The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) had to decide whether the landlord of residential premises is obliged to carry out a regular general inspection of the electrical wiring and electrical appliances in the tenants' flats as part of his duty of care.
The plaintiff sued the defendant, his landlord, for damages due to a fire. On 20 July 2006, a fire occurred in the kitchenette area of the rented flat next to the plaintiff's flat. The plaintiff claimed that the fire was caused by a technical defect with a short circuit in the area of the extractor bonnet. He claimed damages for the damage to his property in the amount of € 2,630 plus interest and reimbursement of pre-court lawyer's fees.
The district court granted the action in part. On the defendant's appeal, the Regional Court dismissed the action in its entirety. With the admitted appeal, the plaintiff seeks the restoration of the judgement of the district court.
The VIII Civil Senate of the Federal Court of Justice, which is also responsible for residential tenancy law, ruled that the plaintiff was not entitled to damages against the defendant landlord. Civil Senate of the Federal Court of Justice ruled that the plaintiff was not entitled to claim damages against the defendant landlord because of the damage to his property caused by the fire that broke out in the neighbouring flat. The defendant was not obliged to have the electrical lines and electrical installations in the flats rented by him regularly inspected by an electrical expert without any specific cause or indication of defects. It is true that the landlord has a secondary contractual obligation to maintain the rented property in a roadworthy condition. This duty extends in principle to all parts of the building. The landlord must therefore immediately remedy any defects of which he becomes aware and which may pose a risk to the rented accommodation. However, he does not have to carry out a regular general inspection within the scope of his duty to maintain safety. In individual cases, special circumstances, such as unusual or repeated faults, may give reason not only to repair a defect that has come to light immediately, but to carry out a comprehensive inspection of the entire electrical installation. However, such circumstances were not found here.
The Federal Supreme Court therefore dismissed the appeal.
Judgment of the Federal Supreme Court of 15 October 2008 - VIII ZR 321/07
Previous instances: AG Nordhorn - Judgment of 29 March 2007 - 3 C 179/07 - LG Osnabrück - Judgment of 8 August 2007 - 1 S 213/07 Karlsruhe, 15 October 2008
Source: Press release of the Press Office of the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) No. 192/2008 of 15.10..2008, Herrenstr. 45 a, 76133 Karlsruhe, Tel. 0721-159-5013, Fax. 0721-159-5501,
Note Goldberg Attorneys at Law:
This decision of the Federal Supreme Court (BGH) explicitly concerns only the electrical lines and electrical appliances within a flat. However, as the BGH clarifies, the principles listed in this decision must be applied accordingly to all parts of the house and thus to all "sources of danger" in the house, such as gas and water pipes, among others. This means that a landlord is not obliged to have a rented flat regularly checked by experts without a concrete reason.
This also has advantages for the tenant. If the landlord were obliged to have a rented flat regularly inspected by experts, he could demand compensation from the tenant for the costs incurred as part of the service charge settlement. This would thus lead to a considerable increase in the ancillary costs.
Goldberg Attorneys at Law, Wuppertal-Solingen 2008
Attorney at Law Michael Ullrich, LL.M.(Information Law)