Who pays for repairs to my flat? The landlord, or I?

Things break in the homes we live in, or their lifespan runs its course. And then comes the age-old question: who pays for the new bulb, my landlord or I?

Czech law has a clear answer:

All these minor repairs are paid for by the tenant. But that only to a limit of 100 CZK per sq metre of your flat per year. Your costs add up throughout the year towards that limit. Minor repairs are defined as repairs that don’t involve structural modification = very simply said, anytime you don’t touch the brickwork. Nor the waterpipes, gas and electricity in the walls.

So, you pay for the light bulbs. But if you were to buy very many bulbs in that year, or possibly had to repaint the kitchen, too, and your combined costs would exceed CZK 100 times sq metres of your flat, your landlord would pay for the next light bulb.

You also pay for the repairs to the equipment, you pay for the plumber who comes to deal with the sink or the boiler. You pay the electrician who comes to deal with the washing machine. You might also pay for the paint job, if one is needed. But, once again, you pay for all of that only to the yearly limit of 100 crowns times the square metres of your flat. So, for example, if you’re renting an 80 sq m apartment, you should not pay more than 8,000 CZK each year for these repairs.

If you won’t remember anything else from this article, remember this limit.

It protects you easily when you have a lease; in the case of a sublease, it might not (read further). It applies to repairs needed because of your actions, and your wear & tear, and not, for example, by your upstairs neighbours flooding your flat. On the other hand, if you break something intentionally, you pay in full, and the cost doesn’t count toward the yearly limit.

There are more nuances to it, of course, so feel free to read further:


Important tips first

1] Keep receipts and invoices for the repairs!

2] Always warn your landlord of the necessity of repairs – in advance, before you start dealing with them on your own! If you don’t, the landlord could get out of paying by saying that the costs were unnecessary, that if they had known about the need, they would have solved it at cheap (e.g. called an uncle who was a plumber and would have done the repairs for free, etc).

3] Be wary of signing sublease contracts instead of lease agreements. If your dream flat comes with only a sublease contract so you decide to sign this sublease, insist on the conditions for repair costs to follow the rules stated in the law.


What if my contract says something different

Your contract may have a different condition for repair costs. That doesn’t automatically mean this condition would apply, overruling the law we described above. It depends on two questions. Let’s go through them:

1] Is your contract a lease or a sublease?

To determine this, don’t look at the title of your contract. It could be imprecise, or outright lying. Look at the parties to the contract. One of them is you, the tenant. Is the other party, your landlord, a true owner of the property?

If not, they are just a lessee, subleasing the flat to you. In this case, whatever condition you have agreed on in your sublease contract stands.

If yes, congratulations! You enjoy further protection from the law. Proceed to question number two.

2] Is the contract more beneficial to you, or to the landlord?

(The next paragraphs talk about lease contracts, not subleases.)

When a landlord and a tenant sit at the negotiation table, Czech law looks at the two of them and considers the tenant the likely weaker party. So, it gives you some advantages, some protections, to even out the power balance at the table.

In case of minor repairs, the law allows the two of you to agree on different conditions for cost reimbursement in your contract, but only if that difference is beneficial to you, the weaker party. For example, if you had a generous landlord and you both signed a contract that stated the yearly limit for repairs calculated as CZK 50 per square metre, so half of what the statutory rule requires from you, the law would say, how nice of the landlord, I’m okay with this, go ahead.

If though, a greedy landlord had you sign a contract that stated a limit of CZK 200/sq m/year (double the general rule), the law would step in and say, oh no, you won’t! Nice try, you greedy geezer, but I apply here with my limit. And you wouldn’t be obliged to pay more than CZK 100/sq m/year, no matter what your contract says.


