Here is everything you need to know about renting a flat in Vienna. If you want to know more about the legal components of renting, check out “Your rights when renting an apartment”.
Table of Contents
- What are the costs of renting a flat in Vienna?
- One-time expenses
- Tenant’s Investments In the Vienna Apartment
- Searching For & Finding Potential Properties
- Making an Offer
- Transaction – renting in Vienna
- The Lease
- Handover (“Schlüssel-Übergabe”) when you rent a flat in Vienna
- Get settled in
- Trouble-Shooting Status Changes (Change In Ownership of Rental Apartment in Vienna)
- Leaving – Terminating a Lease / Moving Out
What are the costs of renting a flat in Vienna?
A tenant’s total rent liability consists of three components: base rent (Hauptmietzins or Netto-Miete) for the Vienna flat, operating costs (Betriebskosten), and taxes (Umsatzsteuer, or USt). Altogether, they comprise the gross rent (Brutto- miete).
- Base rent (Nettomiete) is the fixed monthly rent price for the flat in Vienna. Depending upon what type of apartment it is and its available features, base rent (and its periodic increases) can be regulated by law or set according to market conditions.
- Operating Costs (Betriebskosten) is the amount paid on top of the base rent and covers the general building maintenance, municipal fees (water, waste, sewer), building insurance, and improvements. (Costs for elevator maintenance may be calculated separately.) In buildings with two or more units, operating costs are calculated according to your apartment’s prorated share (Kostenaufteilung) of the building’s total usable area (Nutzfläche). Maintenance costs are estimated in advance for the year and allocated into monthly installments. If the amount paid is ultimately different from the annual accounting, you will be invoiced or credited for the difference. These costs can be adjusted from year to year, but annual increases may not exceed 10 percent.
- Sales Tax (Umsatzsteuer) of 10 percent is assessed on base rent and maintenance costs.
Note on Operating Costs (Betriebskosten)
Your personal consumption of utilities and heating are usually not included.
Depending upon the type of apartment, lease, and ownership, initial one-time costs may be due upon lease signing:
Broker’s commission (Maklerprovision)
If a realtor acts as a broker for the transaction between tenant and landlord, he can charge a commission upon lease signing. The broker may charge up to two months’ rent (net of tax) as commission. This is possible if the lease term is unlimited (unbefristet) or longer than three years. He may only charge up to one month, if the term is three years or fewer.
A 20 percent sales tax to the commission applies as well.
If the broker is also the house manager/ steward (Verwalter), only a one-month commission may be charged. If this double role is not explicitly stated (in writing) to the tenant at lease signing, the tenant may demand a refund of the ENTIRE commission payment.
Security Deposit (Kaution)
Often a landlord will demand that you pay a deposit in advance. This offsets potential repair costs or compensates unpaid back rent for the Vienna flat when you terminate the lease agreement. You can negotiate the exact amount and how you pay it (not ordained by law). Typically, the landlord will demand three (sometimes up to six) months’ base rent as security upon lease signing.
Transfer Fees (Ablöse)
A landlord or previous tenant might demand a one-off payment to close/transfer the lease agreement (a.k.a., “key money”). The landlord can’t demand such a transaction if it brings the tenant no advantage other than obtaining an empty apartment. However, a landlord can, if:
- The landlord has compensated a previous tenant for leasehold improvements
(e.g., a renovated bathroom, rewiring, lighting fixtures, flooring
or built-in cabinetry) but did not increase the rent to the new tenant
- If the landlord has obligated him or her to find a new tenant, the outgoing tenant may demand direct compensation from the incoming tenant for investments made and labor expended.
A tenant should seek professional advice before paying such fees. If they pay, the tenant should document the transaction (with inventories, photos, and payment receipts) and require signatures by all parties involved.
Prepayment Of Rent (Mietzinsvorauszahlung) for your flat in Vienna
A landlord can negotiate for a lump sum prepayment of base rent of the Vienna flat for a defined number of rental periods. This is not considered a prohibited transfer fee, as long as the payment is earmarked for a specific term and doesn’t exceed the maximum allowable rent.
