from a landlord

If you notice some issues in the apartment, you can always demand them to be fixed by the landlord.

6. Rent reduction

Tenants can demand a reduction in the rent if there’s a critical malfunctioning or defect in the apartment. You need to inform the landlord about the lacking part, and if they don’t take action, you can claim to reduce the rent.

7. Get your deposit back

As a rule, tenants have all right to receive a security deposit back after they have moved out. However, in reality, many tenants wait months to see their money back, if any. Read what to do if your landlord doesn’t return a deposit.

Landlord rights

What rights do German landlords have?

1. Deposit

All landlords will ask for at least one rent amount as a deposit, but charging three rents is more common. There is a cap of three rents; landlords can’t charge more.

This fee can be a financial burden for a tenant, especially if the rent is over 1,000 EUR per month. Yet, landlords in Germany have full rights to this security deposit.

They are obliged to keep the deposit in a separate bank account which may be used only for this purpose.

2. Rent increase

Landlords have a full right to increase the rent, assuming it’s done under the aforementioned conditions.

3. To demand rent ahead

A tenant always needs to pay rent in advance. The rent must be paid by the third day of the current month for which you are going to pay.

4. To demand tenants fix damages

If tenants have caused damage, they must also pay for the repair bill.

5. To demand tenants follow house rules

Tenants must abide by the house rules and show consideration for their neighbors. There is no enforceable right to occasional noise violations, for example, in the form of a party. Anyone who behaves in a permanently inconsiderate manner towards the house community risks termination without notice.

Landlord’s responsibilities

There are 12 official responsibilities that landlords in Germany face:

  • Maintain the apartment
  • Pay for repairs
  • Deal with defects and damages in the property
  • Deal with mold
  • Ensure security
  • Take care of bell and mailbox signs
  • Take care of service charges
  • Take care of heating
  • Inform about the house rules
  • Maintain the garden area
  • Issuing a housing provider confirmation when you move in/out
  • Accountability for services and charges

Can a landlord raise the rent in Germany?

Generally, German landlords can increase the rent every 15 months. The rent increase is excluded in the first 12 months of your tenancy contract. Besides, it can’t be more than 20% (15% in some states) over a three-year period.

This rule doesn’t apply to metropolitan areas where housing is in short supply. There the cap is set at 15%. If your rent should be increased, you will receive a notification at least three months in advance.

Landlords may also increase the rent if they have made some significant renovation in the rental property. A maximum of 8% of the modernization costs can be passed on to the tenants as an increase in the annual rent.

Furthermore, a cap of 3 EUR per square meter within 6 years now applies to the allocation of modernization costs. If the rent is less than 7 EUR per square meter, the rent may only increase by 2 EUR within 6 years due to renovations.

Can a landlord enter your apartment?

Landlords can enter the rented apartment only with the agreement from the tenant. Therefore, once you have signed a contract, the landlord doesn’t have any right to come and get into your apartment without your permission.

Visiting an apartment without agreement or invitation is illegal. You can report it to the police or Mieterschutzverein (association for the protection of tenants) in your city.

It’s a civil association that helps tenants in cases like this. Becoming a member costs only between 55 EUR to 80 EUR per year. Besides, such organizations will help you need to go to court.

Can a landlord terminate a lease in Germany?

While tenants have the right to end their lease, landlords can not terminate the apartment without an important reason. Plus, they must observe notice periods that depend on the duration of the tenancy.

Germany protects renters’ rights, and it’s very difficult for landlords to terminate a tenancy.  Your contract can only be terminated for a certain reason, such as:

  • Your landlord needs the apartment for himself or his family (i.e., they want to sell the house or move in themselves) – In such a case, your landlord needs to provide proof that he or his family needs to move into the apartment.
  • Your landlord wants to demolish the house. In this case, your landlord must give you enough time to look for a new apartment.
  • You failed to pay rent more than twice. If you haven’t paid rent for two months, a landlord has a right to terminate the lease agreement immediately.
  • You have repeatedly disturbed the peace in the building, e.g., you have harassed or insulted the neighbors. In this case, your landlord must first officially warn you. If the problems re-occur, he can terminate your contract without notice.
  • You use the property in a way that violates the tenancy agreement, such as subletting rooms without permission or keeping pets there.
  • You engage in anti-social behavior.

