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German Hotel Cancelation Policies

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I had planned 3 days stay at a tourist location in Germany. Through a website advertisement, I managed to get some contact of a vacation rental facility. I contacted the house owner, enquired the availability and booked the rental apartment for a 3 days stay. All the communication was through email only.
2 days before the travel date, I had to cancel my travel plan due to health reasons. I further immediately wrote an email to the rental apartment owner to cancel my booking.
After my request to cancel the apartment stay, the apartment owner refused to cancel my booking and asked me to pay the rental amount.
The apartment owner did not mention any cancelation terms and conditions at the time of giving me the booking confirmation. Citing this reason I have refused to pay him the request amount.
Today I received a notice from his legal advisors asking me to pay this amount.
Are there any laws which discuss this situation? And if it does, whom does it favour?

As of now my understanding is that rental apartment is just like a hotel without a "cancelation policy" or a "cancelation terms and conditions". Hence I should be free to cancel my stay anytime without any bindings. Is is right?

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