FOR EXAMPLE, The base rent is €700/month for a three-year lease. The landlord asks for a €12,000 prepayment or down payment. He/She couldn’t apply this amount to only one year but would have to spread it out over at least 18 months of the lease term.
Collecting prepayment of rent does not prohibit a landlord from making legally allowed annual rent increases.
Lease Signing Fees (Vergebührung des Mietvertrages)
These were once obligatory, the federal Finance Ministry no longer charges on residential leases or renewals signed after Nov. 11, 2017. The landlord may not charge the tenant a handling fee (Bearbeitungshonorar) to offset legal or other expenses associated with the lease signing. They can’t request such transfer fees from you anymore.
Tenant’s Investments In the Vienna Apartment
Under certain conditions, a tenant can make changes and improvements to the apartment. For insignificant improvements such as painting or wallpapering, the tenant does not need to obtain the landlord’s prior permission. However, for more substantial investments, the tenant should obtain written permission or the landlord might sue later on.
As long as proposed improvements
- are up to code,
- serve the interest of the tenant,
- are executed professionally,
- are not detrimental or dangerous to the landlord’s interest or to the house,
- and the tenant pays for the changes,
the landlord must reply to the request within two months.
In consenting, a landlord may oblige the tenant to return the property to its original condition upon termination of the lease agreement. Any changes made that you cannot undo become the property of the landlord. However, under certain conditions, a tenant may seek reimbursement for the investments made.
A tenant may not make changes or improvements to any part of the property belonging to the common house areas (facade, entry doors, outer windows, and balconies).
Searching For & Finding Potential Properties
Deciding on the right flat to rent in Vienna
Deciding whether to apply for an apartment can be overwhelming. There are so many factors to consider. You’re lucky if even a few of your priorities and preferences have been met by any single apartment you’ve seen. Some people won’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good enough, while others have the luxury of waiting for their dream apartment to appear.
Here are a few tips that might help you decide:
- Set your top priorities realistically and stick to them – don’t settle for less or you’ll be unhappy later;
- Get a second opinion. Ask a friend, relative, or co-worker to review the listing or even view the apartment with you;
- Spend some time in the neighborhood. Check out the local supermarket, bakery, and fresh market. Go to a local café and talk it up with some locals;
- Better yet, try to connect with the previous tenant or other residents in the building;
- Make sure that the landlord calculated the base rent correctly according to law;
- How difficult will the move-in (einziehen) be? Have a moving company give you a rough cost estimate;
- If the lease term is unlimited or longer than three years, can you envision living there for so long? Will your lifestyle stay the same? If not, consider an apartment with a shorter, limited lease term and save money on rent and broker’s commission;
- What does your gut instinct tell you? Is it usually right or wrong?
Making an Offer
When you’ve finally decided that an available apartment meets your needs, budget and preferences, you will be asked by the landlord (usually via a broker) to submit a written tender (Mietanbot). Such an offer is legally binding once it’s signed, so you must be absolutely sure that the terms therein are in order.
- Unless explicitly stated otherwise, an offer is valid for 14 days from its signing. During this time, you should not make any other offers because, if it is accepted by the landlord, you will be obligated to pay the broker’s commission even if you end up deciding not to sign the lease.
- A landlord, on the other hand, is not obligated to accept an offer and may consider several offers concurrently. He or she is not obligated to give preference to offers in the order in which they were received.
- Because an offer is legally binding once countersigned, it should include specific details about the terms of the rental. Do not rely upon verbal promises made by either the landlord or the broker. Get everything in writing!
- If a broker is involved, the terms of his or her commission must also either be included in the offer itself or as a separate agreement.
- Under no circumstances should you pay a deposit or advance before the actual lease is signed.
At a minimum, an offer must include the following information:
- Object description and address of the apartment
- Names of the landlord and tenant
- Type of lease (main lease or sublease)
- Lease term (unlimited, limited, how many years, start of occupancy)
- Rent (itemized as base rent, operating expenses, heating costs and taxes)
- Usable area of the apartment, number of rooms and its amenities (Nutzflä- che and Ausstattung)
- The length of time the offer is valid (14 days if not specifically stated otherwise).
