Renovating an apartment: Well planned is half won

An apartment with a section of a picture before a renovation and a section after the renovation

If you want to renovate your home, you should plan this undertaking carefully. Depending on the type of renovation work, everyday life in the apartment is at least temporarily affected. Landlords are obliged to carry out certain renovation work, while tenants need permission if they want to renovate themselves. Owners are also not allowed to carry out any measures that conflict with building law or the protection of historical monuments. What constitutes housing renovation and what needs to be considered from the owner, tenant and landlord side, you can read here.

The difference between renovation and refurbishment

Often the terms renovation and redevelopment are used synonymously. This leads to confusion, because they are quite different:

  • The renovation provides a visual improvement, fixes minor defects, but does not limit the function of the respective items. Renovation work is such measures, which are often called "cosmetic repairs" in rental agreements. They serve to freshen up and include, for example, wallpapering and painting.
  • Renovation, on the other hand, repairs damage and eliminates defects by repairing them. Through it, first of all, the original quality of the apartment is restored. However, from a legal point of view, refurbishment also includes modernization measures to increase the quality of the property. This is the case, for example, with energy refurbishment.

Renovating an apartment: These works are possible

The renovation work in an apartment can vary greatly depending on its age and degree of wear and tear:

  • Removal of mold in the apartment
  • Repairing a leaking roof
  • Patching cracks in exterior plaster
  • Elimination of efflorescence in the masonry
  • Repairs including renovation after water damage or fire
  • Drying out a damp cellar
  • repair defective electrical installation
  • Replacement of defective pipes
  • Replacement of non-functional technical and sanitary elements in the bathroom
  • Replace defective kitchen components (also in the rented apartment, if the kitchen is co-rented)

In the context of energy renovation, other measures are added:

  • new insulation of the facade, the roof and, if necessary, the windows. the basement
  • Renewal of the heating system
  • Replacing the windows with modern models with double or triple glazing as well as heat-insulating frames
  • Installation of a photovoltaic system

This is what owners must observe when renovating their apartments

As an owner, you should be allowed to carry out any measures within your own four walls that you consider appropriate, or? Unfortunately, it's not quite as simple as that: in any case, you must ensure that the measures comply with the state building code and take into account the provisions of the Building Energy Act (GEG). If in doubt, contact the building supervisory authority in your municipality and obtain a permit for the planned work.

The situation is also complicated in the case of listed buildings: Here there are very strict regulations to which you must adhere. Above all, the exterior of the house must be preserved – the installation of modern windows, for example, is only permitted if they resemble the old ones. Alternatively, it is possible to equip the original windows with double glazing. In any case, get advice from the responsible persons in the historic preservation office: You should not even start planning without permission.

If you want to renovate an apartment that is located in a house with many other condominiums, additional rules apply: Renovation measures cannot always be limited exclusively to your own four walls – sometimes they also affect the common property. In this case you are not allowed to make the decision to renovate on your own: you have to inform the other owners and get their permission.

Apartment renovation: rights and obligations of tenant and landlord

In connection with refurbishment work, there are a number of things to bear in mind for both tenants and landlords: For example, it is important under what circumstances the lease is signed. If the tenant inspects an apartment and notices damage, he should insist that it be repaired before signing the lease agreement. Otherwise, he has no right to have the damage repaired when he moves in.

Rights and obligations of landlords

By law, the landlord is obliged to maintain the rented apartment in the condition stipulated in the contract. This means that as soon as damage occurs that restricts the functionality of the building, the landlord is obligated to renovate the building. However, this only applies if the tenant did not cause this damage himself. A frequent point of contention is mold: It must be clarified whether it has arisen due to defects in the building fabric or due to incorrect ventilation behavior on the part of the tenant.

If there is a defect that the landlord is obliged to remedy, the tenant must inform him about it. If the landlord does not take action in this matter despite repeated requests, the tenant may hire craftsmen himself and send the bill to the landlord. However, this often leads to legal disputes, so open communication is important: tenants can offer to commission the workmen themselves, announcing that they will send the landlord the bill. This procedure is less likely to cause objections than one without comment.

Tenants should keep one thing in mind: If they hire someone themselves, they can send the bills for the craftsman and for the materials to the landlord. However, this does not apply if they repair the damage themselves in their own work! Therefore, in case of doubt, it is always better to hire professional companies, otherwise working hours remain unpaid.

