Once a tenant moves out of an house or apartment, he/she may ask the landlord to pay back the security deposit, if there were no damages done during the time the tenant lived on the property. This article shall outline the basics in German tenancy law regarding this issue.
1. When does the landlord have to pay back the deposit?
Contrary to general belief, the landlord does not have to return the security deposit at once, but may keep it for a "reasonable" amount of time. What a reasonable amount of time is, depends on the case. Esp. if there is a possibilty of outstanding payments for utilities, the time period may be longer, namely until the final bill by the water/power company is completed. If the landlord gives no explanation why he or she is holding onto the security deposit and the utilities have also been paid for, then the maximum waiting period is usually six months after the return date of the property.
2. Who has the burden of proof for damages?
a) Damages upon moving in
In general, the landlord has to prove that the property was free of damages when the tenant moved in.
However, this burden of proof shifts to the tenant, if a walk-through document was done when the tenant moved in and a certain damage was not listed. Then the tenant would have to prove that the damage was already there, although it is not listed in the walk-through document.
b) Damages after moving out
If a walk-through document is done at the time the tenant moves out, then the landlord in general cannot ask for compensation for damages that are not listed and can be reasonably disputed. This shall protect the tenant from claims for damages to the property after the tenant has moved out.
3. What is a "damage"?
A "damage" is done to the property, if a poor condition is a result of inappropriate use of the property. Regular wear and tear, which is the result of a regular use of the property, is not considered a damage.
4. As a tenant, do I have have to paint the walls, once I leave the apartment?
It depends on the contract. But, for instance, if the apartment was received with white walls and the tenant decides to paint the walls in flashing red and orange colors, then the tenant has to paint the walls white again, once he/she leaves.
5. The property has been sold. Who is responsible for the deposit?
If the property has been sold and turned over to a new owner, then the tenant may ask the deposit from either the former or the current owner of the property.
6. Attorney' fees to help you with your claim
I am - like all German lawyers - authorized to counsel and represent clients from all parts of Germany. Representation and also a law suit is possible, if you have already left Germany and I can gladly assist you. A plaintiff does not have to be necessarily present in Germany in a civil law suit. A lawyer can act as a proxy. I have and still represent clients that live abroad and all cases have been and are very well handled via phone and e-mail.
If the landlord ignores your request and thus is at default, he/she is liable for your legal fees , so you can hire a lawyer to help you with your claims.
The following fees apply:
a.) According to German law I may charge up to 190 EUR + 19 % VAT (226,10 EUR inkl. VAT) for initial consultations, if no fee is agreed upon (https://dejure.org/gesetze/RVG/34.html)
Please contact me via e-mail or phone to agree on a certain fee.
b.) The fees for representation ar calculated upon your claim. Please see here. There is of course no charge for an initial consultation, if you decide to hire me after the initial consultation.
I can also assist you, if you have already left Germany. Neither a plaintiff nor a defendant have to be necessarily present in Germany in a civil law suit. A lawyer can act as a proxy. I have and still represent clients that live abroad and all cases have been and are very well handled via phone and e-mail.
Tel: 0631 / 84 27 759
Fax: 0631 / 27 75 73 009
E-Mail: kanzlei (at)polishuk.de