Additional terms, reflecting verbal promises and features described in the listing, should be included in written form, as well. These might include your rights to sublet, to keep a pet, to use the building’s common amenities, transfer fees (Ablöse), prepayment of rent (Vorauszahlung), and security deposit (Kaution) required.
If certain conditions must be met before you can commit to an offer – e.g., financing, job acceptance, acquiring a visa, getting approval from a spouse, etc. – this must be explicitly written into the offer (“this offer is valid only if“).
Withdrawing an Offer for a rental apartment in Vienna
Though an offer is legally binding, it is possible to withdraw it without any penalty (obligation to pay the broker’s commission) only if the offer is made on the same day as the initial site visit.
Once a landlord countersigns an offer, the tenant has one week (but no longer than one month after the initial site visit) to withdraw the offer (in writing). If the tenant does not withdraw an offer, the offer has the same legally binding effect as a fully executed lease agreement.
Withdrawing an offer does not necessarily excuse you from paying the broker’s commission!
Getting your offer accepted
A landlord may reject an offer for any reason at all (except on grounds of gender or ethnicity) and is not obligated to disclose a rationale for doing so. Like the job market, the rental market in Vienna for most types of flats is quite competitive, so somehow you need to make your offer stand out from the others.
The broker or landlord might ask you to voluntarily provide additional personal information (Freiwillige Mieter-Selbstauskunft). Though you are not legally obligated to furnish this, often it will be a decisive factor in whether the landlord will accept your offer over others.
The information might include:
- A copy of your official photo ID (Ausweis)
- Your family status: single (ledig); married (verheiratet); divorced (geschieden), with children (mit Kinder), widowed (verwitwet);
- Your nationality (Staatsbürgerschaft);
- Your profession and employer (Beruf, Arbeitgeber);
- Your monthly net income (Monatseinkommen, or Monatsgehalt);
- Ages (Alter) of your children;
- Information about your last residence (reason for leaving);
- If anyone else can be liable for your rent (co-signer);
- If you have any open rental debts or liens (Schulden).
A landlord might even ask you to voluntarily submit proof of your earnings (Einkommensnachweis), such as an employment contract, tax returns, bank statements or paycheck stubs. You are required only to furnish proof of identity.
Avoid providing any information that could become grounds for illegal discrimination. This includes:
- your ethnic background,
- family planning,
- religious practices,
- sexual preferences,
- health status,
- criminal history,
With the exception of providing false information about any open rental debts, there are no legal consequences if you submit false information. However, if a landlord incorporates your voluntary disclosure as part of the actual lease agreement, then he or she may have the right to terminate the lease if factual errors become evident.
Transaction – renting in Vienna
Congratulations! Your offer was accepted by the landlord and both of you are bound to comply with its terms. Now it’s time to seal the deal with the lease contract and handover of keys.
If all the terms haven’t already been specified in the legally binding offer, now is the time to get them agreed to in writing. There might be conditions you require that you were unwilling to include in your offer, for fear of rejection. Some of the most important points to negotiate are:
- How you may terminate the agreement before the defined rental period has expired;
- Your responsibilities for maintaining the premises;
- The conditions for holding your security deposit and its return upon lease termination.
If you haven’t already done so, make sure whoever will sign your lease is legally entitled to do so. The Austrian Land Registry (Grundbuch) will show who is the registered owner of the property. If the owner is not the signer of the lease, then the person signing on his or her behalf must have power of attorney (Vollmacht). Sublessors must provide you with evidence of a valid main lease agreement.
Legally enforceable lease agreements may be executed in writing, verbally or tacitly (e.g., if keys are handed over in exchange for payment). Whatever form it takes (you definitely want one in writing), a lease is valid as long as the contracting parties agree on the essential terms. At a minimum, there must be agreement on what exactly is being let and what the rent is.
