Nine ways landlords and tenants fell out
As Wednesday finally brought some good news for Germany's often downtrodden flat tenants - rent caps and release from estate agent fees - we recap on a few oddities that have marked and marred rental relations in recent years.
1. Pay up or move out
We'll kick off with the obvious. It's official: You need money to rent an apartment. This month a Supreme Court judge found that “you have to have money” to pay the rent if you enter into a contract as a tenant.
The ruling came while a tenant was wrangling with the social authorities to cover several missing monthly rental payments of €1,100 that accrued while he was unemployed.
His landlord successfully evicted him after the judge accepted a defence that included his objection that “people think you have to help the poor tenant at every level".
Don't you just miss the good old days when you could claim the "cheques in the post"?
2. Deadly dispute
No laughing matter, but this next case of a commercial leasing gone wrong shows what happens when rent arrears and landlord retaliation really escalate.
A 41-year-old man was shot dead in Duisburg last June after he cut off electricity and water to a tenant who was consistently late with his rent.
The shooting happened after the victim cut off the utilities at a bakery premises he had leased to the attacker in the city in North Rhine-Westphalia.
He was shot with a pistol at close range as he sat in a parked car and died from his injuries while being taken to hospital. After firing, the shooter immediately hailed a taxi and turned himself in to police.
3. Landlord's showing - from top to bottom
Police in Oberhausen in North Rhine-Westphalia nabbed a flat owner in November for really showing prospective tenants the works.
The man in his late forties had been placing classified ads for the property in local newspapers for several weeks, and opening the door butt naked when both male and female visitors arrived.
Police became involved after several women reported the man and brought two charges of exhibitionism against him.
Naked chef photo: Shutterstock
4. Head in the clouds
Chain-smoking pensioner Friedhelm Adolfs, 76, successfully had his abrupt eviction from his flat overturned this month when the Supreme Court ruled that cigarette smoke was not a reason to force someone out of an apartment without notice.
Neighbours had complained of the smell of tobacco smoke emanating from his home, and a lower court judge upheld the landlord's subsequent eviction order, saying that Adolfs should regularly empty his ash trays and ventilate more. The Supreme Court then reversed the ruling.
The pensioner's dubious celebrity status may have helped his cause: He was dubbed "Germany's second-most famous smoker after Helmut Schmidt" during media coverage of the case.
Friedhelm Adolfs can puff on with immunity from eviction. Photo: DPA
5. Pot luck purchase
In 2012, an estate agent showing a leased house to potential buyers found more grass inside than on the lawn. The three-story house in Kerpen, North Rhine-Westphalia was filled with towering cannabis plants that were professionally maintained by the 60-year-old tenant.
The fitted kitchen probably remains among the fittings - although the UV grow lamps and ventilating systems the 'gardener' had installed have likely been removed.
Kitchen garden with a difference. Photo: DPA
6. Beware the tourist windfall
It shouldn't come as a surprise that subletting your flat for a few days to arriving airport passengers via the Berlin Airbnb service can land you in a whole lot of trouble.
The state court of Berlin this month reinforced earlier rulings that subletting a rented apartment on Airbnb constituted a "severe breach of contract“.
And the law will back up a landlord who gets wind of this and gives you your marching orders. Not to mention the risk of a visit from the tax office, since many subletters may, well, overlook that aspect of the deal.
7. Troubled waters
You may get somewhere complaining to your housing administration about your neighbours' loud stereo music or tortured violin scales, but if thundering urination sounds bug you, too bad.
Residents in Berlin who withheld part of their rent on the grounds that they could hear their neighbours peeing while they were trying to get to sleep lost their case in 2013.
The noise was “socially acceptable” the Berlin district court ruled. The group had demanded that their landlords do something about the thin walls in the property.
8. Paint it white
The requirement is a nuisance and is often superfluous on a well-maintained property - but flat rental practices invariably demand that tenants paint their walls white again before they move out.
Not doing so recently cost one tenant in Munich more than €3,000 for failing to follow German etiquette and repaint before leaving.
After moving out of the flat in Neuhausen where he had lived with his partner for two years, the man was sent a bill by the landlord for €8,300 of repairs.
Although the bill included repairs to items such as the shutters, plasterwork and holes drilled in the walls, the biggest item was for covering up the blue and glossy green he had chosen for the walls and ceilings.
Calling the tenant's behaviour “an infringement of due consideration”, the court ordered him to pay €3,200 for the painting work.
9. Wizz to your heart's content
And a final landmark toilet showdown to close: a court in Düsseldorf took sides in the epic German civil war over whether men can pee standing up when a landlord tried to withhold part of a tenant's deposit over damage to a marble bathroom floor.
While Düsseldorf judge Stefan Hank found the pro-sitting landlord's arguments "credible and understandable“, he said that he could not side with the landlord.
"Despite the increasing domestication of men in this regard, urinating while standing up is still widespread", he wrote in his judgement.
Toilet photo: Shutterstock