German Tenancy Law

The Rental Relationship

If you acquire an apartment in Germany that is already rented, you automatically enter into the existing rental agreement as the new owner. All prior agreements remain in force, only between you as the new owner and the tenant. This means that you have all the rights and obligations arising out of the existing rental agreement. As a general rule, an amendment to the rental agreement is only possible by common consent, i.e. if the tenant and the landlord, i.e. you as the new owner, reach an agreement.

Increase in Rent

Insofar as the rental agreement does not provide for an increase in rent (also known as graduated rent) the owner may demand an increase in rent if the following conditions are met:

  1. the last increase in rent was at least 15 months ago; and
  2. the new rent is not above the local reference rent, which is generally decided according to the official index of rent prices, the so-called "Berlin Rent Index" (“Berliner Mietspiegel”), which determines the reference rent on the basis of location, age,size and fixtures and fittings of the apartment and
  3. the rent does not increase in total by more than 20% within 3 years (in some areas, like Berlin, 15%).

If these conditions are met, the tenant is obliged to consent to the increase in rent. Where he or she does not do so, the landlord may sue to obtain consent.


The landlord may only give notice of ordinary termination for apartment contracts if he or she has a good reason. Such a good reason may be, for example, that

  • the landlord or a member of his or her close family is going to live in the apartment or
  • the tenant is in material breach of his or her contractual obligations.

The notice period must always be respected in the case of an ordinary termination. Under German law, this is at least 3 months, rising to 6 months after a rental relationship of five years and then to 9 months after a rental relationship of eight years, in each case to the end of the month. Other notice periods are sometimes found in the rental agreement, in which case the notice period that is the longest applies.

Please note that in certain cases the right to ordinary termination due to personal need may be excluded for several years. Whether this is the case depends on the building and the location and sometimes on the contract. It is thus important that you let us know if you intend on such a termination and let us review any possible restrictions.

Extraordinary termination of the rental relationship is possible if one of the parties is in breach of the rental agreement and continuance is "unacceptable". This is the case, for example, if there are large arrears in rent (more than 2 months' rent).

In this regard, it should also be noted that a tenant may render such an extraordinary termination ineffective in that he settles all arrears. However, a tenant may only exercise such a right once every 2 years.

If the tenant fails to move out despite effective termination, the landlord may sue to evict the tenant. Once granted a judgment for eviction, the landlord may have the tenant forcibly evicted from the apartment by a court bailiff.

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