What happens if you terminate your rental agreement

Termination of the rental agreement

This is how you can terminate your rental agreement in good time

Dr. Britta Beate Schön
Legal Expert As of October 6, 2020

Dr. Britta Beate Schön

Britta Beate Schön is responsible for all legal issues at Finanztip. The doctor of law and attorney was head of the legal department at financial service providers such as Telis Finanz AG and Interhyp. Before that, she taught and researched in Japan as a DAAD junior professor for German and European law. She completed her studies in Münster, Geneva, Regensburg and Leipzig. You can reach the author at [email protected]

  • As a tenant, you can give three months' notice - regardless of how long you've been living in the apartment.
  • You have to cancel by the third working day of the month at the latest so that this month still counts as the deadline.
  • Landlords cannot simply terminate the apartment. The notice periods also depend on the length of the tenancy. They amount to three, six, or nine months.
  • Work out by when you have to cancel at the latest in order not to have to pay double rent for too long.
  • Cancel in good time and always in writing. You can use our cancellation template to do this.

To write a sample

  • If your landlord terminates: If a move is hardly possible for you, you can object to the termination for social reasons.

It is much easier for you as a tenant to terminate your apartment than for your landlord. He always needs a reason to give notice and usually has much longer notice periods.

What is the general notice period for you as a tenant?

Tenants can always terminate their apartment with a notice period of three months - always at the end of the month after the next (Section 573c (1) BGB). Unless the termination is excluded for a period of time or you have signed a fixed-term rental agreement.

In order to cancel on time, your letter must no later than the third working day reach your landlord one month. Then the current month still counts. Saturdays are considered working days.

Example: A tenant wants to give notice on October 31st, and wants to move into the new apartment on November 1st. The letter of termination will reach the landlord on Wednesday 4th August. This termination is timely because the previous August 1st Sunday and it was not a working day and therefore does not count. But if the letter arrives at the landlord on Thursday, August 5th, the tenant has just missed the three-month notice period. The lease does not end until November 30th - he has to pay twice for one month.

If you missed the three-month deadline, you have to not again cancel. The termination shifts then just a month back.

The termination must be in writing, so you have to write a letter and sign it. An email is not enough (§ 568 BGB).

Template termination of rental agreement

Sample letter termination

You can use ours Sample letter use to terminate your rental agreement.

For download

Make sure you have a proof know when your landlord received the notice. You can hand over the letter to him in the presence of another person. This can then take over testify. Alternatively, you can send the letter as a Registered mail.

Pay attention to the exclusion of termination in the contract

As a tenant, when signing the rental agreement, you should make sure that you are not allowed to cancel for a certain period of time. Landlords may exclude termination - for a period of up to four years after conclusion of the rental agreement (Federal Court of Justice, decision of 23 August 2016, Az. VIII ZR 23/16).

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Are there special deadlines for tenants?

Is there a Special reason for termination, then special notice periods apply. This is particularly interesting for you as a tenant if you have one Temporary lease completed or one Exclusion from termination have signed and actually cannot get out of the contract earlier. Here are the most important examples:

  • Rent increase: In the event of a rent increase, you as the tenant have a special right of termination. You can then check the increase and then give extraordinary notice at the end of the month after next (Section 561 BGB). You have time to cancel until the end of the second month after receipt of the rent increase.
  • Modernization of the apartment: If your landlord announces a comprehensive renovation that will significantly bother you as a tenant, your notice period will be shortened. After such an announcement, you can cancel at the end of the month after next (§ 555e BGB). Minor repairs do not shorten the notice period.
  • Health hazard: Mold or dilapidation can sometimes pose a serious health risk. In these cases, the notice period does not apply at all (Section 543 BGB).
  • Death of a tenant: who together has rented an apartment can, after the death of one tenant, terminate the previously shared apartment within one month with the statutory notice period (Section 563a (2) BGB). If the tenant lived alone, the tenancy is transferred to the heirs. They can then give extraordinary notice with a three-month notice period if they do not want to move into the apartment (Section 564 BGB). The heirs do not have to present a certificate of inheritance to the landlord.

What is the notice period for landlords?

Landlords are not allowed to terminate the apartment at all, but there are exceptions (Section 573 BGB). For landlords, the notice period depends on how long the tenancy has existed. The longer the tenant lives in the apartment, the more time he has to look for a new place to stay.