Austrian contract and tenancy laws determine the validity of a lease agreement. Therefore, just because lease terms are in writing doesn’t necessarily mean they are legally enforceable.
All leases must have the following basic elements:
- Who/what is the landlord and who is/are the tenant(s);
- Description of the object being rented, the house it is located in and for what purpose it is being leased;
- Length of the contract: fixed term (befristet) or unlimited (unbefristet);
- Amount of base rent (Hauptmietzins) and how it must be paid;
- How the operating/maintenance costs (Betriebskosten) are distributed and calculated (because these are variable costs, specific amounts might not be stated in the contract).
Additional terms and conditions covering how a lease may be terminated, house rules (Hausordnung), the security deposit (Kaution), transfer fees (Ablöse) and how rent increases (Mieterhö- hung) are calculated are often added to the lease by mutual agreement.
Additional documents, such as energy certificates (“Energieausweis“) and inspection reports (“Befunde“), may become part of the lease agreement.
Types of Leases
There are basically two types of leases: a primary (Hauptmiete) lease and a sublet lease (Untermiete).
- Primary Lease (Hauptmiete): A primary lease means a contract between the tenant(s) and property owner (or leaseholder of an entire building) or an authorized representative.
- Sublet Lease (Untermiete): A sublet stands for a contract between a primary lease holder (primary tenant) and another tenant or tenants [see Renting, Sublets].
Some Helpful Tips about Leases – when you rent a flat in Vienna
- The landlord should provide the lease in German;
- Take time to review and amend a lease agreement. Make sure everything is legit before signing (no surprises later on);
- Remember: You have options! Don’t accept a lease just because it the landlord presents it as a “standard” form;
- Always ask the landlord or broker to what extent the MRG applies to the property (i.e., date of house construction). Make sure they specify this information in the lease [see Renting, Types of Accommodation].
- For MRG-protected apartments (Type III), the lease term must be at least three years (even for sublet leases);
- Don’t make any payment until the lease is signed and the keys handed over;
- Don’t rely on the broker to confirm that a lease is in order. A lawyer or tenant-advocacy group should thoroughly review it.
Get the Lease Checklist for flats in Vienna
Once you have negotiated and structured the lease to your requirements,
it’s time to make it official!
At a lease signing, you must present official photo identification (e.g., a driver’s license or passport). Usually, you countersign two identical copies of the lease of which you should receive one fully executed copy.
It is to your advantage to execute the lease in conjunction with the handover of the keys (“Schlüsselübergabe“) and not to make any payment until both are completed. However, this would require payment in cash, as a money transfer (“Überweisung“) can take one or more business days to arrive in the payee’s bank account.
This presents a dilemma: Is it riskier to carry around such a large amount of cash, or not be guaranteed the return of your bank transfer payment if the lease isn’t signed? A landlord taking a hard stand may insist that a contractual agreement already exists based on the accepted rent offer and refuse to return your money transfer. In the end, when renting a flat in Vienna, your decision comes down to a matter of trust.
What do you have to pay at lease signing?
- The broker’s commission (Maklerprovision) (if applicable);
- The security deposit (Kaution);
- The first month’s rent (Monatsmiete);
- Transfer fees (Ablöse) (if agreed upon);
- Lump-sum prepayment of rent (Vorauszahlung) (if agreed upon);
The tenant should obtain receipts for all payments made, whether in cash or via bank transfer.
Handover (“Schlüssel-Übergabe”) when you rent a flat in Vienna
The landlord and tenant best execute the handover at the same time as the lease signing and on the premises. The purpose of the handover is to accurately document the physical state of the apartment. The record of the handover is used to determine whether the tenant is liable for any repairs or damages upon lease termination and whether the landlord needs to reimburse the tenant for improvements.
Therefore, it is in the interest of both parties to make a thorough inspection, record it in writing and take photos. If, however, the landlord or a building caretaker (“Hausmeister“) is not present for the handover, the tenant should arrange for a witness to co-inspect the premises and co-sign on the handover record (“Übergabeprotokoll“).
The tenant should make sure that all the verbal or written promises made by the landlord or broker since the initial viewing were properly executed.
