Do I have to paint or not? Many tenants are unsure when they move out. The dispute over cosmetic repairs often ends up in court. Because there is a lot of money involved quickly

Paint, brushes, painter's tape, wallpaper - cosmetic repairs can quickly become expensive for tenants.

EActually everything is going according to plan: the new apartment has been found, the movers can come – but then the landlord causes trouble when moving out. Do I really have to renovate? The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) in Karlsruhe begins this Wednesday to clarify the question in a particularly tricky case (Ref .: VIII ZR 277/16). According to the court, the verdict will not be pronounced until August 22nd.

What generally applies to renovations?

Very few tenants know that the law actually obliges the landlord to keep the apartment in good condition. However, this principle can be deviated from, and that is why the exception has long since become the rule: “There is currently hardly a rental agreement that does not impose cosmetic repairs on the tenant,” says Ulrich Ropertz from the German Tenants’ Association. That does not mean that the tenant has to have a craftsman come. He can also do the work himself, as long as he does it “professionally”.

Cosmetic Repairs – What Does It Mean?

Put simply, cosmetic repairs include all painting work in the apartment – such as painting or wallpapering the walls and ceilings, but also painting radiators, doors or window frames from the inside. If the carpet needs to be replaced or the parquet sanded down, the landlord is responsible.

Why are there often arguments about cosmetic repairs?

“Cosmetic repairs are expensive,” explains Ropertz. “If, as a tenant, I have to completely renovate the apartment when I move out, a few thousand euros can quickly turn up.” The courts have since declared a number of common clauses to be ineffective because they put tenants at a disadvantage. If the tenant has such an ineffective clause in his contract, he is fine: He does not have to carry out the cosmetic repairs at all.

Which clauses are not allowed in the rental agreement?

For example, landlords are not allowed to stipulate that the kitchen and bathroom must be painted every three years – regardless of how the rooms look. Tenants cannot be expected to renovate when they move out. Because what about someone who only lived in the apartment for six months? In 2015, the BGH also changed its line in one important point: Since then, tenants are no longer allowed to get the cosmetic repairs without compensation if they move into an unrenovated apartment. Otherwise they might have to leave the rooms more beautiful than they found them. If there is a dispute about this, however, the tenant must be able to prove that the apartment was in need of renovation.

What is the case before the BGH?

The tenant had painted his apartment in Celle (Lower Saxony). The ceilings and walls were too streaky for the renting housing association – they commissioned a painter for almost 800 euros. There is a dispute over who pays for it. Actually, the tenant shouldn’t have painted because he had moved into an unrenovated apartment. If there wasn’t an agreement with the previous tenant: The man had taken over the carpeting and the fitted kitchen from her and paid 390 euros for it. In the handover protocol it is stated that he takes on “renovation work and Tebo”. The cooperative is now insisting – the tenant bought the much more expensive carpet (“Tebo”) with his promise to renovate it.