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November 2004

Home Truths

Don't always believe everything your landlord tells you!

Munich truly is a wonderful place to live—that is, if you’re lucky enough to find an apartment in the first place. And as soon as we do find somewhere, most of us are too busy gratefully handing out money to realtors and landlords to consider what may happen when it comes to leaving.

Until recently the costs of renovating an apartment/house on termination of a rental contract (Mietvertrag) could be prohibitively high. No matter how long or short your sojourn in rented accommodation was, most rental contracts stated that the tenant (Mieter) must redecorate or pay for the redecoration of their apartments before returning the keys to the landlord (Vermieter). In addition a contract generally required the tenant to redecorate bedrooms and living rooms after five years, kitchens and bathrooms after three years and any other rooms that receive less wear and tear after seven years.

Now, however, the regulations on this type of repair and repaint work (Schönheitsreparaturen) have been overthrown by a ruling of the German Federal High Court (Bundesgerichtshof) in June this year. Under the new regulations no tenant is obliged to pay for the above-mentioned repairs unless they are clearly necessary. This ruling overrides whatever is written in your rental contract. In some cases—if the tenancy (Mietdauer) has been very short—this will exempt the tenant from paying for or undertaking any repairs at all. In addition the ruling that requires tenants to carry out renovations at regular intervals has also been overthrown. As a result, no landlord can now demand that a tenant redecorate at fixed intervals.

Nonetheless, it may be worthwhile having your contract checked by a tenants’ rights association (Mieterschutzbund). If you are living in rented accommodation and are not yet a member of such a group, you should consider joining up. The Mieterverein München e.V. has offices in the Sonnenstrasse. For more information call (089) 552 14 30, or go to their Website: Such an association will keep you informed of changes in rental laws and related matters. Two recent changes, for example, include a ruling on how the size of rented accommodation is measured (Wohnflächenverordnung) and how much and in what way rented accommodation intended only for living may be used for work, e.g. as office space. In the former case, the measurement of certain areas in an apartment, such as corners and space under sloping ceilings, has often been carried out inaccurately, in some cases leading to a higher rent than is warranted. Rules on the measurement of floor space have now been standardized and the definition of what counts as living space has been clarified. In the latter case the ruling is an attempt on the part of the government to stop valuable living space in crowded cities from being turned into more profitable commercial premises.

As a member (Mitglied) of the tenants’ rights association you must pay an annual fee of € 62. This may seem steep, but it covers not only the help and advice you receive in rental matters, but also legal costs insurance (Rechtsschutzversicherung). They also have a Website, mietrecht.htm, which contains a list of FAQs in German that tenants can use free of charge. So, if you are about to make a move, either into or out of rented accommodation, it will be worthwhile checking your contract carefully.

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