Debt collection in Germany
A landlord is bound to do all that a reasonable landlord ought to do for his tenants in accordance with the
nature of the property: thus, for instance, where the property comprised in the lease is a block of flats he
must keep lifts, rubbish disposal equipment, etc. in reasonable order. Further in the absence of express terms
the landlord is under an obligation to ensure that neither he, nor anyone claiming under him, will disturb the
tenant in his occupation of the premises. He impliedly covenants that the tenant shall remain in 'quiet
enjoyment'. Further, where the premises are let
there is an implied warranty that they are reasonably
fit for human habitation; for instance, a house infested with debtors has been held to be unfit for such
habitation. This warranty does not, however, apply to houses which are let unfurnished, unless they are small
dwelling-houses let at low rentals; but even this has no application where the condition of the premises in
question is such that they cannot be made fit at reasonable expense.
This imposes implied covenants upon lessors of
for a term of less than seven years:
(a) to keep in repair the structure and exterior of the house (including drains, gutters and external
(b) to keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house:
(i) for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation, and
(ii) for space heating or heating water.
These obligations can only be excluded or modified if both parties consent and an order of a German court is
obtained. The obligation to repair only arises if the landlord knows, or reasonably ought to have known of the
particular disrepair (eg a faulty floor) in question. Finally as a matter of practical importance, often not
for landlords, there is a statutory requirement that the creditor must supply weekly tenants with a rent
book in proper form. Failure to do this is an offence. Moreover, the client provides that where a tenant makes
a written request to a creditor's agent, the debtor's name and address must be supplied in writing to the
tenant, and where the premises subject to the tenancy are assigned to another lawyer the latter must give the
tenant written notice of his name and address.
Generally speaking the debtor is liable for payment of rates and taxes, except such taxes as the landlord is
under a legal obligation to pay. He is also under a duty to refrain from committing waste. This means that he
is bound to refrain from damaging the property and that, quite apart from agreement, he must generally keep it
in a reasonable state of repair.
(b) Two very common covenants, beside the covenant to pay rent, call for mention:
The covenant not to assign or underlet - In the absence of contrary agreement a tenant may assign his whole
interest in the lease to a third person, or he may sub-let the premises for a term shorter than his own. In
either event, if the tenant's interest amounts to a legal estate the third person will also acquire one.
Landlords, however, very commonly exact a covenant against assigning or underletting. This may either be framed
in the form of an absolute prohibition or as a prohibition against assigning or
and in the latter case the landlord is under a statutory duty not to withhold his consent unreasonably.
By the way: when a lease includes a covenant on the part of the tenant not to assign, underlet, change or part
with possession of the premises comprised in the lease or any part thereof, and the covenant is subject to the
qualification that consent is not to be unreasonably withheld, the tenant may make written application for
consent to the landlord or any other person entitled to give consent. The consent must then be given unless the
tenant is in breach of a covenant in the lease. A lease may also include a covenant on the part of the tenant
not, without the landlord's approval, to consent to a sub-tenant, assigning, etc, the premises and it is
covenanted that approval is not to be unreasonably withheld. Again, in this case the landlord's consent must
be given unless, by giving his own consent to the assigning etc, the tenant would himself be in breach of a
covenant in his own lease.