Notice periods for landlords

Rental period

notice period

0 to 5 years

3 months

5 to 8 years

6 months

from 8 years

9 months

Source: Section 573c (1) BGB

If there is a longer period of notice in the rental agreement, a period that deviates from the law only applies to the landlord. If, on the other hand, the tenant and landlord have agreed shorter notice periods than the statutory notice, only the tenant may terminate the contract with a shorter period; the landlord must at least comply with the statutory periods.

Shorter notice periods generally apply to the subletting of furnished rooms - notice of termination is permitted no later than the 15th of the month at the end of this month (Section 573c (3) BGB).

In the case of company rented apartments, the landlord can give notice of one month if the employment relationship no longer exists and he needs the apartment for another employee.

When can your landlord terminate with a shorter notice?

The notice periods for landlords can also be shortened, namely when it is unreasonable for them to stay longer in their apartment. This is the case if the tenant has not paid his rent for two months in a row - then the landlord can terminate the contract without notice (Section 543 (2) No. 3 BGB).

In the case of the termination reasons “use contrary to the contract” and “disturbance of domestic peace”, something quite blatant must have happened so that the termination can take place without notice. For example, courts found the following cases to be lawful:

  • use contrary to contract - letting more than 100 birds fly free, frequent feeding of pigeons, heroin trafficking or installing a window on your own;
  • Disturbance of trespassing - serious insults and physical attacks on the landlord or other tenants as well as willful damage to property or theft of electricity

Attention: In less serious cases, such as keeping a dog despite a ban on keeping animals or nocturnal disturbance of the peace, the landlord must first send a warning before he can terminate (Section 543 (3) BGB).

When the tenant and landlord live in one house

If the tenant and landlord live in a two-family house or a single-family house with a separate apartment under one roof, the landlord has a special right of termination. He does not have to assert any of the reasons for termination listed above or his own needs. However, in this case the notice period is extended by three months. If the tenant has lived in the apartment for five years, he has nine months instead of six months to look for something new (Section 573a BGB).

As a tenant, when can you object to the termination?

As a tenant, you can defend yourself against termination if the move would be particularly hard for you or your family (Section 574 of the German Civil Code).

The objection to the termination must then written take place and at the latest two months before expiration the notice period with the landlord. But the period of two months only applies if the landlord in his letter of termination on the possibility of objection pointed out Has. If he has failed to do this and sues the tenant who does not want to move out, the tenant can object to the termination until shortly before the court date.

These are Examples for such hardship cases in which you could object to the termination:

  • advanced pregnancy;
  • imminent school graduation or university examination;
  • serious illness, disability or disability;
  • threatened homelessness because no other housing can be found;
  • a very long period of residence of more than 30 years and thus roots in the area;
  • high age;
  • Necessary temporary relocation, for example when someone is waiting for their home to be completed or for a place in a senior citizens' home.

If the landlord does not accept the contradiction, a must dish decide whether he is eligible. The judges weigh up which is more decisive: the hardship for the tenant or the interest of the landlord in moving out. If the landlord urgently needs a place to stay himself, this is rated higher than if the apartment is just an investment.

The court can extend the tenancy for a limited or unlimited period. In some cases, such as pregnancy or exams, the deadline arises automatically; in the hardship case of “shortage of living space”, an extended deadline for looking for accommodation is usually granted. An unlimited extension is rather the exception, only if the tenant has reached a very old age.

The courts have to appeal because of social hardship very carefully check. Especially in the case of impending serious health impairments or danger to life, the judges must obtain an accurate picture with expert help that is not only on the surface (BGH, judgment of March 15, 2017, Az. VIII ZR 270/15).

What happens if you move out early?

As a tenant, you have to pay rent for the old apartment until the notice period has expired. If you move out beforehand, you still have to pay the rent until the end of the tenancy. This also applies in the event that you have one new tenant propose, without stating in the contract, that you can shorten the deadlines by providing a replacement tenant. Your landlord can, but does not have to, accept a new tenant.

Different it is if you move out earlier and your landlord gives you the apartment before the notice period has expired other tenants hands over. In this case, he cannot collect payments twice (Section 537 (2) BGB). Even if your landlord extensively remodels and renovates your apartment after you move out, you will no longer have to pay rent from this point on.

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To the advisor

Dr. Britta Beate Schön

Dr. Britta Beate Schön

Britta Beate Schön is responsible for all legal issues at Finanztip. The doctor of law and attorney was head of the legal department at financial service providers such as Telis Finanz AG and Interhyp. Before that, she taught and researched in Japan as a DAAD junior professor for German and European law. She completed her studies in Münster, Geneva, Regensburg and Leipzig. You can reach the author at [email protected]

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