Dispute with landlord over mould in an apartment - Germany

Who must pay to fix mold/mildew problems

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Hi everyone,

My girlfriend and I are quite stressed out at the moment, and we hope some of you have some advice.

Last Saturday we were meant to sign a proper lease for the apartment (1-Zimmer Wohnung) we are currently sub-leasing, the girl who is sub-letting it to us is moving out. When the landlord and sub-landlord came around to sign the lease, we showed them a mould problem that we had mentioned to them about a week before (as soon as we saw it - most of it hidden behind a bookshelf which hadn't been moved for years) . When we mentioned it, it didn't seem like a problem, but once they saw it they freaked out and the owner wouldn't sign us up to the lease.

Now, we have just heard back from them tonight, and we have been told we have about a week to move out, and we are responsible for fixing the mould - apparently it is our fault for not opening the windows enough. We still believe we did open the windows often enough (not the twice a day like she said we should have been, but we think enough for any other house we've ever lived in) and actually in the bathroom (different obviously to the bookshelf mould) there was already mould there, which we didn't think twice about because it was already there when we moved in. Annoyingly, they have had someone come in to look at it while we were at work and this expert has supposedly said that it is our fault for not airing enough - we still disagree and feel the apartment is susceptible to mould because of poor ventilation...

We are not sure what to do next - they want us to fix the problem, but we don't feel responsible (and can't afford it), does anyone think there is any way we can prove that this isn't our fault or dispute their claim that we have to pay?

We are also concerned that the costs of fixing it will be more than the kaution (600 euros), can they make us pay more than the kaution? I am tempted just to let them have the kaution and not organise the fixing of the mould, but i don't want to end up in court and being forced to pay the whole amount plus legal fees...

Any help would be appreciated, we are already struggling with trying to find a new place in a week...!

We've been in Berlin for a year, but still struggle with the language which is obviously making things difficult...

It sounds to me like you're being taken for a ride. Of course you should air a place. but no amount of "airing" will solve the problems of mould forming behind a bookcase or similar fixture. Mould forms in these circs because of a "Waermebrücke, i.e. a thermal bridge or because the wall is damp. Is it an external wall? That would account for the cold surface, causing condensation in the warm interior which can't disperse because of the bookshelf. Where else are you supposed to put a bookcase? In the middle of the room? Tell them you're going to bring in an independent engineer and if it turns out to be a construction problem you'll bill them for the engineer's report and file a claim for compensation.
they have had someone come in to look at it while we were at work
This is a definite no-no (unless you specifically authorised the landlord to access the flat in your absence, which doesn't seem to be the case). There were a couple of threads recently on that very problem, try doing a search (upper right corner) with keywords like 'landlord', 'permission', 'enter', etc. Knowing he's in the wrong won't help you with the mould problem but it strenghtens your hand in dealing with him.

Edit: Here you are: Permission (results 1 and 3).
Mik Dickinson
The problem could be that the bookcase was too close to the wal so no air could get inbetween.However the behaviour of your landlord is illegal.Actually i have been in contact with my landlord this week about entering the flat below us.The tenant is not there and the drains make a blubbing sound.I think the drains need to be cleared but we cannot get into the tenants apartment.the landord said that only in the most important emergency can he enter the apartment without the tenants permission.the only thing you can do to your landlord is threaten him with a Bau Sachverständiger.This si a proffessional that will come around and look at the thing, then tell you what is at fault.If you are moving how ever try this.Buy some Schimmel Vernichter from any bau market i.e. OBI.Wipe off the mould with a damp cloth, then rub it dry with a cloth.Spary on the schimmel vernichter and rub it in with a stiff brush.Paint over the place and bobs your uncle.
Thanks very much for the wise words so far, guys. I just wanted to clarify at this point that the landlord did have our permission to enter the flat, so we can't hold that against her. We're still processing everything and gathering opinions, so any and all comments are much appreciated. Getting someone in to look at things ourselves in definitely something to consider, for one thing.

Edit: Also, hoare-spitall - yes, it is an external wall. Your idea certainly seems to make a lot of sense, in that case.
Also, in the interest of providing the clearest possible picture, we should acknowledge that the mould that was in the bathroom before we moved in has spread somewhat. Also, since we discovered the mould behind the bookshelf, that has moved further along the wall, out from behind them (we're wondering if this is because we disturbed it where it had been lying hidden?). So we do acknowledge a spread since we moved in, but, again, we question whether we could have done anything about this.
can they make us pay more than the kaution?
Of course, if you damage an apartment you have to pay for it. I guess it depends on what you signed when moving in, do you have a "übergabeprotokoll" where the mold is noted? If you don't it might get hard to proof it was already there when you moved in.
Best thing would have been to remove the mold before the landlord sees it

I wouldn't want to live in a flat with that much mold anyways ... not really that healty.
Lavender Rain
I moved out of two different houses that had mold and my attorney said it was not my responsibility it was the owners problem. I got all my security deposit back on both occasions as well. When I moved out the owner had to take out the entire wall and replace it to remove the mold. Perhaps the mold was already there and was just painted over and during your tenancy it begin to grow and spread again. And it could even be a problem with the structural integrity causing this problem.

I would take pics and go to the mietverein with your issue, I think your landlord is trying to screw you.

I'd like to suggest ALL correspondents between you and the landlord at this point should be in writing, as oral history is sometimes conveniently forgotten. So I would ask her (in writing and send it certified post) to write up her expectations (request) so you can take it to a lawyer to better determine your legal recourse.