Unless included in the lease itself, the following elements should be registered in the record of the handover:
- A description of the apartment’s general condition;
- A list of all appliances (including the heating unit, or Therme, if present), including their make, model, (approx.) year, and condition;
- A list of the type and condition of all surfaces (flooring, walls, counters, cabinets, sinks, baths…);
- A list (and/or photos) describing all keys (Schlüssel) provided for the apartment, building (Gebäude), cellar storage (Kellerabteil), postbox (Postfach);
- A detailed listing of any damages (Beschädigungen), flaws (Fehler), or items requiring repair;
- A list of any promised repairs or improvements (Ausbesserungen) not present;
- Heating (Therme) service/chimney sweep (Rauchfangkehrer) reports (Befünde);
- Electric inspection reports (Energieausweis and Überprüfungsbefund)
- Meter readings (Zähler Stand) for electricity, gas, water, and heating (Strom, Gas, Wasser, Heizung);
- Photos of condition of property as evidence.
The original record goes on file with the landlord. But the tenant should absolutely make a copy or photo of it.
You are renting an apartment in Vienna – your very own flat!!
Now all you have to do is…
Get settled in
Maintenance & Renovation
Both landlords and tenants have rights and responsibilities regarding the maintenance of an apartment. Especially confusing to English speakers is the subtle difference between the German terms Erhaltung and Instandhaltung. Both words mean “maintenance” – but for the purposes of renting flats in Vienna, the former has more to do with major custodial work (such as fixing a broken heater or leaking water pipe – usually the landlord’s responsibility), while the latter describes the tenant’s upkeep (such as regular cleaning and servicing appliances).
Landlord’s Rights And Responsibilities:
- To hand over and maintain an apartment in usable condition (i.e., must remedy serious damage to the building and remove significant threats to the health of its occupants);
- To maintain the common areas and amenities of the building (including the apartment’s entry door, outer windows, and balcony), as well as the heating units and water boilers within the apartment;
- To provide trash removal and vermin control services in the building;
- To repair faulty water pipes, gas lines, and electric lines;
- To repair building damage caused by moisture (e.g., mold buildup and rotting walls);
- To ensure the chimneys are swept;
- To not disturb the tenant and to prevent other tenants from disturbing the tenant.
Tenant’s Rights And Responsibilities
- To pay rent on time. However, the tenant is entitled to withhold rent (Mietzinsminderung) due to faults or general problems that make the apartment unusable. (e.g., water, power, or heating failure; excessive mold or noise).
A tenant must inform the landlord in writing.
Note: There is no definitive basis for exactly how much rent may be deducted for specific problems. By withholding rent in part or in whole, a tenant risks litigation from the landlord. Therefore, a tenant should seek advice from a professional before taking unilateral action.
- The tenant has a right to make minor changes to the apartment (e.g., painting or papering the interior) without obtaining permission from the landlord. For substantial renovation or changes, the tenant must obtain the landlord’s permission
- To keep up the apartment so that no disadvantage comes to the landlord or building occupants (e.g., making sure the water pipes don’t freeze, preventing water damage, and regularly cleaning the apartment and its amenities);
- If a heating unit/water boiler is installed in the apartment, the tenant is responsible for its annual service/inspection. However, he is not responsible for its repair or replacement;
- To allow the landlord (or a representative) access to the apartment if there
is an important maintenance reason (to remedy serious damages to the apartment, the building, or even a neighboring apartment). The landlord must obtain the tenant’s advance approval unless there is imminent danger;
- To return the apartment clean and emptied at the termination of the lease contract
Trouble-Shooting Status Changes (Change In Ownership of Rental Apartment in Vienna)
What happens if your landlord sells your rental apartment during your occupancy? This usually has no effect on an existing rental agreement – the new owner must continue the lease as is.
The exception is for Type I housing (e.g., a single-family house). Here, a new owner has the right to immediately terminate a lease agreement signed by the previous owner, even if the agreement was for a fixed term.
