BGH judgment on beauty repairs: the most important answers to the verdict

When moving a house, there is often a dispute about the renovation. The federal court (BGH) has now decided that an agreement with the previous tenant is not relevant.

When it comes to most landlords, tenants are responsible for cosmetic repairs such as painting the walls. According to recent jurisprudence of the BGH, however, such clauses are not effective if the tenant has entered a non-renovated apartment. A renovation agreement concluded between the tenant and the previous tenant also has no influence on whether the tenant must cancel or perform other cosmetic repairs.

What was the case in this case?

A tenant had his apartment in Celle, Lower Saxony, removed before the move itself. The cooperative rented housing had asked him to do that. The cooperative, however, criticized the work: ceilings and walls were too striking. That's why she got a painter for something less than 800 euros. The tenant must pay, but he refuses.

What is the legal situation?

In short, the law obliges the landlord to all repairs in the apartment. However, this can be deviated from and the exception has now become the rule. According to the German Association of Tenants, there is hardly any lease today that does not impose so-called beauty repairs on the tenant.

What is meant by cosmetic repairs?

Simply put, all painting works in the apartment, ie painting or wallpapering the walls and ceilings, but also painting radiators, doors or frames from the inside. It does not necessarily have to be done by a professional. As long as the tenant works "professionally", he can also renovate himself.

Are there invalid clauses?

Courts have excluded many common beauty repair clauses because they wrongly disadvantage tenants. For example, landlords are not allowed to dictate that the kitchen and bathroom are painted every three years – no matter how miserable the rooms look. If the tenant has such an ineffective clause in his contract, he does not have to do the work.

What does that mean for the quarrel in Celle?

This is where an important decision by the Federal Court of Justice of 2015 comes. Since then, beauty repairs can no longer be sent to the tenants without any pardon if they move to a non-renovated apartment. Otherwise they would probably have to leave the rooms nicer than they had found. The man had taken over the apartment non-renewed – he did not have to cancel the current legal situation.

The BGH now agreed with him. Renters do not have to cancel a non-renovated apartment, even once they have returned to the previous tenant. Such an agreement has no effect on the obligations of tenants and landlords in the lease, he said.

Why was this case decided in Karlsruhe?

The tenant in the present case had an agreement with the previous tenant. From her the man had taken over the carpet and the fitted kitchen and paid 390 euros. The transfer record states that he is responsible for "Renovation and Tebo". Then the cooperative insists – the tenant had bought the much more expensive carpet ("Tebo") with his promise to renovate.

The civil code, which is responsible for tenancy law, has now decided that the principles set out in 2015 still apply to a renovation agreement, as in this case. The new ruling clarifies that an arrangement with the previous tenant does not change anything.

(File number VIII ZR 277/16)

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