How older tenants should be protected

There is fierce fighting over apartments and rising rents. Termination because of personal needs is very tempting. Now Germany’s largest real estate company and the Left Party are going the same way.

Few apartments and rising rents - that is putting tenants in Germany under pressure.

ÄAccording to the will of the Left, older tenants should be better protected from being dismissed by landlords. For over 70-year-olds, a termination by the owner due to personal needs should be excluded by law. This emerges from an application by the left-wing parliamentary group in the German Bundestag, which has been submitted to the German Press Agency.

More and more old people are being fired from their homes because of personal needs. That is unreasonable, says the deputy parliamentary group leader Caren Lay. “As the saying goes: you don’t transplant an old tree.”

In order to save those affected from a long-term and grueling legal action in the event of termination, the legislature must ensure clarity, according to the further justification in the application.

Vonovia gives older tenants a residential guarantee

Germany’s largest real estate group Vonovia is responding to the growing criticism of the industry with a residential guarantee for older tenants. “We give tenants over 70 the guarantee that they do not have to leave their apartments,” said CEO Rolf Buch to the news agencies dpa-afx and dpa before the general meeting on Thursday in Bochum. Vonovia assures them “that their apartment will remain affordable if the local comparative rent changes”. Tenant organizations had complained that many retirees could hardly afford the rising rents for their apartments.

After tenant protests, the Dax group had already stepped on the brakes last year when it came to modernizing their apartments. As a result of renovations, there should be no rent surcharges of more than two euros per square meter. The average rent increase after modernization was at Vonovia last year 1.50 euros per square meter, said Buch. In contrast, in Berlin, for example, the general average of modernization-related surcharges between 2012 and 2017 was 2.44 euros.

Buch rejected criticism of the amount and the determination of the operating costs for the Vonovia apartments. “Our cost component of the operating costs has not increased,” he said. It is not true that “Vonovia earns a lot of money from the ancillary costs”. Tenants repeatedly criticize excessive or incomprehensible demands. Vonovia reimbursed around 6,000 bills last year due to errors or other reasons, said Buch. “We want to get better there, but you have to put it in relation to our approximately 400,000 apartments.”

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Rising rents and acquisitions abroad brought Vonovia significantly more profit in the first quarter. Vonovia also benefited from lower costs for managing the apartments. When the figures were presented, Group boss Buch had assured that the company would participate in the search for a solution to the tense situation on the housing market. Vonovia had rejected calls for the expropriation of housing companies.

Union accuses Barley of campaigning against small landlords

Meanwhile, the Union accuses Justice Minister Katarina Barley (SPD) of campaigning on the back of private landlords. With the planned reform of the rental price brake, they are throwing sand in people’s eyes, said the legal and real estate expert of the Union parliamentary group, Jan-Marco Luczak (CDU), of the German press agency. “It is only tampering with the symptoms, the rising rents. When it comes to pushing the construction of new homes, the Minister of Justice surrenders. “Ultimately, there is even the risk that small landlords will be pushed out of the market and even more apartments will be missing.

Barley wants to stipulate that tenants can still claim back from the landlord retrospectively if they have paid too much rent. So far, they have been able to reduce their rent by filing a complaint, but they do not get back any money that has been paid in excess of the past months or years.

With the private landlords, who rent out the majority of the apartments in Germany, this leads to great uncertainty, said Luczak. It is difficult for them to calculate the local comparable rent down to the last cent – especially since there are no legally reliable rent indexes everywhere. The current regulation is a fair balance of the interests of tenants and landlords. The SPD, on the other hand, wants to win back lost percentage points for the European elections. “That’s why they don’t shy away from populist demands,” criticized Luczak.