Special Rights Of Family Members Of Primary Tenant (Mietrechtsabtretung Or Mietrechtseintritt)
If the primary tenant (lease signer) moves out or dies, do the spouse/partner and child-
ren have continuing occupancy rights? It depends on the type of tenancy.
In Type III housing (Altbau and subsidized): A spouse, as well as parents, grandparents, children, and grandchildren who have lived together in the same household for the previous two years (and siblings for the previous five years) have the right to assume the primary tenant’s lease contract if he or she moves out or dies. You don’t need a new lease agreement, but the landlord must be notified immediately.
In Type II housing (Neubau): Close relatives or a life partner are not protected if the primary tenant moves out. However, they may not be evicted if the primary tenant dies, as long as they are living on the property at the time of death, no other equivalent domestic options exist (i.e., a second residence), and they take on the obligations of the lease.
If you believe that your lease agreement is invalid because your landlord has not complied with the Austrian Tenancy Act (MRG) – e.g., regarding rent benchmarking or increases [see Renting, Types of Rental Properties]– you may bring your case before an arbitration board (Schlichtungsstelle) or civil court (Bezirksgericht). Your rent might be reduced and previous overpayments ordered reimbursed (including overpaid tax and interest).
- A case must be filed no later than three years after signing an unlimited (unbefristet) lease agreement or within six months after terminating a limited (befristet) lease agreement.
- As the laws involved are complex and the record of judgments are often contradictory, it is strongly recommended that tenants obtain professional advice from a tenants’ advocate organization, lawyer or notary.
Leaving – Terminating a Lease / Moving Out
Whether a lease termination is regulated by Austrian law depends on
- whether the lease term is fixed or open-ended,
- and on the type of accommodation.
In most cases, the laws favor the tenant over the landlord. The tenant can terminate a lease for any reason, if he honors the statutory or agreed upon cancellation period. A landlord, however, may terminate a lease only for serious reasons:
- e.g., the tenant doesn’t pay rent for the Vienna flat,
- sublets improperly,
- exhibits intolerable behavior,
- or considerably neglects the property.
Termination laws do not protect Type I apartment tenants! For example, the landlord/owner of a single-family house has the right to terminate a lease at will.
- For fixed-term (“befristet“) leases, the contract is automatically terminated on a specified date, if not renewed or extended by all signatories. No written notice from either landlord or tenant is obligatory. However, a landlord may give the tenant notice (Übergabsauftrag) up to six months prior to the termination date.
Note: If the landlord does not provide termination notice and continues to accept rent payments for the Vienna flat after the lease has officially expired, the lease is considered automatically renewed for three years.
- For open-ended (“unbefristet“) leases, if conditions of termination are not otherwise stated in the lease, either landlord or tenant must give one month’s notice of termination.
Ending a lease before its expiration
Unless a tenant and landlord mutually agree to terminate a lease before its expiration date, a tenant can unilaterally terminate a lease. He must, of course, follow the specific terms of the rental contract. However, Austrian law may overrule the contract, perhaps allowing a tenant more flexibility.
In any case, you must give some amount of advance notice to the landlord. If the notice period (“Kündigungsfrist“) is, e.g. one month, the landlord must receive it one month before the termination date. Make sure to send the notice by registered mail (“eingeschrieben“).
MRG laws cover Type II and III apartments with fixed-term leases. The earliest a tenant may give notice of unilaterally terminating a lease is one year after the lease term began, with a three-month notice.
A lease term began on April 1, 2018. The tenant may not give termination notice until April 1, 2019. The three-month notice period expires on July 1, 2019, so the lease will terminate at the end of that month, on July 30, 2019.
Reimbursement for investments, when renting a Vienna flat
If a tenant in a Type III apartment (Altbau or public housing) has made certain investments in the property during the lease term, he or she can claim compensation from the landlord. This applies if the improvements:
- Concern the installation or remodeling of water, light, gas lines, heating system, bathroom fixtures, water heater, flooring, or windows;
- Are up to modern codes and standards;
- Are truly operative and useful; and
- Are not yet fully depreciated.
