It may be worthwhile for consumers to check the amount of their rent. But how do you find out if you are paying too much? And if that is the case: How do you correctly claim the rental price brake from the landlord?

Anyone who has signed a rental agreement in a city where the rental price limit applies should check the price against the applicable rent index.

Sit has been in effect for three years: the rent brake. So far, it has stated that the rental price for a new rental of existing apartments in tense housing markets may only be 10 percent above the local comparable rent – with the exception of new buildings and apartments that have just been extensively modernized. Even if the previous tenant has already paid a high rent, the owner does not have to cut it because of the rent brake. The law will be tightened from January 2019: the landlord is obliged to provide information. In future, he must inform the tenant before signing the rental agreement whether there are any exceptions to the rental price limit and whether he may therefore demand a higher rent (Section 556g (1a) BGB-new). If he does not do this, he can no longer invoke the exception later. In addition, the owner must inform the future tenant how much the previous tenant has paid.

However, the new law does not solve some problems that prevent residents from claiming their rights: Firstly, tenants in sought-after residential areas do not want to annoy their landlords for fear of termination, and secondly, many shy away from the costs and efforts of legal proceedings. Nevertheless, there are cases in which tenants have achieved substantial rent reductions by relying on the brakes. The district court of Hamburg-St. Georg sentenced a landlord to reduce the rent by 240 euros per month (Az. 913 C 2/17). It can therefore be worthwhile for consumers to check the rental amount. But how do tenants find out if they are paying too much rent? And if so, how do you go about reducing your rent?

Anyone who has signed a rental agreement in a city where the rental price limit applies should check the price against the applicable rent index. Some cities provide qualified rent indexes on their websites, with some such as Berlin and Munich the permissible rent can be determined using online forms. If the rent is more than 10 percent higher, the tenant should notify the landlord of the amount in writing, preferably by registered mail.

Tenants should not cut payments on their own

The complaint indicates the amount by which the rent is too high and requests the landlord to accept a reduction in this amount. The owner has to reimburse the overpaid rent, but only from the time of the complaint – there is no money back for the time before. He also has to repay part of the deposit because he calculated it on the basis of a rent that was too high.

Tenants should not cut payments on their own. If it subsequently turns out that the landlord was right, there is a risk of termination. It is wiser to continue to transfer the full rent subject to the reimbursement due to the rent brake. If the owner claims that the rent brake does not apply, he has to prove it, for example by proving extensive renovations. If the landlord refuses to accept the reduction, you can go to the civil court.

Anyone who is a member of the tenant association can get help here for an annual fee. The legal dispute is free of charge for him and for those with legal protection insurance whose policy includes rental protection. If the case is more complicated, you should seek advice from the tenancy lawyer and instruct him to take legal action in court. If you have to pay yourself, a lawsuit can turn into money – especially if you lose. Then, in addition to court fees and your own legal fees, you also have to pay those of the other side.

If you want to reduce costs and effort, you can take advantage of the Mietright service. On Wenigermiete.de, the tenant enters data on the apartment such as size, equipment, location and renovation status; an algorithm compares the information with the local rent index. If it turns out that the rent is too high, the user can instruct the portal to pull the brakes for him. The following steps from the landlord’s complaint to a settlement proposal to the process are taken over by Mietright, as well as the costs if the case is lost in court. Only in the event of success, Mietright requires the saving of four months’ rent as a fee.