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The courts are strict when it comes to heating
The courts are strict when it comes to heating

Video: The courts are strict when it comes to heating

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Even if the summer was still so nice and long, the next heating season is on the way. There were already cold nights and soon the radiators in all residential complexes should be turned on again. The Law and Tax Information Service of the LBS deals in its special edition with judgments of German courts on this topic. The spectrum ranges from the minimum temperature that should exist in a rented apartment to the question of how heating costs must be correctly calculated.

Tenants can expect a certain minimum temperature

If a rental agreement does not regulate how warm an apartment should be, the owner can still not switch and control how he wants. During the heating period from October to April, he must ensure that a room temperature of at least 18 degrees Celsius is reached even at night. So the Cologne District Court (file number 205 C 36/16) decided on the complaint of a tenant. Because the minimum temperature was not reached, the judge considered that there was a shortage of rent. In such cases, a reduction is possible.

Heating noises are not a defect

A "working" heating system can occasionally cause noise. In the specific case, it was a hum that repeated itself at regular intervals and disturbed the tenant of an apartment. He asked the owner to put this off - and cut the rent. But the Hanover District Court (file number 412 C 8478/13) did not accept that. A noise can be heard, but according to an expert, it is very quiet and is below the level provided for building services systems. There could be no question of a defect, it was more a question of typical living noises, which should be accepted in a similar way to environmental noises (twittering of birds, rail traffic).

Thermostat at zero means zero

It was bewitched. A tenant was able to set the thermostat in the bedroom to zero as often as possible - nevertheless, the radiator ensured a temperature of at least 22 degrees. The person concerned felt that it was too warm for a good night's sleep. The Berlin Regional Court (file number 67 S 357/15) was able to follow his arguments. If the owner does not manage to lower the temperature in a bedroom to a maximum of 18 degrees Celsius, the minimum standards for an apartment would not be met and the tenant could successfully take action against it. A constant cooling "by opening the windows beyond mandatory" is unreasonable.

Radiators can be classified as individual property

Radiators and associated lines for connection to a central heating system can be assigned to individual property within a WEG by way of a declaration of division or by subsequent agreement. That was an important question in a dispute before the Federal Court of Justice (file number V ZR 176/10). It was about the replacement of a heater in a residential complex. An owner had contradicted this, which was a problem because his radiators were then no longer compatible with the new system. The BGH judges decided that the community of owners could decide to renovate the apartment until the affected person's home, but could not force him to make changes within his own four walls. After an appropriate changeover period, it would then be possible to disconnect this one apartment.

Inadequate heatability is a reason for rent reductions

A heating system is indispensable mainly in the cold season. But even outside the "season" an apartment must not get uncomfortably cold. This was exactly the case with a rented property. The tenants had to freeze in April and May due to the lack of heating facilities and an otherwise ailing condition of the property. May is no longer part of the heating season, but the Villingen-Schwenningen District Court (file number 11 C 243/14) nevertheless granted a reduction in the rent payments by half. Because of a missing apartment door - only a normal room door was installed instead - the tenants were awarded an additional reduction of five percent and another ten percent due to rubble lying around.

In addition to the boiler room, it can be uncomfortable

Some may spontaneously consider it lucky to live directly above the heating cellar of a residential complex, because a certain amount of heat radiation can be expected from there. But that can also quickly become uncomfortable. In a Hamburg apartment building, both audible noise from the heating system and considerable heat penetrated into an apartment above. The Hamburg Regional Court is convinced that both problems (file number 307 S 130/08) each justified a ten percent reduction in rent. "Permanent heating, " it said in the judgment, runs counter to the tenants' interest in being able to regulate the temperature according to his "subjective level of comfort".

Heating costs increased tenfold: probably a mistake

An elderly couple was shocked when they received the annual bill from the local utility company, which supplied electricity and gas, among other things. The estimated amount of around 9, 000 euros was about ten times higher than the consumption in the same period last year and also exceeded what comparable households had obtained. Customers and providers then disputed across several instances whether this sum had to be paid immediately or not. The Federal Court of Justice (file number VIII ZR 148/17) finally affirmed a provisional right of customers to refuse payment. As previously stated by the Higher Regional Court, there is a "serious possibility of an obvious error" in the settlement.

Outdated heating in the old building reasonable

And what can you think of a heating system that is obviously defective because it can hardly be regulated and therefore causes high costs for the consumer? A tenant of commercial premises complained about this and reduced her monthly payments because of the inefficient heating. The Federal Court of Justice (file number XII ZR 80/12) did not agree to this reduction. Landlords are generally not obliged to install economically functioning heating. Here, the house - built in the GDR era - as an old building did meet the expected and justifiable state of the art.

Heating, hot water, cooking: what if everything fails?

The worst case imaginable is when almost everything that a tenant relies on in everyday life fails during the heating season. In an apartment in Nuremberg, due to a problem with the gas supply (deflagration), neither heating nor hot water supply worked for months and even the possibility of cooking (gas cooker) was therefore not available. The Nuremberg district court (file number 16 C 127/16) dealt with how such a total failure should be judged legally. The result: During the heating period from October to April, rent can be reduced by 85 percent, and outside the heating period from May to September, it is still 60 percent.

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