You must file the claim, supported with evidence of payment (invoices), promptly (usually within 14 days of giving termination notice).
There is a lot of gray area as to what “investment” means. For example, entirely replacing damaged flooring is a reimbursable investment, but merely replacing or restoring an already functional one is not.
The landlord’s liability is limited to the nondepreciated value of the investments.
For example, if a tenant pays €7,000 to install a new water heater, 10 percent of the original cost is deducted for each year the tenant has actually used it prior to terminating the lease.
If the lease is terminated three years after its installation, for example, the landlord must reimburse the tenant only for €4,900.
A tenant has no legal right to claim reimbursement from the landlord for nonessential improvements such as
built-in cabinets or a designer kitchen (unless both parties have agreed to this contractually).
The outgoing tenant may ask the incoming tenant for compensation (Ablöse) however, the outgoing tenant must dismantle and remove (or else abandon) the improved fixtures if no deal can be reached.
Condition of the apartment upon moving out
Upon termination of the lease, the tenant is obligated to return the apartment to the landlord clean and empty of belongings (geräumt). This means the apartment must be basically in the same condition as it was when initially rented, with allowances for normal wear-and-tear, and that all fixtures and furnishings not included in the lease contract must be removed by the tenant.
Besenrein (literally, “broom-clean”) is a term often used to describe how clean an apartment should be returned. No two people interpret it the same way, but basically, it means that the apartment should be emptied of belongings and refuse, the floors swept or vacuumed, the cabinets cleaned, and major dirt, cobwebs, and dust should be eliminated. The kitchen appliances should also be free of significant dirt and grease.
The return is completed only when the keys are returned to the landlord, but this alone is insufficient to terminate the lease. If the keys are returned but the apartment has not been emptied, the landlord may empty the contents. He can charge the cost (including a storage fee) to the tenant (deducting the cost from the security deposit).
Liabilities when renting in Vienna
For Type III apartments (Altbau or subsidized housing), the tenant is not obligated to reverse even significant changes made to the apartment. Even if the terms of the lease agreement stipulate otherwise, the law takes precedence [see Renting, Types of Accommodation].
The law regulates a tenant’s liability for any damages. However, whether wear-and-tear is “normal” or “extraordinary” is a subjective matter that can lead to lawsuits between a landlord and tenant. If a fixture or appliance is broken through the tenant’s extraordinary neglect or misuse, the landlord may hold the tenant liable for a replacement or repair, but may only charge a depreciated price (Zeitwert) according to the duration of occupancy.
A primary tenant also pays for damages caused by third parties (subtenants, co-occupants, workers or visitors).
Repainting the rental apartment in Vienna
If the tenant has painted the apartment in an extreme/unusual color or manner, or if there is extraordinary wear-and-tear, the tenant is responsible for patching/repainting. Even if the lease contract mandates repainting, this is often considered legally unenforceable.
Penny wise, pound foolish?
In theory, a tenant enjoys the rights mentioned above. Nevertheless, landlords are not always scrupulous and will often attempt to withhold some or all of the security deposit, even if the law does not permit this.
In reality, a tenant may not be able to afford the cost and time involved in taking legal action against the landlord. It might just be more efficient, for example, to repaint the apartment than to spend months arguing about it!
Returning the Vienna Apartment (Rückstellung) after renting
Because of all the legal gray areas, it is a good idea to arrange a meeting with the landlord or building manager a few weeks before the lease expires in order to come to an agreement on details about the return. If the landlord makes unreasonable demands, this will give the tenant time to obtain professional advice.
Ideally, the key handover appointment should be done on the premises. At this time, you should go over the condition of the apartment thoroughly and document it in writing and with photos – just as with the handover at the beginning of the lease. The more you document, the easier it will be to make a claim against the landlord should he or she refuse to return your security deposit or (worse) sue you for damages.
Once you hand over the keys, the landlord must return the security deposit (including any accrued interest), minus any permissible deductions. If the security deposit doesn’t cover the costs of damages, the landlord has a one-year period to claim additional payment.