The move is imminent. But do you actually have to delete now? We’ll tell you what landlords can demand from you – and which requirements you can ignore because they are invalid.
The most important facts in brief:In principle, landlords are obliged to preserve the substance of the property . This obligation cannot be transferred to tenants.Tenants are only obliged to carry out cosmetic repairs if there is a valid clause in the rental agreement. The apartment does not have to be returned in a better condition than when moving in.An invalid clause is, for example, that cosmetic repairs must be carried out Bathroom Renovations by professional companies or if it is generally stipulated that a renovation must take place every two years.If it has been agreed that the apartment will be handed over “swept clean”, it only needs to be roughly cleaned
Tenants are required to make occasional renovations. Although the obligation to carry out cosmetic repairs and renovations is actually on the part of the landlords (cf. § 535 paragraph I BGB), in most cases it is contractually passed on to the tenants. Thus, in many cases, you still have no choice but to paint the apartment when moving out.
However, the renovation of the old apartment is about as pleasant for many tenants as a visit to the dentist, as there are some quirks in the apartment that need to be eliminated before the handover.
Renovation when moving out: New laws since 2021?
A new law on tenants’ obligations to renovate an apartment when moving out was not passed in 2020 and 2021. For this, some trend-setting judgments have been made, which must be observed. These judgments show how the existing legislation is to be interpreted. The core message is that landlords are responsible for the general maintenance of the property.
There is already a regulation that landlords are obliged to maintain the condition in which a property is handed over in accordance with the contract. This is regulated in § 535 Abs. 1 of the German Civil Code (BGB). Only cosmetic repairs may be imposed on tenants. These must be carried out before moving out, provided that there is a contractual clause in the rental agreement that is legally effective.
Tenants, on the other hand, may move out without renovating the apartment if the clauses in the lease have been formulated inadmissibly. This is the case, for example, if the apartment was handed over unrenovated. It cannot be required that the property be returned in a better condition. Likewise, cosmetic repairs may only be imposed if they are actually necessary.
If the apartment has been renovated even though the clause was invalid or there is no agreement on the move-in renovation, tenants have the right to reclaim the costs within six months according to the BGH ruling (Az.: VIII ZR 195/10). A middle way is also possible: tenants can do work within the permissible limits, but other clauses of the contract that are not allowed may be ignored. In case of doubt, you should seek legal expertise or seek advice from an association for tenants.
Receive tenancy law advice with MieterPlus
As a Plus member of ImmoScout24, you receive support in tenancy law issues. Can you paint your apartment however you want?
Tastes are known to be different, so landlords may not include any provisions in the lease during the rental period that force the walls to be painted regularly in white or other color schemes.
You are free to decide how you design your apartment during the rental. Any agreement that restricts this basic principle is fundamentally invalid. In the vast majority of cases, landlords have no legally recognizable interest on their side, which would entitle them to “dictate” a color selection during the rental period or to enforce a taste in any other way.
Thus, your landlord has to accept if you paint the walls in your apartment in fashion colors or with special “wiping techniques”. Also with regard to the wallpaper, there is no say for landlords, so you could – depending on your taste – also remove the wallpaper and design the wall using glazing technique.
Drill holes in the usual scope are also permitted or the installation of panelling, provided that this is removed after the end of the rental period.
Secure with apartment handover protocol
Both sides, landlords and tenants, can secure themselves by means of an apartment handover protocol. In this document, the condition of the property is documented and the protocol is created when moving in and out. Defects are recorded and pictures are attached. This makes it clear how the object was applied and how it was returned. This counteracts any (legal) disputes and ensures clarity regarding the refund of the deposit. The documentation should be in writing and landlords and tenants should finally sign the protocol. What tenants are forbidden to do in the rented apartment
The only limit that is drawn to you as a tenant is the preservation of the building fabric. So you must not do anything that could permanently damage the walls or ceilings. Caution should also be exercised in the event of a lasting change in the building fabric. For example, before painting wooden elements or bathroom tiles, you should remember that the building fabric only needs the consent of your landlord. In case of doubt, a lasting irreversible change to the apartment is contrary to your obligation to return the apartment in a contractual condition. When do tenants have to renovate when they move out?
Your creative freedom with the wall color ends when you move out. Landlords are not allowed to “dictate” colors here – i.e. do not prescribe white wall paint. However, when moving out, the interest of the landlords in a problem-free re-letting comes to the fore. Therefore, you have to choose the color scheme so that it is accepted by “as many prospective tenants as possible” (Federal Court of Justice, judgment of 18.6.2008 – VIII ZR 224/07).
In fact, it boils down to the – more or less – uniform colors. Very strong colours such as red and blue, but also strong yellow are therefore inadmissible (cf. BGH, judgment of 06.11.2013 – VIII ZR 416/12). Landlords can contractually stipulate that the apartment must be handed over in “light”, “neutral” or “discreet” colors. The provisions in the lease must therefore not be too specific to remain valid.
What exactly this means is a controversial question. Thus, light blue and lime green are also light and comparatively more subtle colors than, for example, dark red or brown. However, the BGH has ruled in its decisions that such colors do not fit every furnishing style and are therefore not to be regarded as “neutral”.
It is interesting that the BGH focuses on different furnishing styles on the one hand and at the same time only accepts the color selection that fits as many styles as possible. The benchmark for the right choice of colours should therefore be the highest possible acceptance of as many prospective tenants as possible, each with different furnishing styles. Sounds complicated and probably is, because tenants hardly gain legal certainty with such a jurisprudence.
An inadmissible renovation obligation for tenants is also that the parquet floor must be freshly sanded.
Do walls need to be painted white?
A categorical restriction of tenants to the color white in the final renovation is rejected by the highest court. The court saw this as an unreasonable disadvantage. The same should apply to the wallpapers themselves. Whether woodchip or not is not important – discreet and neutral pattern wallpapers would have to accept a landlord, provided that the wallpaper is not damaged. A photo wallpaper, however, is certainly not one of the suitable decoration styles and would probably have to be removed. Do tenants have to carry out cosmetic repairs?