How to increase the height after 20

rent increase

Not every rent increase is permitted

Dr. Britta Beate Schön
Legal Expert As of September 29, 2020

Dr. Britta Beate Schön

Britta Beate Schön is responsible for all legal issues at Finanztip. The doctor of law and attorney was head of the legal department at financial service providers such as Telis Finanz AG and Interhyp. Before that, she taught and researched in Japan as a DAAD junior professor for German and European law. She completed her studies in Münster, Geneva, Regensburg and Leipzig. You can reach the author at [email protected]

  • At the earliest 15 months after moving in or after the last rent increase, landlords may raise the rent up to the local comparative rent.
  • The surcharge may not be higher than 20 percent within three years, and in many cities even not higher than 15 percent. This is what the so-called cap limit says.
  • If you, as a tenant, do not agree to the rent increase, you can, under certain circumstances, refuse your consent. Your landlord must then sue for approval.
  • Do not agree to a rent increase that you have not verified. You can use our checklist for this:

For download

  • You can find help at a tenants' association, if you are a member, or have the increase checked by If successful, you will pay the company the savings for four months as a fee.

The next rent increase is sure to come. Many leases run for decades. The new rent index often causes landlords to adjust the rent to the local comparative rent. However, they cannot simply increase indefinitely.

When are rent increases allowed?

Landlords are allowed to raise the rent to the local rate. The rents are customary in the area and are on average within the last six years have been agreed for a comparable apartment in this area (Section 558 (2) BGB).

Net rent - If the rent is increased, the landlord must use the net rent as a basis. There are landlords who, in addition to the net rent and advance payment of utilities, also require a monthly amount for cosmetic repairs. This surcharge has to be added if the landlord wants to increase the rent up to the local comparative rent (AG Stuttgart, judgment of March 8, 2016, Az. 35 C 5555/15).

Shape - The landlord must increase the rent in text form transmit (§ 558a BGB). So he can send a letter, but also an e-mail to the tenant. This also applies if the written form has been agreed in the contract for changes to the contract (BGH, judgment of November 10, 2010, Az. VIII ZR 300/09).

Justification with rent index - Any increase must be justified. Cities and municipalities regularly use surveys to determine how high the current average rent is in the various districts. The landlord usually bases the increase on the current rent index. To this end, he encloses a copy of the rent index or quotes from it and explains where he classifies his apartment there in terms of size, location, year of construction and furnishings. The rent index does not have to be sent along if it is freely accessible at the city or local authority or can be found on the city's website.

The landlord can increase the price Not with the rent index of Neighboring municipality justify if there is no rent index in his municipality. For this formal reason alone, the landlord may wrongly demand more rent (AG Leonberg, judgment of May 25, 2016, Az. 8 C 702/15).

All rent indexes look a little different. As an example, you can find excerpts from the rent index for Bielefeld in North Rhine-Westphalia here. The net rents are staggered according to the year of construction and are always given in a range of lower, middle and upper value. As a tenant, you can classify your own apartment with the deductions and surcharges accordingly.

Extract from the rent index for Bielefeld

Construction yearNet rentper monthin € / m²
 lower valueMeanupper value
until 19185,47 €6,36 €7,56 €
1919 - 19495,38 €5,88 €6,66 €
1950 - 19605,39 €5,75 €6,39 €
1961 - 19775,27 €5,88 €6,69 €
1978 - 19945,81 €6,76 €7,66 €
1995 - 20016,36 €6,94 €7,61 €
2002 - 20105,88 €7,05 €8,48 €
2011 - 20177,76 €9,50 €10,59 €

Applies to standard apartments in apartment buildings in normal residential areas with a size of 20 to 120 square meters and a bathroom, toilet and collective heating. Does not apply to publicly subsidized apartments, subleases, commercial apartments.

Surcharges / discounts per month in € / m² 
good / very good residential area+ 0,50 €
Small apartment 20 m² to less than 40 m²+ 1,46 €
large apartments from 120 m² to 250 m²- 0,87 €
Barrier-free poverty and full energy modernization+ 1,21 €

Source: Building Department of the City of Bielefeld (as of September 2020)

Justification with three comparable apartments- In small communities there is often no rent index. Then the landlord can also justify the rent increase by naming three comparable apartments that already cost what he wants to ask for. Comparable means that the apartments have to be similar in terms of equipment, location and size. Even in cities where there is a rent index, landlords can justify the rent increase with three comparable apartments.

Landlords must indicate the apartments in such a way that a tenant can find them without major difficulties. As a tenant, you can ask the tenants for comparison about facilities and price per square meter. However, you are not entitled to view the apartment.

Actual living space is crucial

Even if the living space is in the lease too big or too small is specified, the landlord may, according to the Federal Court of Justice, only increase the rent on the basis of the actual size up to the local comparative rent (BGH, judgment of November 18, 2015, Az. VIII ZR 266/14). The landlord must observe any applicable cap limit.