Btw, how does she know how many times you opened the windows? Get my point, she doesn't and she doesn't have a leg to stand on to use this against you.

Be careful and good luck.
"most of it hidden behind a bookshelf which hadn't been moved for "
Did you see the mold when you moved in?
Book shelves are fairly open so ventilation close to the wall should not be a problem.
As a rule of thumb: if the temperature in your room is 20°C and the humidity 60%
then no part of the wall/window must be cooler than 13°C, the dew point of water.
If the temperature of wall would be 6°C you would have a problem to reduce the
humidity by ventilation. Water would condense even if the air outside would be very dry.
I think your room has new windows and the walls have not been isolated accordingly?
You wrote "we still disagree and feel the apartment is susceptible to mould because of poor ventilation"
Here you confessed that you should have opened the window more often.
Good luck!
Small Town Boy
I think we can assume that the "bookshelf" has a back to it, which is why mould formed behind it on the exterior wall. If you place furniture up against a damp wall then mould is almost inevitable because insufficient air circulates there, regardless of how frequently you open the windows or what the temperature of the room is.
Does anyone know of the legal implications here though. The real question is "Who is responsible?". We are currently having a disagreement with our last landlord over mould that formed in window frames and on walls in a shitty old furnished apartment we rented from him while he was away. He seems to think that we are at fault even though we aired the place regularly, notified him whenever new mould formed and cleaned mould off whenever it cropped up. i.e. did everything that we should have.
I know this is an old thread but in case anyone is looking in the future we have had some experience with this in our current apartment. We moved in last May and all was well (no mold) until winter came. Then, around the window frames we got nasty black mold. We then noticed that instead of painting the walls and window frame there was wallpaper covering even the metal frame. Of course when it got cold outside and the radiators were turned on inside this caused water to condense under the paper. We tried calling the landlord and complaining and he tried giving us this bull about how we hadn't been ventilating properly. Now I was deeply offended by this because I had gotten a book for foreigners when I moved here that stated Germans take ventilating very seriously and the standard is opening all the windows in the house wide for 3-5 minutes per day. Trying to assimilate, I adopted this strange custom and religiously ventilated every day even in the middle of winter. So long story short, we started phoning and complaining in December, after a month they sent the hausmeister out to take a look, he blamed it on us, we kept phoning and complaining that we couldn't resolve this situation ourselves without tearing up the paper, destroying the walls, the landlord himself came out, blamed it on us, more phone calls, eventually they agree to send someone to remove the paper crap when there will be "3 sunny days in a row" (which happens maybe twice a year here!), more phoning and complaining, nearly six months later they finally send the hausmeister to do the work and he has been coming once a week for about 2 hours each time, and while our whole house is in disarray and I have to arrange to be home each time they are doing work since for some reason the landlord can't give him a key to let himself in, it looks like the situation will be resolved.

Lessons Learned/Advice to Others
1. This is pretty much anywhere in the world, but it never hurts to PHOTOGRAPH YOUR PLACE when you move in. You never know what might mysteriously go wrong and be blamed on you later.
2. Ventilate the German way (but if you haven't been NEVER admit to it)
3. For bathroom/tile mold you can buy "anti-schimmel" products from many stores like REWE ect. Domestos Bad-Aktiv worked well for us but a solution of normal bleach and water will do the same thing.
4. From the beginning send LETTERS, do not call the landlord. I have since learned from my German friends that it is standard to send letters for everything instead of calling. Calling will not get a response, suck up your pride, and write something up no matter how bad your grammar.
5. Be polite but persistent- hang in there, don't cave and pay to have work done yourself if the problem isn't your fault. This and another incident here have convinced me it will usually take 6 months to get German bureaucrats to agree to cover any major expense, but in the end if you keep filing the right papers you will get your reward!
Add to that my experience:

First winter in apartment and got mold in-around windows, took photos of mold and complained to landlord in written, he squarely blamed it on us, he sent several experts to test it, all test reports drafted in a way to blame us (same good old reason - we did not ventilate properly), then threatened by landlord for legal proceedings & costs, i kept firm and blamed it on insufficient (and very old) insulated walls & windows (most frequent reason for mold), found out from neighbours that previous tenant also had mold problem, still threatening letters from landlord's lawyers kept on coming, hired a lawyer myself and sent a legal notice and reduced rent immediately, resulted in an immediate change of heart by landlord, he is now offering money (to compensate for the makler & moving fee) for us to move out. How sweet of him.

Morale of the story: Keep your ground, take professional legal advice, keep communication in written, start loving taking photos.
Can I hop on this post? I am not sure how to put up a new one. I have a similar problem. We moved in in April of this year. I noticed the mould recently. My landlord says it is my fault and I must take care of it. I spoke with a German lawyer and was told I should get an expert in to take a look and decipher whether it is my fault or was already here and the landlord's responsibility. The thing is, just for this expert to come out to my house and check, is 350Euro. Has anyone else been in a similar situation? Anyone know of another expert? It just seems like a lot of money to have someone tell me it is or is not my fault. That does not include clean up or anything. Please help!
Yes, it is generally the same all around. You must prove he is at fault. That means shelling out the dough to get an expert to say that and then possibly taking him to court over it. Not cheap.

We found it easier just to tackle the mold ourselves, but again that does not work in all cases and not with invasive black molds for sure.

But no landlord will ever just say ok I will fix it. I know people who have fought for years and in the end just move.

What amazes me is that mold is such a widespread issue here, never once in the states did an apartment of mine have mold or pests.
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