Seeking Legal Help: My Landlord Teared the Contract

Dear Fellow German Expats,

Can you please help me with my situation?

So, I just signed the rent contract for my new apartment. While my new landlord and I were discussing the possibility if he could give me his phone number and his email address (we used a chatting app before), he got angry, teared his contract copy, and told me he didn't want to rent it to me anymore even he is paying me compensation.

I still have my own copy of the contract. I don't want to rent that place anymore as I don't want to deal with such a landlord. However, I would still like to claim my legal right. What's more, I don't want him to think that he can get away with such a bad behavior easily.

What's the possibility that I can win this case if I choose to sue him? And how much compensation I can get usually in terms of monthly rent?

Thank you for your answer in advance.

You cannot "profit" from this situation - the most you could achieve is getting financial damages covered by him. But there are several hurdles to be taken:
- You have a valid rental contract and thus the right to move into the apartment. If the landlord wants to prevent that, he has to terminate the contract (in writing and usually with a three months notice period). If you don't want to move in any more, YOU have to terminate the contract (in writing and with the same notice period - during which you have to pay the full rent).
- The only way to prevent it is a no-notice termination. The valid reasons for that are few and strictly interpreted. I do not think you have such a case here!
First, you need an independent witness. Then the behaviour of the landlord must have been such that you cannot be legally expected to move in any longer. This is the case if he e.g. threatened or defamed you or became aggressive - just bad manners is not enough.
And then, if you have such a case, you still have to show any reasonable effort to find another apartment at the same price. If you really can't (and can prove that), the landlord will have to pay the difference to the higher rent for a certain time (months rather than years, but the decision is the court's).
I believe all this is not worth the hazzle. If you differ, please get legal advice from a tenants' association ("Mieterverein", which you'd have to become member of first) or a lawyer (initial fee around €240, but you'll need one anyway later if you pursue the case).

My advice: It is always better to find a mutually acceptable solution, even if that means temporarily swallowing your pride. Both sides expressed an interest in not pursueing the rental contract - and your landlord already offered to pay some compensation. This is a great starting point: Ask him how much he is thinking of, then negotiate him upwards from there (but don't expect much more - Germans don't like to negotiate!). If you want to close the issue quickly, just accept whatever he offers.
Good luck in your further accommodation search - not all German landlords are unreasonable (I am landlord myself!) and he will probably find similarly bad words about you as you about him.

Dear beppi,

First of all, thank you very much for your detailed explanation and friendly advice! Can I have some follow-up questions if you allow?

He may still keep those teared-up contract papers. He made an "oral cancellation" of this contract by saying he is not renting it to me anymore. Is this contract still legally binding inow? (I can also tear my contract copy if necessary) I mean, am I required to move in, pay the deposits, and pay the first 45-day rents? (The contract requires a 45 days termination notice period from my side.) I am afraid that he will sue me for not doing these.

As you suggested, I would definitely like to talk to him. Is it necessary to make our solution done on paper, probably with signatures?


Bests.

Rental contract terminations have to be in writing - oral ones are void.
You could of course interpret his behaviour as an offer to mutually declare the entire contract void (which is possible, even verbally, if both sides agree) and then also tear up your copy. But the safer method (in case of later conflict) is to get this in writing - or unilaterally terminate the contract and keep your side of the deal (i.e. paying for 45 days from now - you do not need to move in and only pay for the part of the 45 days that are after the contractual start date!). Or you remind him that the contract is still valid and then find a mutual solution as described above.

I would add that contrary to what people might expect, the German court system is very slow (even minor cases can take years!) and inefficient. Many cases are judged poorly and get taken to a higher court. Even when one seems to have a definitely winning position, they can still lose. And then one is liable for court costs which are in the thousands of Euros. Like Beppi mentioned, finding an out of court solution is almost always better.

And it is NOT the place to try to teach someone manors. That would be an expensive proposal and they might not change their behavior anyway. Stay focused on your goal of having a reasonable place to live and forget the side issues!

Thank you again for your advice.

I did exactly what you suggested. I started to talk to my landlord. He asked me to make a proposal of how much money for compensation then I made one. He asked for some time to think about it. However, today I found out he blocked me on the chatting app.

I have my contract with his name and address on it. What should I now? Are the German police in charge of this kind of situation?

This is a private dispute, so the police would not help. (They can only help with criminal and public matters.)
I would write a letter (registered mail) to the landlord telling him that, after he did not accept your proposal or come with an alternative suggestion, you are now preparing to move in. Include a copy of the signed contract and ask for the date of the apartment handover.
I believe he will come back and talk to you then.

And? What was the outcome after the dust has settled ? Came upon this thread „posthumously“ (ito actuality of opinions)
:)
I ‘ll offer my opinion “for prosterity” in case another  member encounters similiar challenges in future :

Since you had a signed contract in writing it is a mutual agreement and enforceable by law. Him changing his mind because of the „buttons of your shirt“ is therefore a bridge of contract. It is irrelevant if he tears it up, burns it , or uses it as toilet paper. Thats is exactly why both parties individually  get an originally signed contract .

If one party bridge a contract, that party must compensate so as to put you in a position that you would‘ve been before, during or after such bridge. So:

There is three possible outcomes :
1) he gives you formal notice on the first day but you can stay 3 months + pay rent but then  withholding your deposit for „damages incurred“ (if you have not documented conditions - see last sentence, below)

2) he offers you compensation for the time you have to look again for alternative rental (or he must offer alternative equivalent accommodation during the 3 month notice period)  + costs for the moving company + opportunity costs + all collateral costs you have already concluded as until the said date (ie if you cancelled /moved your internet rental, cancelled previous flat and have to extend + rented parking Garage nearby, town registration costs including time take off to wait in the lines . You get the gist. Once you arrive at the costs, you‘ll probably be astonished yourself. But as said earlier, you don‘t want to move in under such poisoned conditions. Nonetheless, you should not be the one paying for the whims of such character. 

3) or, you come to a new, mutually agreeable (note not necessarily financially beneficial to him) agreement (usually only after you documented and communicated your costs in written form)
In such a situation, if you don’t have wife and kids, ie single with limited living area requirements, for myself, I would consider 2 months rental minimum as fair depending on general situation. But that’s me.

A Bridge of contract is still an offense. The law has a line of experts specializing as contract lawyers, specifically to deal with such cases. The value of the offense is the damages that I have listed above  as example, they help you to quantity that value and or if you have a case.
In general you have time-slot of 2-4 months before attending court for smaller cases. Processes that take many years are those with uncertain murder cases, challenges to state laws , national interest etc.

A lawyer are paid a state determined % of the size of a claim. If you win in court the landlord has to pay your legal costs until the case is closed  + said damages as determined by the Judge as fair.

In parallel to mietverein.de you should also ask professional opinion in
the state portal rechtsanwalt.net : on that portal you are entitled  to a first free consultation by lawyer. So have your facts straight and detailed from the start. In general be careful of lawyers that want  to early on deviate from the state set fees.

Worse, If you made some verbal agreement after this incident without a witness or without written documentation (ie if he verbally promised you  2 month payment but never paid), it is open to any interpretation and hence undeterminable (your word against his).

Learning from all this:
a) document all agreements always on paper or have an impartial witness
b) the average Joe is not doomed to always be victim especially when suffering collateral costs
c) know your rights, or at least who you can ask without too high costs.
d) you never know what happens tomorrow. So, document your rental conditions on the moving in, irrespective of future promises by making 100/1000ths of photos of walls , floors , windows, patios, doors , appliances etc. (documenting does not cost anything but effort and buys certainty of mind for the future)

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