An example

Let’s move away from imaginary negotiation tables, and bring in a real-life case. Marek Viktor from relp.cz, a real-estate consulting platform, provides one:

A tenant signed a lease contract for an apartment with an area of 78 sq m. He moved into the apartment and after about half a year found out that one of the heaters wasn’t heating well. He asked the landlady to deal with it, but she told him to deal with it himself. So the tenant called the heating expert, got it repaired and paid the invoice for CZK 3,800. A month later, the windows had to be tightened, to stop the cold draft. The landlady once again told the tenant to deal with it himself. He did, and this time paid CZK 4,600. Another month after that, the sink got clogged. The tenant called the plumber and got an invoice for CZK 3,500. Should the tenant pay this, too? The landlady claims yes, because their contract clearly says so.

The solution:

1] Let’s have a look at their lease agreement. We find that in one article it is stated that “The tenant is obliged to provide all minor repairs in the apartment at his own expense. The owner and the tenant agreed that a minor repair is any repair that does not exceed CZK 5,000.” This would mean that the landlady is indeed right, and that the tenant has no choice but to pay for any and all the repairs needed that year. Except!

2] The law steps in. In the Civil Code it says, no consideration shall be given to arrangements that abridge the lessee’s rights (…under the provisions of this subsection). The contract would have the tenant pay theoretically indefinitely, for all the repairs throughout the year even if they were fifty of them and all for 4,999 CZK. That is clearly over the yearly law limit, and thus unacceptable. The law says we can ignore this condition as if it had never been written into the contract in the first place. (We simplified the legal argument here, feel free to read it in full below *)

3] And we calculate our tenant’s limit by law. The apartment is 78 sq m, so the yearly limit is 7,800 CZK.

4] The tenant’s costs for the previous repairs, the heater and the windows, were 3,800 + 4,600 = 8,400 in total. This means that the limit has already been exceeded and therefore another invoice for 3,500 is to be paid for by the landlady. Plus, the landlady should reimburse the tenant for 600 CZK for previous repairs!

* For those interested, we offer a full legal explanation (feel free to skip this paragraph): There is a section in the Civil Code which says: “no consideration shall be given to arrangements that abridge the lessee’s rights under the provisions of this subsection.” And one such provision is § 2257 paragraph 2: “The lessee shall perform and pay for only routine maintenance and minor repairs related to use of an apartment.” And what is meant by minor repairs and routine maintenance is defined precisely by Regulation 308/2015 Coll. and this regulation clearly states the cost limit for one year in the amount of CZK 100/sq m! Thus, the provision of the contract reduces the lessee’s rights, because it orders him to pay more than according to the law. Thus, such contract condition is not considered. And according to the law – if something is not considered, then it is necessary to act as if the provision was not stated in the contract at all.)


The law behind it

For further clarification, Marek had written the side of things in precise legalise, quoting the statutes where you can find more information.

The main regulation that addresses minor repairs is Government Regulation No. 308/2015 Coll., on defining the terms routine maintenance and minor repairs related to the use of the apartment. This regulation introduces the term Minor Repairs. This term includes both repairs, i.e. when something not working properly/breaks in the apartment, and regular maintenance of the property – i.e. something doesn’t have to break right away, it’s enough if it wears out. In addition, it also includes maintenance in an operable condition – both factually and legally – i.e. it also includes various revisions of appliances, window adjustments, etc. In general, the lessee is responsible only for damages that he himself has caused – and that in full(!) (If he breaks something intentionally, it makes no sense to talk about how much the owner should pay.) And furthermore, the lessee is obliged to make “minor repairs”.

The regulation divides repairs into two categories – according to the thing being repaired/maintained and according to the costs of repairs/maintenance. In both cases, it introduces a common limit, saying that minor repairs are no longer those that exceed CZK 100/m2/year. The limit is different for everyone, and you need to know the floor area of the apartment to determine it correctly. It should be noted that this limit is the sum of all minor repairs in a given year.


Written in cooperation with Marek Viktor, from relp.cz, a real-estate consulting platform. Feel free to browse the website and contact Marek if you’re still unsure about your flat’s repair costs.

Picture courtesy of Canva.


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