Tenants have the right to sublet rooms in Germany, court rules

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Tenants have the right to sublet rooms in Germany, court rules
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The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) has confirmed that tenants in Germany can sublet their flat - even they don't live in it themselves.

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The case was brought by a man in Berlin who had rented a three-bedroom apartment back in 2014.

After the signing the contract, the tenant had later decided to move to a rented semi-detached house in the suburbs with his family but wanted to hold onto his previous flat for professional reasons.

Though his main residence was outside of the city, the plaintiff said he wanted to stay in the flat two to three nights a week to spare himself the longer commute to work in the city centre. 

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However, to save himself the cost of renting the full apartment by himself, he had sublet two out of the three rooms to other tenants. This arrangement had originally been agreed to by the landlord but he had later changed his mind, prompting the tenant to bring the case to the district court in Berlin Mitte.

The landmark ruling from the court in Karlsruhe could give tenants more options for holding onto long-term rental contracts while covering their costs through long-term sublets.

Crucially, it means people who don't use a rented property as their main residence can rent at least part of the property out to other tenants if they have a good reason to do so.

In the BGH's ruling, the court states that tenants' interests should also be placed above those of the landlord - provided the landlord isn't significantly inconvenienced. 

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"According to the legislative value judgement, the legitimate interests of the tenant therefore take precedence over the interests of the landlord," the ruling states. "They only have to take second place if the intended transfer of use would be unreasonable for the landlord." 

The court found that the tenant had a legitimate interest in keeping the former property and renting it out, since he wanted to reduce his rental payments while keeping the flat for professional reasons. 

The case will now be sent back to the Berlin Regional Court to be heard a second time. The Berlin-Mitte court's decision in favour of the tenant was originally overturned in this court, which had led the case to be sent to Karlsruhe. 


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