Good to know: Tenants have a say. If the landlord has renovation work carried out, this is often accompanied by visual changes: walls often need a new coat of paint, new wallpaper or new tiles after the electrical installation or pipes have been replaced. Landlords must take the tastes of tenants into account here, as long as their wishes do not drive up costs.

Tenants may be able to renovate themselves

If the tenants want to take renovation measures that are not absolutely necessary, they should ask the landlord for permission. Since these measures are often not entirely cheap, they can thereby obtain concessions from the landlord: For example, the landlord may waive his right to increase the rent.

Before tenants renovate their apartment, they should take a look at the lease: It is often stipulated here that the apartment is to be handed over in its original condition when they move out. If this clause is included, the landlord may demand the removal of all changes. This means additional costs for the tenant.

It is therefore very important that tenant and landlord carefully discuss all measures and clarify some things from the outset:

  • What is planned, what of it will be allowed?
  • Does the tenant have to hire craftsmen or is he allowed to do the work himself??
  • Does the landlord make any concessions for the refurbishment work that the tenant undertakes?
  • Does the tenant have to undo all changes when moving out??

These points should be written down in the contract to avoid possible legal disputes. Tenants should not renovate the apartment without the express permission of the landlord, otherwise the lease may be terminated.

Attention: After moving out, the tenant no longer has any claims for compensation against the landlord for his work!

Renovate rental apartment: Costs can vary greatly

Depending on which measures are carried out in the apartment renovation, the costs vary greatly. A few examples:

  • The renewal of the electrical installation can be from 60 to 80 euros per square meter.
  • Replacing a manifold costs around 330 euros.
  • The renewal of the FI-switch costs about 250 euros.
  • Replacing pipes for water and wastewater as well as heating systems can be estimated at around 120 euros per square meter.
  • New radiators cost around 300 euros each, new thermostats around 25 to 30 euros per radiator.
  • If the entire heating system is replaced, the costs can range from 5 to 10,000 euros per square meter, depending on the system and size.000 and 18.000 euros.
  • Windows that replace the old ones during energy renovation cost around 500 to 800 euros each.
  • Drying out and renovating a wall after water damage can cost around 1.500 to 2.500 euros.
  • For the insulation of the roof you calculate between 100 and 180 euros per square meter, depending on the insulation variant.
  • Insulation of the facade costs between 30 and 200 euros per square meter, depending on the type of insulation used.

Measures for energy refurbishment are supported by the KfW Bank, for example: If the work meets certain standards and you apply for funding in advance, you can receive a low-interest loan or a grant.

Is a reduction in rent allowed during the refurbishment?

In some cases, the renovation measures severely affect life in the apartment. Accordingly, tenants often want to enforce a rent reduction under these circumstances. However, this is not always possible: for example, in the case of energy-related renovation, rent reductions for tenants are excluded for 3 months. However, this only applies if the apartment is still habitable.

If the tenant cannot live within his four walls for the period of the renovation, a rent reduction of up to 100 percent is possible. This also applies to the energetic renovation. If, on the other hand, only the bathroom is temporarily unusable, a rent reduction of up to 20 percent is justified in the case of a non-energetic refurbishment. However, the amount of rent reduction that is ultimately permissible always depends on the individual case.

If the tenant incurs additional costs due to the renovation, he can turn to the landlord for reimbursement. This applies, for example, if he has to spend one or more nights in the hotel. Basically, landlords are required to give tenants advance notice if he wants to renovate the apartment so they can come to terms with it. However, in emergencies – i.e. acute damage that needs to be repaired quickly – this is not necessary and sometimes not even possible.

Conclusion: Apartment renovation by agreement

By renovating an apartment, you repair damage and thus restore the usual quality of your living environment. Alternatively, you can have measures implemented that increase quality. In a condominium, for the operation, you must be careful to satisfy the building inspectorate, the historic preservation authority, and any other owners, and to comply with the GEG. Landlords are obliged to maintain the quality of the rented accommodation through renovation measures. Tenants must therefore report damages. With the permission of the landlord, they are also allowed to renovate their apartment themselves. The cost of the renovation depends on the scope of the planned measures. For energetic redevelopments you can apply for subsidies in advance.