03 Aug Grilling laws in Germany
Can I have a barbecue on the balcony?
Ahhh summer has arrived, the weather is nice cold beer, good friends, and a BBQ or grill as the Germans call it. What could be better? Well, as in any city unhappy neighbors can cause problems. So what is the grilling law in Germany. Am I allowed a to have a BBQs? Now this includes both the traditional charcoal and gas as well as the newer electric ones. First off there is no law specifically prohibiting having a barbecue on the balcony, or for that matter, the terrace or the garden. But this is Germany and we have a rule for everything!
According to Mieterschutzverein Frankfurt tenants have the freedom to use their balcony, terrace or garden as they please. Have a party celebrate that promotion, birthday, retirement it is your home and you’re free to use it as you please. But, and this is very important, your neighbors have the right to enjoy their peace and quiet. Generally, this means, at the stroke of 10 PM or 22 Uhr in German, the carriage turns back into a pumpkin. You can continue to enjoy your balcony, or garden all night if you want, you just can’t bother the neighbors. Night-time is sleep time. In the case of a large group of people, it might also mean having to move inside!
For expats not used to the German way, be prepared to get complaints, at least till you get used to the rules. If so just remember Germans are very direct so don’t take it personally just, nicely, remind your next door neighbor that BBQs parties and such are allowed. There is no law against this. So while your neighbors must accept this there are clear guidelines on what is allowed and what isn’t.
What is in the lease
If the landlord has a clause stating no grilling on the balcony than unfortunately, you are out of luck. Doesn’t matter even if it’s an electric one, a grill is a grill according to the lease. If by chance the landlord forgets to put that in the lease then he’s out of luck. He can’t retroactively add it in. Be warned that if you choose to ignore the lease and BBQ anyways you are in breach of contract and risk a warning by the landlord. Ignoring those warnings can and has led to evictions. There was such a situation in Essen (judgment in Az .: 10 S 438/01 of 07.02.2002) where the landlord took the tenants to court and won an eviction order!
Don’t bother the neighbors
As mentioned before the rule of thumb for things like this is you can’t bother the neighbors. Now here we need to apply a little bit of common sense. If you fire up your electric grill to cook a couple of hot dogs, no one is really going to complain. On the other hand if you’re hosting a rowdy party and grilling that famous green meat from Lidls (sorry couldn’t find any images but next time you’re in Aldi or Lidl check the meat section and you’ll see what I mean) the moment it hits the grill, sends up tons of smoke and you live on the bottom floor of a building. Well, you get the point.
How much is too much
This is one point that I often make. Germans, as a rule, have legal insurance which means a trip to the lawyer won’t cost you more than your deductible and nothing if you go to court and win. but this quote from Kravets Kravets (lawyers to the shipping industry of all things) best sums it up.
I typically try to settle any rental law case I am presented with because the legal dispute surrounding one’s own home is one of the most exhausting imaginable for the client. A settlement is often helped along by obeying the evidence suggestions I described above. A quick resolution where everybody is mildly irritated is a lot better than a long legal dispute where the tenant ultimately ends up frustrated, angry and betrayed by the system. My motto is “tolerate and liquidate”, i.e. leave your apartment and, if you still feel like it, sue for damages. Being enmeshed in a court battle over the place where you currently live is not fun.
Enjoy the summer, enjoy your balcony but remember the golden rule. if you forget it the house rules are always posted in the front entrance of your building.