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RENTING

Reader question: Do I have to repaint the walls when I leave a rental in Austria?

The short answer is usually no, but this is an issue that frequently comes up for tenants in Austria. We explain the laws and rights that apply.

Paint
This clause is usually not allowed in rental contracts, but that doesn't stop some landlords adding it in. Photo: Theme Photos/Unsplash

My tenancy in Austria is coming to an end, and my landlord has told me I need to repaint the walls of the apartment before I go in order to get my deposit back. Sure enough, it’s in my rental contract. What are the rules about this?

Renters in Austria have quite a high level of legal protection, so if you’re ever told something by a landlord that doesn’t sound quite right, it’s always worth checking your rights.

The basic principle for handing back a rental apartment is that you should give it back in the same condition you received it in, allowing for basic wear and tear as caused by normal use. That means that things like small marks on flooring and walls, as well as holes where you might have put up pictures or art, are completely allowed. 

READ ALSO: How to find out if you are paying too much rent in Vienna

But it’s not uncommon to see a clause in rental contracts stating that the tenant must repaint the walls when they leave. Sometimes there might be additional stipulations, saying the painting must be carried out by a certified professional for example. 

This generally isn’t allowed under Austrian law.

The only case where you might be obligated to repaint is if you have caused significant damage to the walls. Again, minor marks from shelving or picture hooks do not count, and even if you repainted the walls that’s generally allowed unless you changed them from a neutral/standard colour to something unusual. 

A Vienna Court has previously ruled that a tenant should have their full deposit returned and that they did not have to repaint a room white after they painted it green and ochre during their tenancy, because this was not “excessive wear and tear” as their landlord tried to claim. So it’s only if you’ve opted for a very bright colour or extreme design that you may need to repaint and bear the costs of that.

READ ALSO: Altbau vs Neubau: What’s the difference?

The best thing to do is read your contract carefully when you first receive it, check up on any clauses relating to your responsibilities as a tenant, and ensure that anything not permitted like a re-painting clause is removed before you sign. There are organisations such as Mieterhilfe or Mieterfreunde which will even review a contract for you for free.

Not everyone will do that the first time around, particularly if you were anxious to get your new home confirmed, unfamiliar with Austrian bureaucratic language, or from a country where this type of clause might be the norm.

The good news is that even if a re-painting clause is in your contract and you signed it, this has no legal bearing if it was a pre-prepared contract (ie. if your landlord drew up the contract — if on the other hand you drew it up together and you explicitly agreed to the painting clause being added in, then you may be obliged to comply). 

READ ALSO: How to navigate the Austrian rental market

If your landlord tells you that you need to repaint when you move out, you should tell them (politely and in writing) that you will be returning the apartment in the equivalent condition to when you received it, allowing for normal wear and tear, and note that Austrian rental law states re-painting is not required. You could send a link to an Austrian authority explaining the law change, for example this page from the Chamber of Commerce or this one from the Tenants’ Association.

You should always take plenty of pictures, or even video, to demonstrate the state you left the apartment in, and that applies even more so if you suspect your landlord may try to withhold your deposit by arguing you did cause excessive damage.

If your landlord still refuses to return your full deposit until you repaint the walls, you may need to take legal action. If you’re a member of one of Austria’s tenant associations, they should be able to help you; otherwise there are other free tenant advice organisations such as Mieterhilfe in Vienna, or you can contact the Chamber of Commerce.

Got a question about life in Austria? Contact our editorial team at [email protected] and we will do our best to help you.

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For members

LIVING IN AUSTRIA

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about camping in Austria

Camping in Austria can be a lot of fun, but what are the rules? Here’s everything you need to know about setting up camp in the Alpine republic.

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about camping in Austria

Waking up beside a lake or surrounded by mountains is a dream Austrian holiday for many, but it’s important to know the rules about camping before heading off with a tent or campervan.

As the summer season approaches, here’s everything you need to know about camping in Austria.

Is wild camping legal in Austria?

Wild camping – setting up camp outside of a designated campsite – is generally illegal in Austria. This applies to both camping in a tent or sleeping in a van on the side of the road.

Exceptions to this rule do exist but usually only if the municipal authority grants a temporary exception, for example for a school trip or a youth club activity.

A bivouac (temporary camp without cover) is allowed in the event of bad weather or injury, but planned wild camping in the mountains is illegal. 

FOR MEMBERS: What are the rules for wild camping in Austria?

There are some regional differences though.

In the states of Salzburg, Vorarlberg and Styria there are no laws strictly forbidding camping outside of campsites, but local authorities can prohibit it and take action if necessary.

The strictest rules apply in national parks, nature reserves and special protection areas across Austria, so check before you plan your camping trip that your spot is not located in one of these areas.  

In most cases, if someone is caught camping illegally in Austria it is considered as an administrative offence and a fine can be issued, ranging from €5 to €500, depending on the location.

Camping in the forest

Camping in the forest is prohibited everywhere in Austria by law (specifically Section 33 of the Forest Act). The only exception is when you have the consent of the landowner.

Camping above the tree line

In Upper Austria and Styria you are allowed to camp in the mountains above the tree line, as long as you are outside of pasture areas.

In Vorarlberg this is also permitted, although the mayor of a municipality can prohibit the setting up of tents outside approved campsites if the interests of safety, health, agriculture or the protection of the natural balance as well as the landscape and townscape are “grossly violated”.

In Salzburg, camping above the tree line is in theory permitted, but the Alpine Association recommends groups wishing to camp should contact the nature conservation department of the responsible district administration before setting up. 

READ ALSO: How to explore the Austrian mountains in the summer like a local

Camping in a tent

Camping in a tent is the most common way of camping in the summer and most people pitch up on a dedicated campsite.

Many campgrounds have water and electricity facilities, as well as showers, cooking areas, recreation spaces and even kids clubs. Others have luxury elements like year-round heated pools, saunas, beach volleyball and restaurants.

Campsites are also often located near a lake or at the base of mountains, which means you can wake up to beautiful scenery every morning .

Some of Austria’s top camping associations include Camping Wien, Camping Steiermark and Top Camping Austria.

Camping in a van

Camping in a motorhome is only allowed at campsites in Austria and if someone is caught sleeping in a van in a prohibited area they can be fined.

The only exception is if a driver has to stop and recuperate before continuing driving.

Top camping tips

Austria is packed with stunning natural landscapes, so camping during the summer months is a popular activity – both for Austrian residents and tourists.

For this reason, it’s recommended to book ahead during the peak summer holiday months of July and August, whether planning to camp in a motorhome or tent.

Camping in motorhomes is also becoming more popular at some winter campsites during the ski season, so it’s always a good idea to book in advance.

Additionally, it’s advised to take bug spray when camping in Austria in the summer as insects like mosquitoes and ticks are common in countryside areas.

In fact, tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) – a viral infection transmitted by the bite of infected ticks – is endemic in Austria and it’s recommended to get vaccinated before going on a hiking or camping trip in the country.

The main affected areas for TBE are Tyrol and Upper Austria.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What is Austria’s ‘tick vaccine’ and should you take it

Useful vocabulary

Campsite – Campingplätze

Tent – Zelt

Campervan – Reisemobil

Electricity – Strom

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