What is a retention fee used for?

Deposit withheld

In this article you will find out, among other things, when and for how long a landlord can withhold the deposit. You will also be informed about the rights and obligations of the tenant.


1. Basic information on the rental deposit

The landlord's claims from the rental agreement are secured with the deposit. These claims can be, for example, the implementation of cosmetic repairs. This rent security is not required by law, but is often stipulated in the contract. However, it may only amount to a maximum of three net monthly rents. Anything that you have paid in excess can be easily reclaimed. Your landlord must also offer you the option of paying in installments.


When you have handed over the rental deposit to the landlord, the landlord must pay the amount separately from his / her property into a separate account. The resulting interest is to be paid to the tenant after the end of the tenancy.


2. When can the deposit be withheld?

The purpose of the rental deposit is to secure the landlord's claims. This means that the deposit can only be used for this. Depending on the scope, the landlord may withhold part or all of the rent security if he can offset claims from the rental agreement with it. Without earmarking for claims from your rental agreement, your landlord may not offset or withhold the deposit (BGH 2012 Az .: VIII ZR 36/12). Of course, individual agreements can be made in each contract.

The following claims are earmarked, for example:

  • Rental fee,
  • Cosmetic repairs (or compensation for non-cosmetic repairs),
  • Compensation for damage to the rented property,
  • Post payment of operating costs.

The withholding of the deposit for cosmetic repairs assumes that the tenant is responsible for the repairs according to the contract.


3. How long can the landlord withhold the deposit?

The payment of the rental deposit and the generated interest can take up to six months. Most tenants expect to get their money back immediately after the end of the lease, but landlords are given a review period. In this, the landlord checks whether there are still claims against the tenant. For example, it is not uncommon to wait for the utility bill to settle any differences. The deadline is determined individually in each case, but usually does not last longer than six months. During the examination period, only as much money may be withheld from the deposit as is required for the anticipated counterclaims such as repairs or additional payments. In addition, this period expires if the rented apartment or house has already been sublet. If the examination period has expired, the tenant can request the disclosure of the interest incurred and the amount of the deposit as well as its payment (in writing!). But only when the landlord no longer has any claims against his tenant does the rent deposit including interest actually have to be paid out.



4. Deposit withheld: the tenant's rights

Upon request, the landlord must inform you to what extent your deposit has increased due to the interest. Furthermore, if there are no more claims against you as the tenant, you have the right to a repayment of the deposit.


5. Deposit withheld: the tenant's obligations

Many think that the deposit can be offset and that they therefore no longer have to pay rent for the last few months. That is a mistake. The deposit is used to protect the landlord. If the rental deposit were "worn out", the landlord would no longer have any security for any costs incurred after the end of the tenancy. So you have to continue paying the rent as usual until the end. Exceptions are only possible if this has been agreed with the landlord.


The tenant must claim repayment of the deposit including interest within three years. Otherwise the right to it is statute-barred. The limitation period begins in January of the year following the start of the claim. So if you cancel at the end of September 2016, your landlord has six months (until March) to review all claims against you. If there was actually something that had to be paid for, your claim for repayment begins in March 2017, the limitation period therefore in January 2018. You are therefore entitled to repayment until 2021.

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6. FAQ: the most important things about the deposit
When can my landlord withhold the deposit?

The purpose of the rental deposit is to secure the landlord's claims - it must not be used for anything else. Depending on the scope, the landlord may withhold part or all of the rental security if he can offset claims from the rental agreement with it.

What can the landlord use the deposit for?

The landlord may use the retained deposit z. B. for rent, cosmetic repairs, compensation for non-cosmetic repairs or damage to the rental property or for the additional payment of operating costs. However, the landlord may only withhold the deposit for cosmetic repairs if the tenant is also responsible for the repairs or maintenance according to his rental agreement.

How quickly does the deposit have to be paid back?

How long the landlord can take always depends on the individual case. As a rule, he may not withhold the deposit for more than 6 months - after that, his claims expire. After the 6 months, the landlord is obliged to repay the rent deposit to the tenant.