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Messie in the rented apartment: This is how landlords should act

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Messies are every landlord's nightmare. They hoard all kinds of objects and in the worst case the apartment will become uninhabitable at some point. How landlords can protect their property and how to deal with messies.

Landlords whose apartment is occupied by a messie have little to smile about - because a tenant with messie syndrome cannot correctly assess the value of everyday objects - differentiate useful from useless, important from unimportant. The consequences are usually an accumulation of garbage and useless things. Organic waste or neglected pets also often attract vermin. Damage these tenants with their behavior of the building fabric or impair other tenants, they act contrary to the contract. The landlord can take action against this.

Step 1: Check how littered is the Messiewohne?

Before the landlord takes up his sharpest weapon and gives notice of termination without notice, he should check whether it would be effective at all in case of doubt. Because: Even a messie has certain rights as a tenant. "The tenant enjoys great freedom in how he arranges himself and his life"Says lawyer Dr. Carsten Brückner, chairman of the Haus & Grund Berlin owners' association. This includes being able to keep as many things in his apartment as he wants, as long as it does not damage other tenants or the building fabric. That means: if there are mountains of decades-old newspapers in an apartment, the landlord can do little or nothing - apart from good coaxing.

“The individual lifestyle finds its limit where other people are disturbed. A behavior by the tenant is contrary to the contract at the latest if other tenants are impaired in their contractual use, ”says Brückner. This can be the case, for example, with odors caused by spoiled food going out or if the tenant has organic waste vermin attracts. In this case, the landlord can take steps to take action against the tenant.

The landlord can do this for tenants with messie syndrome

"If the landlord finds out that the tenant is neglecting the apartment, he should speak to him personally about this fact," says the lawyer. In many cases, the tenant also pays the rent irregularly. This is a good opportunity to talk to the tenant to discuss his situation. "First of all, the landlord can speak to the tenant about the problem in a calm tone and ask him to clean up the rubbish." If the talks are unsuccessful, the landlord can go to the next level of escalation.

Messie syndrome is a mental health disorder also called valuation disorder - mess comes from the English and means disorder, chaos.

The reason for the behavior of people with messie syndrome is usually deep in the psyche and manifests itself in the hoarding of mostly useless things, such as old newspapers, outer packaging and empty plastic bottles. To the messie, however, they can seem like a little treasure.

The escalation of messie syndrome is litter syndrome. Those affected then hoard real rubbish. The tenant himself becomes increasingly neglected and isolated. The result of this disorganization problem is a cluttered and littered apartment. Landlords often only notice the problem very late and want to get rid of the tenant as soon as possible. But messies are mostly long-term tenants and therefore cannot be thrown out of the apartment so easily.

Step 2: First send a warning, then cancel

A landlord cannot simply throw the tenant out of the apartment. “Before issuing a notice of termination, the landlord must follow the behavior of the tenant warn in writing“, So Brückner. The landlord should also send a warning to the tenant set a reasonable deadline, in which he has to clear out the apartment and possibly repair any damage that has already occurred. "This makes the tenant aware that he is not behaving in accordance with the contract," says Brückner.

Only when that doesn't help, the landlord can resort to the last resort: the termination without notice. However: The requirements for this are set relatively high in the German Civil Code. "Termination without notice due to neglect is only possible, if the tenant endangers the apartment significantly“, Explains Brückner. However, there is no generally applicable definition of what such a significant risk is. For this purpose, the respective individual case must always be assessed.

In the event of a dispute in court, it is advisable to to document all complaints of the other tenants in writing - about the foul-smelling stairwell. The mountains of rubbish found during a possible inspection should also be noted in writing - this way, landlords are optimally protected in the event of a legal dispute.

If none of this helps and the tenant does not move out of the apartment, the landlord only has the eviction action.

