German court rejects birthday-suit suit | Marcel Strigberger

By Marcel Strigberger

Law360 Canada (May 5, 2023, 2:36 PM EDT) --
Marcel Strigberger
What is the status of the law on naked landlords? You ask? A German court has ruled that a landlord sunbathing naked in the courtyard of his building wasn’t a reason for his tenants to reduce their rental payments.

The case involved a building in Frankfurt, rented by a human resources company. The company withheld rent because it objected to the landlord’s naked sunbathing. In response, the landlord sued.

Out of curiosity I decided to research the matter. It wasn’t easy. It’s not that you can just reach for a tome of Halsbury’s, reading, “Volume VIII  Landlords gone buffo.”

The law does protect a tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment. But I doubt any German Landlord and Tenant Act reads anything like, “Quiet enjoyment will be deemed to be interrupted in the event that the premises suffers a flood, fire or a nudist.”

I then did what any serious researching law student would do to find the answer to a pressing legal problem. I asked Siri. I queried, “Hey Siri, does a naked landlord entitle the tenant to an abatement of rent?” He responded: “Hey you — here’s what I found. The law does not concern itself with trifles.”

I think about Lady Godiva. That event was actually the reverse reaction, with the person au naturel protesting a tax levy in this case by her husband, Leoric the Earl of Marcia. The viewers had no problem with the event. Especially not the gentleman known as Peeping Tom.

The Frankfurt state court rejected the company’s reasoning, finding that “usability of the rented property was not impaired by the plaintiff sunning himself naked in the courtyard.”

I’m not so sure about that. We are dealing with a human resources company tenant. Job candidates presumably attend there for interviews. What might they conclude if they see the owner out in the courtyard in his birthday suit? The scene might provoke certain questions, such as “re” this job offer, what exactly is the dress code.”

I also wonder had the court leaned in favour of the tenants, what quantum of a rent abatement would be reasonable? Would the extent of the landlord’s nakedness matter? It’s not like there is a table or tariff or so to speak, a sort of meat chart.

1 Totally naked landlord. Abatement: 50 per cent;

2 Property owner naked but wearing a cowboy hat. Abatement: 30 per cent

3 Landlord naked but wearing only earbuds. No abatement. If you can see the earbuds you are standing too close and peeking.

Actually the court did say that the spot where the landlord sunbathed could only be seen from the rented office by leaning far out of the window. I would say straining to look could be dangerous. Plop.

Landlord: And you are?

The court also noted that the tenant failed to prove that the landlord took the stairs to the courtyard unclothed. The court said, “On the contrary, the plaintiff stated credibly that he always wore a bathrobe which he only took off just before the sun lounger.” This presumably is stair defence. I guess in these cases failing to prove that landlords come down the stairs in the raw is fatal to the claim. 

There is no indication how the landlord came dressed to the court. Presumably, he wore a tie.

Moral of the story? If you are thinking of renting some office space in Germany, ask some questions, like what the landlord thinks about sunscreen.
Marcel Strigberger retired from his Greater Toronto Area litigation practice and continues the more serious business of humorous author and speaker. His just launched book Boomers, Zoomers, and Other Oomers: A Boomer-biased Irreverent Perspective on Aging is now available on Amazon, (e-book) and paper version. Visit Follow him @MarcelsHumour.

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