Coloring of Wooden Components when Returning an Apartment

A landlord had, in his contract, the stipulation that when returning the apartment after lease the wood had to be in certain colors. The BGH decided on the validity of this clause in its decision of October 22, 2008 (re VIII ZR 283/07).


The landlord's standard contract obliged the tenant to return color painted wooden parts in a white or bright tone and varnished parts (alone) in the original coloring.

Generally, there is nothing to complain about this clause. Especially since the time of its application is when the tenant departs the apartment and does not care for the coloring anymore so that there is no interest on the tenants side that needs to be weighed against the landlord's interests.

However, the Federal Court of Justice delivered its ruling case on color choices. Nevertheless, an tenant thinking economically will have considered during the renting period what coloring he wants, so as not to run  the danger of needing to renovate again when returning the apartment - even if redecorating is not really necessary. This limitation of tenant's right to decorate a dwelling as he wishes has to be accepted. Following previous ruling case law of the Federal Court of Justice, the tenant has to accept any stipulation effective on the return of the apartment. This is true as long as the landlord's expectations are only general and do not demand certain kinds of decoration. It is okay for the landlord to determine a palette of decorations (neutral, bright, covering colors and wallpaper).

The same applies for painted wood. However, the above clause determines that the color has be the same as when moving in. With sagacious weighing of both the landlord's and the tenant's interest, this wide span limitation of the tenant's possibilities is acceptable. For on the landlord's side, is important that a transparent varnish does not produce a change in color that is either not reversible at all or reversible only by damaging the wood. It is not allowed for the tenant to destroy, ruin, or damage the substance of the building or its components.

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