Nonetheless, if you have an adequate reason for staying (for instance, a severe illness), a landlord cannot ask you to move out. Even if it happens, and you will be forced to leave the flat, your landlord must give you enough time to look for a new place.

Consequently, if your landlord has terminated your tenancy and you are unsure whether it’s lawful, seek advice from the tenant association or a lawyer.

When can landlord evict you?

In some cases, landlords have a right to evict bad tenants. It usually happens when they break contractual obligations such as:

  • Late or no paying rent
  • Subletting the rented property to third parties without the landlord’s consent (e.g., Airbnb)
  • Continuous violation of house rules
  • Operating an unauthorized trade or business from the apartment (home office excluded)
  • Keeping a pet despite forbidding of the landlord
  • Damaging or neglecting the property intentionally

A landlord can also make a tenant leave if they urgently need a property for personal use. However, they must prove that the reason is legit. They can justify it by claiming a need for the apartment for:

  1. Children, stepchildren, parents, grandchildren, grandparents;
  2. Siblings, nieces, and nephews
  3. Partners, spouses, ex-spouses, parents-in-law
  4. Brothers and sisters-in-law, cousins
  5. Domestic workers (permanent nannies, foster carers, and domestic helpers)

Where and how to complain on your landlord in Germany

Whether the reason for your complaint, there is a way to do it correctly. In Germany, you could talk to your landlord by telephone, email, or in writing (mail). Email is the most common way to contact a landlord if there is an issue.

For example, if you have noticed some damage in the apartment, you should inform a landlord by email as soon as possible. If a landlord doesn’t take any action in this regard within a certain period of time, you can warn them with an official letter.

After that, it’s advisable to ask for the help of a tenant’s protection association (Mietschutzverein). They will guide you on German tenancy law if needed.

Once you join the Mietschutzverein, you will be fully protected as a tenant. They may even cover legal costs arising from a dispute with your landlord.

In addition to the tenant’s protection association and free information from the net, there are special lawyers who specialize in the tenancy law (Fachanwalt für Mietrecht). You can seek advice from them.

Beforehand, it’s recommended to take out legal insurance to reduce the expenses.

Can you sue a landlord in Germany?

Suing the landlord is the last option you should consider when having problems with them. Court and lawyer services are expensive in Germany. Yet, if your landlord is acting illegally and you are pretty sure about it, you have a good chance of winning a case.

Generally, you can take your landlord to court; a lawyer from the tenancy law will help you with that.

Ending your lease in Germany

As a tenant, you can end your lease regardless of how long you have been living in the apartment, but you need to give at least three months’ notice.

The termination must always be done in a written form and by the third working day of a month at the latest. Otherwise, you might pay one more month of rent unnecessary.

However, it’s impossible to end a fixed-term rental agreement without an important reason. Ordinary termination isn’t allowed with such contracts.

By signing a temporary lease in Germany, you are agreeing to the state lease period and will need the landlord’s consent when moving out earlier.

Here are the allowed reasons when a temporary lease can be canceled or an ordinary notice period of 3 months can be reduced:

  • Modernization/renovation of the apartment
  • Rent increase
  • Health hazards in the apartment
  • Death of a tenant

Learn how to terminate your lease contract in Germany.

Tenant’s notice

Tenants can end a tenancy by giving three months’ notice in writing. The same notice period applies, no matter whether you have lived in the property for three months or five years unless a shorter or longer notice period is stated in the contract.

Landlord’s notice

When terminating a lease, a landlord must give a notice period depending on how long the tenant has been living in the apartment:

Rental periodMinimum notice period
0 – 5 years3 months
5 – 8 years6 months
8+ years9 months

This minimum notice period only applies if the landlord needs an apartment for personal use. However, if you have violated your rental contract by failing to pay rent or subletting it without informing the owner, the landlord can terminate the contract without notice.

In that case, you have a right to defend yourself in court.

Moreover, a shorter notice period or even immediate termination can apply when:

  • The apartment was used in a way that goes against contract rules
  • Disturbance of domestic peace – this means serious insults and physical attacks on the landlord or other tenants, as well as intentional damage to property or theft of electricity

Recommended products and services in Germany:

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Anna

Anna is an enthusiastic expatriate with experience of living in Germany, Austria and Greece. She shares her passion for living abroad on this website.

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