Judgments on the subject

  • The Regional Court of Münster ruled in 2020 that the delivery of the rented apartment without further specific disruption or risk does not justify termination without notice. The regional court thus dismissed the eviction action previously granted by the local court. (LG Münster Az. 01 S 53/20)
  • In 2008, the Arnsberg Administrative Court ruled that the owners of an apartment building must immediately clean, defecate and clear out the apartment of their tenants. Since the tenants did not comply with the city's order, the landlords were made responsible. (VG Arnsberg Az. 3 L 336/08)
  • According to the Hamburg-Harburg District Court in 2011, the termination of a tenant who littered his apartment and left it to be neglected is legal if it is preceded by a warning. (AG Hamburg-Harburg Ref. 641 C 363/10)

Step 3: clearing out the messie apartment

If the tenant has moved out and leaves mountains of rubbish behind, the landlord usually has to take care of the clearing out in practice. There are companies that specialize in clearing out messie apartments.

A clearing company is familiar with the relevant hygiene regulations and can reset the apartment to its original state. That means they also get to the bottom of unpleasant smells and eliminate them. The professionals can also dispose of the various types of waste, bulky waste and other types of accumulation in an environmentally friendly and professional manner. Some companies also offer special services and sort out valuables or important documents and hand them over to the tenant.

An extreme case is the so-called hoarding of animals. In this form, those affected collect morbid animals and are usually not able to take care of them appropriately. The often very high number of animals usually lacks water and feed, as well as care and hygiene. In the long run, stench and noise disturb the neighbors and beyond that one can no longer speak of the contractual "pets allowed".

In this case, professionals use biological or chemical substances, ozonization and ionization for cleaning in order to make the affected rooms accessible and habitable again.

The tenant must bear the costs of any evacuation of the apartment himself. However, if the latter cannot or does not want to pay, the landlord remains seated on it. Special landlord legal expenses insurance can help here. However, these are often relatively expensive.

If the landlord wants to save the cost of clearing out and do it himself, it won't necessarily be cheaper. The costs for waste disposal alone are very high, since the rubbish has to be separated and disposed of. Most of the time everything goes into the household waste, which has to be registered and picked up for a fee.

When the messie can't be terminated

If the building structure is not endangered and other tenants do not feel bothered by the messie, the landlord has bad cards. If there are no other reasons for termination - for example because the tenant does not pay the rent - the landlord may not terminate either.

The last option would then be Go to the supervisory court. Here he has to explain why the tenant can obviously no longer take care of the matter himself. The court may then provide the tenant with a supervisor who is the contact person for the landlord - the limits for this are, however, quite tight.

Questions and Answers about Tenants with Messie Syndrome

What to do if the tenant littered the apartment?

First of all, landlords have to differentiate: does a tenant collect passionately or does it stink from the apartment, does he harm other tenants or even damage the structure of the house with his behavior?
If the behavior of the tenant has an impact on other tenants or the house, if vermin is perhaps even attracted, the landlord can, after prior warning, terminate the tenant without notice.


How do I get a messie out of the apartment?

If the tenant behaves in accordance with the contract and only has a pronounced passion for collecting newspapers or memorabilia, for example, the landlord can usually do nothing.
Otherwise, the landlord can seek a conversation with the person concerned and set him a deadline for clearing out. If he does not comply with these and if his behavior affects others, a warning and subsequent termination is possible.

Who is responsible for the neglect of the apartment?

The tenant himself is initially responsible for the contractual use of the rented apartment. If he lets the apartment go into neglect or disturbs other tenants with his behavior, for example with clutter in the hallway, stench from the apartment or vermin that he has attracted, the landlord should intervene. In extreme cases, you have to go to the guardianship court and terminate the contract without notice.

Who pays for clearing out the messe apartment?

Basically, the person concerned is responsible for clearing out the room and assuming the costs for it. However, courts ruled that if the messie is unable or unable or unwilling to cover the costs, the landlord can be held responsible as an alternative.

Regine Curth


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