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In Germany, assume that Allice has a flat (either rented or owned, I think this does not matter) and lives in it herself. She decides to rent one room to Bob with an indefinite contract. My research so far yielded the following: If she rents the room to Bob mostly furnitured, then by default the termination period is two weeks to the end of the month. However, it is three months by default if she rents it to Bob without furniture. Is my understanding correct so far?

Main question: In the latter case, is it possible to define a shorter termination period in the contract, say one month? Or is the legal default of three months always applicable and cannot be changed by contract?

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If she rents the room to Bob mostly furnitured, then by default the termination period is two weeks to the end of the month. However, it is three months by default if she rents it to Bob without furniture. Is my understanding correct so far?

This is covered in §573c BGB (the German civil code).

  1. By default the notice period is three months. (But is increased for the lessor (Alice) after 5 and 8 years.)
  2. For residential space that is only leased for temporary use, a shorter notice period may be agreed. (This applies e.g. to hotel rooms.)
  3. For residential space under §549(2)(2), notice of termination is allowed at the latest on the fifteenth day of a month to the end of that month. (This is almost, but not quite, 2 weeks.)

Where §549(2)(2) describes:

residential space that is part of the dwelling inhabited by the lessor himself and has largely to be furnished with furniture and fixtures by the lessor himself, provided that permission to use the residential space has not been given for permanent use to the lessee with his family or with persons with whom he maintains a joint household set up permanently.

This seems to apply here since Alice and Bob are sharing the flat.

is it possible to define a shorter termination period in the contract, say one month? Or is the legal default of three months always applicable and cannot be changed by contract?

Per §573c (4), these notice periods are minimums: “An agreement deviating from subsections (1) or (3) to the disadvantage of the lessee is ineffective.” Thus, the rental contract could allow Bob to leave on a shorter notice period, but Alice can't kick out Bob with shorter notice period.

Notice periods only matter when one party wants to terminate the contract against the interests of the other party. If both voluntarily agree that it's best to part ways, they can sign a termination agreement effective for some arbitrary date, no notice period required.

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  • Thanks a lot :-) Do you happen to know what the expression "with his family or with persons with whom he maintains a joint household" means exactly? I.e. is a couple without children a joined household? And would a joined household only change the situation in the furnitured case or also in the unfurnitured case? I understand it as follows: If Alice rents a furnitured room to a joint household, then the termination period is three months? As long as Alice lives in the flat herself, she can always terminate the contract without a reason? Even when she rented the room to a couple? – simplemind May 10 at 14:18
  • @simplemind I included the section for completeness, but it's not entirely clear to me, neither in the original German nor in the translation. We'd have to look at relevant case law on that subsection, but a cursory glance via dejure.org didn't turn up anything useful. – amon May 10 at 16:19
  • After some more research I have some doubts about the situation in the unfurnitured situation: I think because of §573 a (1) BGB the minimum termination period if Alice wants to terminate the contract is in fact six months and not three months? – simplemind May 10 at 21:00
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    @simplemind That seems correct, but this depends on why Alice wants to terminate the contract. No justified interest, but living in same house: 3+3 months. Justified interest per §573: 3 months. The §573a “under the same roof” rule is a concession to landlords, otherwise they could only terminate the contract with justified interest. – amon May 10 at 22:05
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    @simplemind A married couple is even a family and a "joint housholds" are all persons living together like a family without beeing one (esp. unmarried couple, but also friends in a closer community than in a "Wohngemeinschaft"). The idea is: If the law would be applicable to single persons living in a furnitured room no one would rent such a room. But these persons typically cannot afford other options. (source: MüKoBGB/Bieber, 8. Aufl. 2020, BGB § 549 Rn. 19 ff.) – K-HB May 12 at 6:05

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