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November 2001

Domestic Politics

Rental laws change again

On September 1, 2001, the German government introduced the first major reforms in rental laws (Mietrecht) in almost 30 years. While lawmakers seem to have intended to tidy up existing legislation—rather than improve the lot of the tenant (Mieter)—happily, many of the changes will benefit those living in rented accommodation, rather than their landlords (Vermieter).

The first major revision applies to the notice period (Kündigungsfrist). Tenants with an open-ended lease (unbefristeter Mietvertrag) now need only give three months notice (Kündigung), regardless of how long they have been living in a house or apartment. Landlords, on the other hand, are bound by the following rules: up to five years occupancy requires a notice of three months; five to eight years requires six months; and more than eight years gives the tenant a nine-month breather before having to leave.

Tenants who are asked to sign a time-limited lease (befristeter Mietvetrag) should know that, from now on, this is only legal if a reason (Befristungsgrund) is given by the landlord at the outset, i.e., if the landlord wants the apartment for himself (Eigenbedarf) at a later date.

In cases where an apartment is sold to a new owner (Eigentümer) while still occupied by a tenant, the new landlord must give a minimum of three years notice and even this may be extended by up to ten years, depending on the location of the apartment and the possible difficulty of finding a new flat.

Rent increases (Mieterhöhung) have also been revised. Now a landlord can only raise the monthly payments within a three-year period by 20%, down from 30%, previously. If you are already paying a lot, remember that the upper limit is defined by what is reasonable for the city quarter (ortsübliche Vergleichsmiete) and, while the landlord previously only needed to quote the rent for three comparable apartments, he is now obligated to use a rental table (Mietspiegel) that has some kind of authorization, i.e., has been put together by the local authorities.

Late payers beware: the next rule applies to you. From now on, your rent for the coming month must be paid by the third working day of that month. Service charges (Nebenkosten) that a tenant is required to pay must be billed within one year. Remittance will not be required if the landlord fails to send the bill within that period. Should a delay come about through circumstances beyond the landlord’s control, the tenant will be expected to pay the bill as usual.

The laws applying to modernization of a property have also been updated. If a landlord wishes to make improvements, and this applies especially to energy-saving measures (energieeinsparungs Maßnahmen), the tenant must allow the work to go ahead and 11 percent of the cost of these improvements can be added on to the rent yearly. However, three months notice must be given before work can begin and no rent increases are allowed for repairs, only for improvements.

The legal rights of handicapped tenants have also been revised. A landlord must allow any alterations to an apartment to be made that will make the unit more suitable for wheelchairs, etc. However, the costs of these modifications, and their removal once the lease expires, must be borne by the tenant. To cover himself, a landlord may insist on an additional deposit (Kaution).

Finally, the new regulations apply (almost exclusively) to rental contracts that have come into effect after September 1, 2001. For advice on any exceptions and other rental problems contact the Mieterverein München, Tel. (089) 55 21 43 0, or visit

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