One of the biggest issues and fears when people get over here to Germany has to be ending up with a nightmare Landlord. As an admin for a “Landlord troubles group” on Facebook, I see the complaints and horror stories on a daily basis. While there are always two sides to a story, a lot of the issues would have been preventable if the renters would have been informed about their rights and duties ahead of time.

I ran a questionnaire on Facebook in preparation for this article and also tried to get in contact with the renter’s association and sat down with my personal licensed insurance agent Michaela Werkhausen.

Let’s start with the most mentioned problems, that I gathered from my post. At the same time, I would like to remind you that here in the Kaiserslautern area, the Landlords have to follow German rental laws. You can read up on that right here:

Also, worth mentioning is, that housing does not tell you if there have been any issues with the potential home you are looking at unless you ask, so please do ask, and enquire what went wrong.

The biggest issue is with Landlords showing up unannounced, at the house, in the garden or on a storage shed/garage on the property.

Under German law, renting a home is equal to owning it when it comes to deciding who can enter and when, it is called Hausrecht. That means you as renter decide who gets to enter, that even includes the Landlord. It applies to the House or apartment, on rented houses it includes the yard (unless otherwise stated in the contract) and any garages or storages (again unless otherwise stated in the contract). The Landlord is not allowed to keep a key to the home or the garage, unless you as renter wish so. Be sure you check your contract if you have extra storage on your property. You can find the details right here:

That being said, the Landlord does have the right to come and visit under certain circumstances, one is to show the place when you are getting ready to move, another is to fix damages, and then if there is suspicion that you are abusing your rental property (neglect or renting it out to someone else). But for that he has to give you notice, at the very least 24 hours. If the Landlord still enters without permission he is actually acting against the law. Calling the police may not be the best response depending on where the Landlord entered. But a serious talk should be in order. If issues persist then documenting the occurrences and taking advantage of a lawyer or the law enforcers may help a later court battle.

The Deposit is another big issue, not just where it is kept but also getting it returned to the renters. A deposit is not mandatory, but most Landlords ask for one. It has to be noted in the rental contract and can’t be more than 3 months’ rent. Commonly, for American renters this is a cash deposit handed over. The Landlord has to keep the deposit separate from his personal assets in a deposit account or a savings account. After the renter moves out and all outstanding costs are taken care of the Landlord has to turn over the deposit with the accumulated interest (those are not great interest-bearing accounts). So much for the theory. Reality is sometimes much more complicated. The thing I see over and over is that with the prospect of moving, people wait too long and then are stuck at the Landlords mercy, trying to get their deposit back before leaving the country the following week. The biggest advice I can give you is prepare early. As soon as you get to your last 3 months of moving, get busy. The reasons Landlords hold deposits usually are damages, outstanding utilities and overgrown yards, so beat them to it. Start compiling your utility bills, some companies even offer to come out for a second reading, call them up and check. Do a walkthrough of your house and check your rental agreement, what does it say? Does it mention Schoenheitreperaturen, or does it just state besenrein? Check position 5 and 6 depending on what your contract states:

You may be surprised that if your contract states besenrein, it only has to be swept and not deep cleaned by some company.

Most people are not aware that they have the right to fix damages on their own and rent their own handymen to do so. The work just has to be equivalent to the prior state of the object. One of the things I often see are damaged interior doors, go to your local home improving store and see if they have one that matches, they just hang on the hinges and are super easy to fix. In an earlier post here:  I shared some more fixes to please your Landlord. Mowing the lawn, weeding and cutting the shrubbery can make a huge difference, remember you also rent the yard with your home, so the upkeep and normal yard work is up to you. The final showing will be a lot more relaxed, if the place has little to no damages.

This is also where I would like to mention that German insurance can be a life saver here, Michaela was happy to explain, depending on your needs, a regular liability insurance, a dog liability or even a renter’s (Hausrat-Versicherung) will help out with repair bills. The only thing I would like to point out, is that German insurances are pretty common sense, if you neglect your supervision and let your dog chew up seven doors, 3 carpets and the wood floor, don’t expect coverage. German insurance is quite affordable and has little to no deductibles, they just have a set amount of time they have to be paid into before they can be used. The other nice part of those insurances are, once you send them pictures and estimates, they will decide if you are liable or not, if the insurance says this is normal wear and tear, the Landlord cannot demand you to pay for the repair.

Since utility bills should be listed in your rental agreement and you are supposed to get yearly statements and bills, you should have a pretty good idea of your usage. If your Landlord is slacking in that department, remind him that he has to do yearly utility bills because you will not have to pay backpay on bills that are older than 2 years.

Now, if after all your hard work and preparation, the Landlord still finds something to keep your deposit for then he has to provide you with an itemized list of what charges he is putting towards your deposit and provide copies of estimates or bills. Landlords can keep your deposit for 6 months without an issue, for longer they are supposed to provide valid reasons, like the water bill is still missing or what not.

Since we are talking about repairs, another big issue is repairs not getting done, or taking too long. If you have an issue that needs fixing, notify your Landlord in writing. If it is not getting fixed, send another reminder with a “set to do by” date. If stuff is still not getting repaired, take it either to a lawyer or the renters association to have them send a third reminder. Depending on what is broke the lawyers will now advise you that you can keep a certain percentage of your monthly rent, until the repairs are done. Do not just withhold all your rent, that is not how it works and illegal on top of that. Usually, the missing money makes them fix stuff promptly.

While not a Landlord problem per say, the finder’s fee is still an issue, and many still are not aware of the new law changes.  In 2015 the law was changed now going by, who hires pays. That means if you respond to an advertisement for a home, and it is shown to you by a realtor that takes care of the house for the Landlord, you do not pay a finder’s fee, or the realtor or whatever they may call it. Now if you go to a realtor and tell them, please find me a house, and they show you homes and listings, then yes, you hired therelator and you have to pay. If they are insistent of a fee, even though you did not hire them, walk away…it won’t be worth the issues later on.

Also remember, you are in Germany, many people do speak some English, but some, especially the older folks don’t. So language can be an issue. Try learning some basic German so you can communicate with the homeowner. Always make sure you have means of contact. Even when the house is overseen by a property manager, ask for the Landlords information in case of an emergency.

If you are worried about legal issues, later on or when it comes to moving out, you may want to look into joining a lawyer’s insurance, with rental law as an addition (the normal lawyers insurance does not include rental, homeowner or employment law for example) or the renter’s association. The legal insurance will be a little more, but you will have your own lawyer fighting your case for you, versusa renter’s association club that has many members that share lawyers. If you ended up with a bad Landlord, file a complaint withhousing and ask them to put it into the file of the Landlord for the next renters to know. Hopefully with plenty of complaints, housing will start weeding some of them out. Housing has an office on base and off base, you can get the information here:

As you may now see, time is really the most important thing and to be prepared in advance. Give yourself plenty of time to act and have stuff done before the big PCS madness hits. Schedule workers right after your furniture is picked up and get several estimates ahead so you can choose the cheapest one.

I hope this is helpful to some and can prevent a lot of the aggravation in the future.

Happy moving day