The size specification is missing in the contract, it depends on the real size of the apartment in the event of an increase. For example, if your landlord wants to have more rent and is assuming a 60 square meter apartment that is actually only 50 square meters, he may only calculate the increase for the 50 square meters.

But: It is not enough that you, as a tenant, simply dispute the size assumed by the landlord. If in doubt, you have to calculate the living space yourself and an allowance submit. You do not have to hire an expert for this; You can present the results of your own measurements, even if the apartment has sloping ceilings (BGH, judgment of May 31, 2017, Az. VIII ZR 181/16).

Tip: As a tenant, always measure your apartment yourself and do not rely on the information in the rental agreement. That can save quite a bit of rent. You may need expert help with this. The area under a sloping roof is not counted in full, the same applies to balconies and terraces. How these areas are to be calculated results from the living space ordinance.

How often can the rent increase?

Landlords are allowed one year at the earliest send a rent increase after moving in and then have to send a Reflection period allow until the end of the month after next. In fact, the rent can only be after 15 months increase (Section 558 (1) sentence 1 BGB). The same applies to rent increases in long-standing tenancies: less than one year after the last rent increase, landlords may announce the next rent increase, which then applies again at the end of the month after next.

Danger: This period of one year only applies to rent increases with which the landlord adjusts the amount to the local comparative rent. If the rent was increased shortly beforehand due to a modernization, it can still be adjusted to the local rents.

Rent increases for graduated and index rents are not permitted

Sometimes a graduated rent is also agreed in the rental agreement. This means that the rent increases automatically by a certain amount every year. The increase may amount to more than 20 percent within three years. This has the advantage for the landlord that the tenant does not have to agree to each increase: it is enough that he has declared this once when signing the contract.

The landlord may no longer increase this. The same applies to an index rent, where the price rises once a year in line with the inflation rate. Rent increases according to the rent index are then taboo.

Download checklist

Our Checklist helps you to check whether your rent increase is permissible.

For download

What limits do landlords have to observe when increasing rent?

Landlords are allowed to increase the rent by 20 percent within three years as part of the adjustment to the local comparative rent (Section 558 (3) BGB). If a landlord has already exhausted this cap with his increase, he has to wait three years before he can increase the rent the next time. Possible increases due to modernization are not included in the cap limit.

Attention: The cap limits apply during the current tenancy, the rent brake, however, applies to new rentals.

Lowered cap limit of 15 percent

The federal states are allowed to lower the cap limit for five years to 15 percent for cities and municipalities if the rental housing market there is particularly tight (Section 558 (3) BGB). The landlord can then pay the rent within three years not more than 15 percent increase, even if the local comparative rent has not yet been reached. This currently applies in the following federal states:

  • Baden-Württemberg - until June 30, 2025 in 89 cities and municipalities
  • Bavaria - until December 31, 2021 for 162 cities and municipalities
  • Berlin - until May 10, 2023 throughout the city
  • Brandenburg - until December 31, 2020 in 30 cities and municipalities
  • Bremen - until August 31, 2024
  • Hamburg - until August 31, 2023
  • Hessen - until November 26, 2020 in 30 cities and municipalities
  • Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania - until September 30, 2023 for Rostock
  • Lower Saxony - until November 30, 2021 in 19 cities and municipalities
  • North Rhine-Westphalia - until June 30, 2025 in 18 cities and municipalities
  • Rhineland-Palatinate - until September 30, 2024 in 4 cities
  • Saxony - until June 30, 2025 in Dresden and Leipzig
  • Thuringia - in Erfurt until September 30, 2024

The Federal Court of Justice had to review the capping limit regulation in Berlin and declared it lawful (judgment of November 4, 2015, Az. VIII ZR 217/14). The state of Berlin has set a uniform cap limit for the entire urban area. Tenants in Berlin can therefore refuse their consent if landlords want to increase the rent by more than 15 percent.

At 120 percent it's over - If the rent is more than 20 percent above the rent index, it is excessive. In cities where living space is scarce, the tenant can cap his payments at 120 percent (Section 5 (2) WiStG). He can also claim back the amounts overpaid for the past three years.

Rent cover in Berlin

In Berlin there is a special law on rent limitation (rent cap). After that, rent increases are no longer possible until the end of 2021. The rents are frozen. Anyone who received an increase from their landlord after June 18, 2019 does not have to pay a higher rent, even if they agreed to the rent increase before the law came into force. Exceptions to the rent cap apply to new buildings that were completed from 2014.

Rent increases will be possible again from 2022, but by a maximum of 1.3 percent per year. An increase after modernization is capped at 1 euro per square meter. You can find more information on this in our blog article Rental cover.

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Do tenants have to agree to a rent increase?

