Whether or not a tenant needs to renovate is defined in the so-called renovation clause. However, it is only valid under certain circumstances. Thus, a stiff renovation clause is void, which sets stiff deadlines and obliged tenants even then to renovate, if there is no need. A stiff deadline is recognizable by the words „at the latest“, „at least“ or „always“. An exemplary formulation is „The tenant is required to realise aesthetic repairs in the kitchen, bathroom and toilet at least every three years, in living rooms and bedrooms every five years and in ancillary rooms every seven years“. However, in principle, a tenant only has to renovate as much as he has worn out.
Also, such stiff clauses are invalid because often too short deadlines are chosen. Nowadays, it is more likely that five, eight and ten years for different rooms are adjudged. However, if at the times no signs of wear are recognizable, there is also no need to renovate.
In contrast, flexible renovation clauses are valid. These are on hand if the time schedule is flexible. They can be recognized by the phrases such as „in general“, „if necessary“ or „as required“. An example of this would be the following wording in a lease agreement: „In general, aesthetic repairs must be made every five years in kitchens, bathrooms and toilets, every eight years in living rooms and bedrooms, and every ten years in ancillary rooms.“
In addition, according to BGH the renovation clause is only valid if the tenant has taken over a renovated apartment at the beginning of the rental period. What here „renovated“ means is not exactly defined. According to BGH, it is sufficient in this context, if the apartment gives the overall impression of a renovated apartment – apart from minor signs of wear. This should prevent the tenant from having to return the apartment in better condition than he has taken over. Especially with a short rental period, the landlord would be the main beneficiary.
An exception is possible, insofar as the tenant gets a reasonable compensation for his renovation work when moving in. What should be considered as „reasonable“ may need to be decided by the courts.
Renovation clauses that oblige the tenant to renovate when moving out are only valid if the actual wearout is taken into account. Formulations, such as „The apartment has to be professionally restored at the end of the rental period“ are void, with the result that the tenant would not have to renovate at all. If the clause is valid, aesthetic repairs, which are shedulded during the rental period, must be taken into account in the final renovation.
Furthermore, compensations or quota clauses are void. An example: According to the lease agreement, the living room should be renovated every five years. However, the tenant move out three years after the last renovation and will now take a share (3/5) of the future renovation costs.
Caution: An invalid compensation clause does not mean that you do not have to renovate during the rental period. If the aesthetic repair clause is valid, it must be done!
With regard to more precise specifications of the aesthetic repairs, the landlord can neither demand that these are done by a specialist, nor may he make determination for color choices during the rental period. However, he may demand a proper and professional execution of the work, as well as color specifications within a certain framework for the final renovation. So he does not have to be satisfied with open taped seams or paint noses, or can make the specifications that a „paint in light or neutral shades“ is to choose.
Erroneously renovated – what now?
In the case, that the tenant has renovated the apartment when moving out or has paid according to the compensation quota, although he would not have been obliged to do so, he may be able to claim a refund of expenses from the landlord. For any claims, however, short limitation periods of six months after the end of the lease agrrement apply.
A legal consulting is advisable – for example from a tenant association or a specialist lawyer.
In summary, it can be stated that a tenant should check carefully whether the repair clauses are valid. As the circumstances require, they are not obliged to carry out the corresponding work, despite contrary wording.