What is house cleaning

House cleaning in utility billing: what does it include and what doesn’t?

Staircase cleaning, sweeping the forecourt, cleaning the basement steps and roof niches: House cleaning in the context of tenancies is regulated very differently depending on the residential complex. In addition, the tenants in one residential building do the house cleaning, whereas the tenants in another residential building have a cleaning service or a caretaker who takes on the corresponding activities. Depending on how the type of house cleaning is regulated in the rental agreement, there is also a different billing of the costs incurred in the utility bill.

The following article explains for tenants and landlords which house cleaning costs can be billed as additional costs and how the levy is made.

I. House cleaning with the additional costs

House cleaning can generally appear as a cost item in the utility bill.

The only prerequisite is that there is an allocation agreement between the parties in the lease that states that the tenant has to bear the incidental costs, see Section 556 (1) of the German Civil Code (BGB) in conjunction with Section 1 of the Operating Costs Ordinance (BetrKV). In the absence of an effective allocation agreement, the landlord bears the obligation to bear the costs and expenses of the rental. This means that without an express allocation agreement, the tenant does not have to pay any house cleaning costs.

If the rental agreement states that the tenant pays the ancillary costs, the BetrKV should generally be applied, which regulates which ancillary costs are apportionable and which are not.

House cleaning is named as apportionable ancillary costs in Section 2 No. 9 BetrKV: It says that the costs of building cleaning and vermin control are apportionable. This includes the costs for cleaning the parts of the building shared by the residents, such as entrances, corridors, stairs, cellars, lofts, laundry rooms, elevator car.

1. House cleaning in the house

Building cleaning includes all ongoing cleaning work within the apartment building, regardless of whether the tenant himself or a cleaning service is commissioned. All costs that are constantly incurred in connection with house cleaning in the house can be settled in the ancillary costs. For example, the personnel costs for house and stairwell cleaning, the costs for cleaning agents, etc. This does not include acquisition costs for cleaning equipment and machines, cleaning rags, brooms, scrubbers, etc. (Wall in operating costs comment, 9th building cleaning margin no. 3500).

2. House cleaning outside or at the house

Facade cleaning or graffiti removal are not included in the apportionable ancillary costs. These are not running costs that arise from the rental. A new coat of paint on the house facade, as well as the removal of graffiti, are part of the repair and maintenance costs according to Section 1 (2) BetrKV. Such costs are not apportionable but are to be borne by the landlord. A contractual agreement according to which tenants have to bear such costs is ineffective.

Cleaning work outside the house, such as gardening, winter service or sweeping in the forecourt, etc., can, on the other hand, be apportionable and can be included in the utility bill accordingly. Such work is usually not found under house cleaning, but under the cost of gardening or caretaker activities.

II. Individual questions for house cleaning in the utility bill

In connection with house cleaning, certain questions arise again and again, depending on the individual case, which should be answered briefly here.

1. Own contribution of the landlord eligible for a fee?

Yes. If the landlord takes over the house cleaning work himself or through his assistant, he can settle this with the ancillary costs: The landlord's own work is just as apportionable as the costs for commissioned third-party companies. This means that the landlord can allocate the wage costs incurred and the incidental wage costs as part of the house cleaning in the ancillary cost statement. In addition, the landlord may use these costs as so-called fictitious costs if he takes over the house cleaning himself.

2. Compulsory stairwell cleaning for tenants and still paying house cleaning costs?

No. If the obligation to clean the stairwell has been transferred to the tenant by the rental contract, there is a restriction in the allocation of house cleaning costs.

However, a prerequisite is an express agreement in the lease that obliges the tenant to take over the house cleaning work in the stairwell. If this obligation arises from the house rules, this is only effective if the house rules are a legally effective part of the lease (OLG Frankfurt / M. WuM 1988, 399; Wall in Betriebskosten -komment, 9th building cleaning margin no. 3513). If there is a contradicting regulation, because e.g. the assumption of costs and at the same time a cleaning obligation of the tenant is agreed in the lease, the regulation more favorable for the tenant applies according to § 305c paragraph 2 BGB (Wall in operating costs comment, 9th building cleaning margin no. 3516; AG Frankfurt-Höchst WuM 1988, 153)

If there is an effective obligation to clean the staircase according to the rental agreement, the tenant may not be charged any costs for stairwell cleaning in the ancillary cost settlement (Wall in operating costs comment, 9th building cleaning, Rn. 3514). The landlord is therefore not allowed to include this part of the house cleaning costs in the ancillary costs. Otherwise the tenants would be charged twice by being obliged to clean the stairwell themselves and then having to pay for it.

There is only an exception if only a single tenant is obliged to clean the stairwell and receives a special fee for this. In such a case, it is a kind of hiring a tenant as a cleaner. The fee that this tenant then receives can be apportioned to all tenants with the ancillary costs - including the tenant who is commissioned to clean (Wall in operating costs comment, 9th building cleaning marginal no. 3514).

3. Does a tenant have to agree to the commissioning of a cleaning company for house cleaning?

It depends. If only the assumption of house cleaning costs by the tenant is agreed in the rental contract, it is up to the landlord how to guarantee the cleaning. It is different if the tenant has agreed to carry out the house cleaning.

Tenants cannot be forced to consent to house cleaning by a cleaning company if the obligation to clean the stairwell has been effectively imposed on them. Landlords may not unilaterally withdraw the contractual stairwell cleaning obligation from the tenants and transfer it to a cleaning company for a fee (Wall in Operating Costs Comment, 9th building cleaning margin no. 3515, AG Magdeburg WuM 2002, 576; AG Frankfurt / O. WuM 1997, 432; AG Kerpen WuM 1997, 471; AG Düsseldorf WuM 1986, 306).

If the landlord is dissatisfied with the way in which the stairwell is being cleaned by the tenant, they must warn the tenant and, if necessary, hire a cleaning company to carry out a replacement. The costs incurred are then, however, claims for damages and not ancillary costs.

Landlords are only allowed to "compulsorily" charge tenants with the costs of a replacement cleaner if the tenants have not carried out their contractually agreed cleaning tasks or have not carried out their cleaning tasks with the required thoroughness and have therefore already been warned in vain (Wall in operating costs comment, 9th building cleaning marg. 3521).

4. How high can the house cleaning costs be?

Of course, that always depends on the individual case. In principle, only economic costs for house cleaning may be passed on as ancillary costs. These include: costs for cleaning companies, costs for cleaning agents, costs for renting dirt protection mats, etc. In particular, costs for so-called bad weather mats in the stairwell and additional expenses for a corresponding mat cleaning service are not classified as uneconomical in the case law. as the mats effectively reduce soiling of the stairwell and thus the cleaning effort (LG Berlin, judgment of 02/08/2007, Az .: 67 S 239/06).

The actual cleaning requirement in the respective rental building is always decisive for the ability to allocate individual cost items for house cleaning. The cleaning frequency and intensity are also subject to the landlord's discretion (Schmidt Futterer / Langenberg, Mietrecht Commentary, 8th edition 2003, § 560 BGB, Rn. 98). There is therefore no cost limitation of the house cleaning costs according to "customary" or the operating cost table, as there is always a different cleaning requirement depending on the residential building, residential area and degree of soiling.

III. Conclusion

Finally, it can be stated that the allocation of house cleaning in the utility bill is generally permissible if an allocation of the ancillary costs to the tenant has been agreed. Which costs can then be passed on to the tenant is decided, among other things, according to the extent to which the tenant himself bears a cleaning obligation.