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What do I need to keep in mind when terminating my tenancy agreement?

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Both tenants and landlords are subject to strict rules on the termination of tenancy agreements. If you do not observe the legal requirements or the terms of the tenancy agreement, you could get yourself into real trouble or even find yourself homeless.

Andrea Pestalozzi, a legal expert at AXA-ARAG specializing in real estate law, answers the most important questions about notice periods, finding a new tenant, and the handover of apartments. She also provides tips on what to do in the event of wrongful termination of your tenancy agreement. 

What can I do in the case of wrongful termination of my tenancy agreement by my landlord?

You can challenge termination of your tenancy agreement with the responsible conciliation board for tenancy matters within 30 days of receiving notice. At the same time, you can request extension of the agreement.

What notice periods apply for rental apartments?

Normally, the notice period and deadlines for giving notice are set out in the tenancy agreement. The notice period may not be less than the minimum period set by law, which is three months for residential properties. 

When does a landlord have a right of extraordinary termination?

Extraordinary termination is permitted for good cause  if this means the tenancy agreement cannot reasonably be expected to be fulfilled. In this case, the tenancy agreement can be terminated at any time, provided the statutory notice period is observed (at least three months for residential property). The consequences under property law are determined by a judge. However, termination for good cause is rare because the definition of “good cause” sets the bar very high.

Other reasons for extraordinary termination include bankruptcy of the tenant or sale of the property.

When can my landlord terminate my tenancy agreement without notice?

Your landlord can terminate your tenancy agreement without notice if you deliberately cause serious damage to the apartment.

The general principle is: Tenancy agreements for residential and commercial properties can be terminated by giving a period of notice of 30 days to the end of a month if you continue to disregard your duty of care and consideration even after receiving a warning.

Your landlord can also terminate the agreement at month-end, subject to 30 days notice, if you owe rent and fail to pay it within 30 days of receiving a warning that your tenancy will be terminated.  

Which rules apply for terminating tenancy agreements for family apartments?

A spouse may only terminate the tenancy agreement for the family apartment with the explicit agreement of the other spouse. What’s more, if the landlord terminates the agreement, a notice of termination must be delivered separately to both spouses. 

Can my landlord terminate my tenancy agreement without stating a reason?

Yes. However, your landlord must give reasons on request. 

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Does my landlord have to be in situation of need in order to terminate my tenancy for personal use?

No, personal use can be sufficient reason for termination of a tenancy agreement without the landlord being in a situation of need. 

As a tenant, how can I challenge wrongful termination of my tenancy agreement?

You can challenge termination of your tenancy agreement if it is contrary to the principle of good faith. That means you have been given notice because you enforced claims arising from the tenancy agreement, for example if your landlord endeavored to enforce a unilateral change that is detrimental to you or to change the rent, or because of a change in your family circumstances that does not have any serious disadvantages for your landlord. 

Do I have to accept notice of termination by phone?

No, if notice is only given by phone it is not valid. The landlord is required to give notice on an official form. Tenants have to give notice in writing. 

Can I challenge notice of termination for personal use?

You can challenge termination of your tenancy agreement if it is contrary to the principle of good faith. This is examined on a case-by-case basis. If you wish to challenge termination of your tenancy agreement, you must do so within 30 days of receiving notice of termination.

Under what circumstances can I extend the period of notice?

You can submit a request for an extension to the conciliation board for tenancy matters within 30 days   of receiving notice. You can request extension of the tenancy agreement if termination would place you in a situation of hardship  which is not justified by the landlord's interests.

As a tenant, what do I need to consider if I wish to terminate my tenancy agreement early?

If you wish to terminate your tenancy agreement outside of the given periods, you must notify your landlord or landlady that you are seeking early withdrawal from the agreement. If you want to be released from your contractual obligations when you move out, you must propose an acceptable, solvent new tenant to your landlord/landlady.

You can find a free template for early termination of your tenancy agreement and further information on MyRight. 

What is the deadline for receipt of notice of termination by my landlord?

Your notice must be received by the landlord at the latest one day before the period of notice starts. The postmark is authoritative.

Do I – as a tenant – always have to give notice in writing?

Yes. In writing means: in a letter that has been signed by hand. It is advisable to send your letter by registered mail.

Is it sufficient if one member of a shared tenancy signs the notice of termination?

Notice must be served jointly on the tenancy agreement by all (joint and severally liable) tenants. Consequently, they must all sign the letter giving notice.

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Can I propose a colleague as a new tenant for my apartment?

If you terminate the tenancy agreement early, you are entitled to propose a new tenant. If you propose an acceptable, solvent tenant who assumes your tenancy agreement on the date of your proposed relocation, your obligation to pay rent ends on this date.

Am I required to propose several possible new tenants?

One acceptable, solvent tenant who actually takes over the rental contract is sufficient. However, since it is often uncertain whether the proposed tenant meets these criteria and actually takes over the tenancy agreement, we recommend that you propose several tenants.

When can a landlord reject a proposed new tenant?

If the tenant is not solvent, or is not acceptable on a reasonable basis.

What criteria does a proposed new tenant have to fulfill to be deemed “reasonably acceptable”?

Based on objective criteria, the tenant must be reasonably acceptable with a view to the criteria for the specific property (use, specific contractual obligations, etc.). The landlord may not impose any higher or different requirements on the tenant taking over the tenancy agreement than on the present tenant.

If I terminate my tenancy early, do I also have to find a new tenant for my car parking space?

Yes.

I have given notice in good time that I wish to end my tenancy agreement. Now my landlord has set a viewing date for prospective tenants without consulting me. Is that allowed?

Your landlord is entitled to advertise the property and arrange for it to be viewed by prospective tenants if this is necessary to relet the apartment. However, you must be notified in advance of the viewing dates and they must be agreed with you.

What if I cannot find anyone to take over my tenancy agreement?

Then you have to pay rent until the tenancy agreement ends – on the next possible termination date following submission of notice of termination.

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What is meant by handing over an apartment in “broom clean” condition?

This means that you do not have to carry out a full and complete cleaning of the apartment as would normally be the case. However, the kitchen and bathroom must be cleaned thoroughly. You must make sure there are no food remains or hard water marks. The floors must be wiped and you must remove any large patches of dirt, cobwebs, etc. If the property has to be handed over “broom clean”, you do not have to clean windows or outdoor blinds.

My tenancy agreement does not contain any specifications for handover. How thoroughly do I need to clean my apartment?

If the tenancy agreement does not give any details, you must return the apartment in a well-cleaned  condition.

What is meant by “minor maintenance and repairs”? What do I have to repair when I move out?

Minor maintenance and repairs means work that you can perform yourself without any special skills, for example, replacing a light bulb or shower head. You also have to replace small items such as toothbrush glasses and refrigerator drawers at your own expense.

What is considered a defect when I return the apartment?

Defects are damage that goes beyond normal wear and tear and has occurred since you moved in. Damage that goes beyond normal wear and tear means damage that would not have occurred in the course of careful use.

Can my landlord have the apartment painted at my expense when I move out?

If the paintwork still has a present value and shows signs of defects that are not due to normal wear and tear (e.g. children's drawings), you must pay the cost of painting up to the present value. If a special nicotine paint is required because you smoked in the apartment, you are responsible for the full cost.

 

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