Rent Reduction: This is how tenants proceed properly

Berlin – Broken heating, leaking windows, construction noise – there are many things that can make life difficult for tenants. If the landlord does not respond, a rent reduction can remedy the situation. For tenants, there is a lot to consider: how and when is this, what is allowed, how much money is involved? Answers to important questions:

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Reduce the rent: What are the reasons?

In general, a usability restricting lack of the apartment must be given. “The tenant can not use the apartment as he pleases and as he may expect under the lease,” Ulrich Ropertz from the German Tenants’ Association (DMB) summarizes in Berlin. The classic rental causes include leaking windows, broken heating in the cold season and mold in the home as well as noise from neighbors and construction noise.

But even unusual things, such as prostitution in the tenement, dog feces in the staircase, pest infestation or cracking radiators, can cause tenants to transfer less money to their landlord. The range of reasons is as colorful and extensive as the list of judgments. The tenants ‘association has just listed 500 judges’ verdicts.

How is it reduced properly?

This is done in two steps: First step: The tenant informs the owner quickly about the defect and sets a deadline for removal. This can happen over the phone, by e-mail or letter. Problem is proof: If the going gets tough, the landlord could claim that he never got the info. On the other hand “fax or throw-registered letter is court-proof” says Mietrechtsanwalt Marcus Reidel from Munich. Second step: the actual rent reduction. It is not separately announced and takes place retroactively, if the landlord remains inactive.

What are the deadlines for remedying defects?

The period depends essentially on the impairment. A cold heating in winter requires immediate relief. “He also has to set up an emergency service at the weekend,” says tenant lawyer Inka-Marie Storm of the owner association Haus & Grund Germany. The same applies to frozen pipes. Mold should be gone after two weeks, says lawyer Reidel. Simply instructing a craftsman within this period is not enough.

How much can be canceled?

In extreme conditions – black mold in the whole apartment, for example – it can be up to 100 percent. Otherwise, it depends on the individual case. The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) sees the tenant in the obligation to estimate the quota itself. Evidence can be derived from court judgments.

Broken bell: 3-5 percent, cracking heating, hot water temperature below 40 degrees Celsius, lack of hot water supply, nuisance caused by foul-smelling mist of the laundry dryer: 10 percent. All windows leaking (summer and winter) and the resulting constant humidity: 50 percent. Noise due to construction work in the house: up to 60 percent. Only toilet not usable: 80 percent. Failure of heating in winter: up to 100 percent, otherwise about 50 percent. Heating only creates temperature between 15 and 19 degrees, depending on space and season: up to 30 percent.

The setting of the quota harbors much conflict with the experience of Inka-Marie Storm. It therefore recommends that both sides find an amicable settlement instead of complaining. In court, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff. Tenants who mistakenly reduce too much, may not be automatically terminated the apartment.

How is it calculated?

After a BGH judgment, only the monthly rent can be reduced, the additional costs are not. Nevertheless, the gross rent forms the basis of the calculation: For a rent of 500 euros plus 100 additional costs, a rent reduction of 10 percent would be calculated on the basis of the total of 600 euros. As a result, 60 euros will be deducted from the 500 euros in rent; the landlord receives only 440 euros plus the untapped 100 euros charges. According to DMB, the rent may only be reduced for the period in which the defect existed. If it is ten days a month, only the ten days can be calculated.

When cannot be reduced?

It does not work if a tenant has taken over the apartment in the knowledge of the defect – so he already knew at the conclusion of the lease that the windows rattle. And it is not in the tenant’s own fault or in trivia, for example, a broken light bulb.

The landlord is well advised to advise prospective tenants on damage in order to prevent later complaints including imminent rent reduction. If he admits the elimination of a defect in the move, this is contractually recorded. If he ignores his commitment, the right of rent reduction applies.


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