Property Law

Termination of tenancy agreements under German law

The law of landlord and tenant in Germany has a reputation for being one of the most tenant-friendly in Europe. Accordingly, a landlord can only terminate a tenancy agreement in certain circumstances.

© ferkelraggae-Fotolia

© ferkelraggae-Fotolia

Termination of tenancy agreement

A tenancy agreement can only be terminated by a landlord when there is an important reason. If a landlord does not have an important reason to terminate a tenancy agreement, then any attempt to terminate is ineffective.

A reason often given by a landlord to terminate a residential lease is an intention to utilise the premises for his own purposes.

Strict legal requirements apply to any other important reason. The law requires the whole situation to be consideration and for the continuation of the tenancy agreement to be unreasonable. This means that the courts are often tasked with assessing the merits of landlord’s reason on a case-by-case basis.

Responsibility for guests

In a recent case heard by a court in Berlin (Az.: 65 C 494/12), the judges held that tenants cannot be held responsible for the behaviour of their guests.

In this case a landlord was punched in the face by a tenant’s guest. The incident took place in the context of already strained relations between the landlord and the tenant. The tenant had, for some time, intermittently allowed the guest to live in the rented apartment and had also given the guest a key.

Disputes often arose as a result of the guest’s behaviour and during an argument, about the proper separation and recycling of rubbish, the guest struck the landlord in the face. In reply the landlord banned the guest from the house.

The tenant allowed the guest back into the house and so the landlord terminated the tenancy agreement without giving notice.

Ineffective termination

The court declared the termination ineffective. It recognised that the punch caused harm to the landlord, but maintained that the assault was committed by a visitor and not by the tenant himself. The court took the view that tenants are only responsible for the behaviour of other tenants or sub-lessees and not for visitors.

As a result, any third party behaviour which is not attributable to a tenant cannot form the grounds for the termination of a tenancy agreement without notice.

Conclusion

The case would, however, have been decided differently if the visitor could be considered a cohabitant. But in this case the landlord was not permitted to use the assault by the guest as an excuse to terminate the tenancy agreement.

Christian Solmecke is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE. He is the author of numerous legal publications in the area of internet and IT law. He is also an associate lecturer for social media law at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

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