The law stipulates that you as a tenant must agree to every rent increase. The landlord must ask you to do this in his letter of increase. However, you cannot simply say “No”, you can only refuse to give your consent if the rent increase is not lawful. This is the case, for example, if your landlord justifies the increase by saying that the apartment is particularly well equipped, but it is actually only average.

Reflection period -Landlords must grant a deadline for approval. So the tenant can calmly check whether the rent increase is permissible. This reflection period or also the approval period begins with the receipt of the letter of the landlord and ends at the end of the second month (§ 558b Abs. 2 Satz 1 BGB). The deadline is therefore at least two months and at most one day less than three months.

Example: If you receive the letter from your landlord on May 5th, the deadline ends on July 31st. If you receive the rent increase on July 30th, you can think about it until September 30th.

If you, as a tenant, refuse to agree to the rent increase, your landlord can only demand the higher rent by going to a court and suing for consent. He must do this within three months after the approval period has expired (Section 558b (2) sentence 2 BGB). It is also possible that you as a tenant only partially agree, for example because your landlord did not observe the cap.

Free form consent - The consent to the rent increase is informal. That means it can also be pronounced orally or even tacitly by simply paying the higher rent as a tenant. The Federal Court of Justice has decided that tenants agree in any case if they transfer the increased rent several times without reservation, even if they have not given written consent (BGH, decision of January 30, 2018, Az. VIII ZB 74/16).

Tip: Do not just pay the increased rent directly, but take the time to think about it and calmly check whether the rent increase is permissible in the required amount.

No right of withdrawal

Once you have agreed to the rent increase, you cannot revoke your declaration of consent. There is no right of withdrawal under distance selling law because the tenant is adequately protected by the statutory provisions on rent increases (BGH, judgment of October 17, 2018, Az. VIII ZR 94/17). So take advantage of the time you have to think about it - and don't rush to agree to the increase. Because you cannot undo that.

Special right of termination

In addition, as a tenant, you have a special right of termination in the event of a rent increase. You can cancel the apartment within the approval period with a notice period of just two months.

Are landlords allowed to increase the rent after a modernization?

In addition to increasing the rent up to the local comparative rent, landlords have the option of increasing the rent after modernization. If the landlord upgrades his property by adding balconies or installing an elevator, he can allocate the costs of the modernization to the rent (§ 559 BGB). But not every renovation is a reason for a rent increase.

If the landlord only replaces a broken window with an equivalent one, then that is the usual maintenance. Your landlord is not allowed to pass the costs on to the rent.

Since January 1, 2019, he is allowed up to 8 percent of the Modernization costs add to the annual rent. If he has received public funding for the modernization, the amount that he actually had in modernization costs is reduced. Accordingly, he is allowed to pass on less on the rent.

You can find more information on this in our guide to modernizing a rental apartment.

Who supports tenants in the event of a rent increase?

If you as a tenant are unsure whether the rent increase is legal, you should get help.

Legal service provider

Tenants can contact the consumer portal against inadmissible rent increases. The provider has already gained a lot of experience in enforcing tenant interests with the rental price control. To do this, tenants must provide information about the rent increase and their apartment online. If the increase is inadmissible from the company's point of view, it offers the tenant a so-called letter of protection against rent increases. This includes the cost coverage for lawyer and court, should the landlord want to enforce his claims in court. The tenant only pays the saving of four months to if it is successful. If the provider cannot successfully ward off the increase, the tenant will not incur any costs.

From Finanztip's point of view, this is a fair offer, the conditions of the cover letter are transparent. Especially for tenants without legal protection insurance, this is a good way to defend themselves against a rent increase.

  • Examination of rent increases throughout Germany
  • If the landlord takes legal action, the provider will pay legal and court costs
  • Success fee equal to the saving of four months' rent

Tenants' Association

For tenants there are also associations that help to clarify the legal situation and to write letters in which this is clearly stated. Tenants can join a local tenants' association.

Lawyer for tenancy law

As a tenant, you can also contact an attorney specializing in tenancy law. He checks the rent increase and raises objections if the increase is not lawful. If you have legal protection insurance, you usually have no cost risk in rental disputes.

Video: 5 reasons why you don't have to pay a rent increase

More on this in the legal protection insurance guide

  • You can get good legal protection for less than 300 euros a year.
  • Tariffs recommended by us: Arag Aktiv Komfort, Auxilia Jurprivat, WGV Optimal

To the advisor

Dr. Britta Beate Schön

Dr. Britta Beate Schön

Britta Beate Schön is responsible for all legal issues at Finanztip. The doctor of law and attorney was head of the legal department at financial service providers such as Telis Finanz AG and Interhyp. Before that, she taught and researched in Japan as a DAAD junior professor for German and European law. She completed her studies in Münster, Geneva, Regensburg and Leipzig. You can reach the author at [email protected]

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