Inheriting a Rented Apartment – What you need to know

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A short interview was carried out by the WAZ with Kati Selle a Tenancy and Residential Property Lawyer in Berlin; Jörn-Peter Jurgens from the Association for Protection of Tenants’ Rights (Interessantverband Mieterschutz) and Jan Bittler from the German Association for Succession and Inheritance Law (Deutschen Vereinigung für Erbrecht und Vermögensnachfolge (DVEV)) discussing inheritance of rental property after the death of the lease holder.

Who’s allowed into the apartment?

Only those who lived with the person before their death as well as the spouse or partner and children are allowed to enter the apartment after the death of the person that held the lease.

What if the person lived alone?

In that case the apartment is inherited by the heir with the rest of the property.

Should the heir have to sign a new lease?

No. The heir or the person that lived with the deceased is allowed to continue with the contract as it was before the passing of the deceased. There should be no clause demanding a new contract.

What if the heir doesn’t want to inherit the lease?

The specifications on termination of the contract remain those stipulated in the contract but the heir is allowed to negotiate with the landlord for better terms. In some cases the heir is allowed an exceptional right of termination (Sonderkündigungsrecht), which allows the heir to terminate the contract within three months after the death of the original lease holder and only applies the early months right after the person’s death.

In what form should the termination be done?

The heir is required to terminate the contract in written form. A verbal agreement doesn’t hold.

What if the heir is not in a position to sign the termination letter?

If the heir isn’t in a position to sign the position letter then they are required to give the power of attorney to someone they trust who can sign the letter on their behalf.

Is the land lord allowed to terminate the contract?

The landlord isn’t allowed to cancel the contract for persons that lived with the lease holder but can be cancel for someone who inherited the apartment but didn’t live there before.

For a person that didn’t live with the deceased, the land lord is allowed to terminate the rental contract a month after the death of the initial lease holder. The termination notice will depend on the contract signed, which usually ranges from 3 to 9 months depending on how long the lease holder had lived in the apartment.

For a person that had lived with the deceased, they take over the lease as it was only changing the name of the lease holder.

What does it mean to the heir when they inherit the apartment?

The heir agrees to take over all the responsibilities of the deceased by inheriting the apartment, these include any rent the deceased might have failed to pay and in case they decide to move out, they have to take over the renovations if needed.

If the unpaid costs are higher than the total amount the heir inherits, then the heir is not to use their own money to pay for those costs. The heir is allowed to limit their liability to the amount inherited.

What if the heir and the inheritance is unknown, who pays the landlord?

If no heirs are known and the amount to be inherited is also unknown, then the State appoints an administrator to find out how much was actually left. The land lord gets their rent arares paid by the administrator of the estate.

If on the other hand, the deceased left more debt than savings, then the landlord doesn’t get paid and has to undertake the renovations as well as the disposal of the deceased property.

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