In many cities, looking for an apartment is a real ordeal – and prices keep climbing. In the future, tenants should have more rights and landlords more obligations. Can this solve the housing problem?
EThere are many reasons to move. The family gets bigger, a job change – or the old apartment becomes unaffordable because the landlords are asking more and more. In many cities, even average wage earners have problems finding affordable accommodation for them. Associations and politicians estimate that 350,000 to 400,000 new apartments will have to be built in order to meet the increasing demand in metropolitan areas, but also in smaller university towns.
The rent brake, which the previous black-red coalition had already introduced, is intended to counteract excessive excesses in rent increases. In principle, it stipulates that when apartments are re-let in areas with a tight housing market, the rent may not be increased to more than the local comparative rent plus 10 percent. There are three exceptions: if the pre-rent was already higher, if it was modernized or if it was completely new. The federal states determine in which regions the brake applies.
It quickly became clear that the rental price brake was of little help – among other things, the new tenants often did not know what their predecessors had paid. And fighting against illegal rents was complicated. This is why the SPD is now being refined at the request of the SPD. This Wednesday, the cabinet approves the plans, then the draft goes to the Bundestag. An overview:
If a landlord demands more than the local rent plus 10 percent, then he must inform the tenant in writing before signing the contract, why he is allowed to do so. Since new builds or renovations are often obvious, this rule is primarily aimed at disclosing the previous rent, namely the status of one year before the end of the previous rental. In retrospect, the landlord may not invoke exceptions.
If the tenant is of the opinion that his landlord is asking too much, he will simply have to inform us in future and not provide a detailed justification.
Until now, landlords were allowed to pass 11 percent of the costs on to tenants, and in future only 8 percent. However, this only applies in regions with a tight housing market and initially only for five years. There is a “simplified procedure” if the modernization costs up to 10,000 euros.
After a modernization, the rent may increase in Germany by a maximum of three euros per square meter within six years.
If property owners announce or carry out a modernization with the intention of getting rid of the tenant – politicians also speak of “modernizing out” – then the tenant is entitled to compensation in the future. This can happen, for example, if nothing has happened one year after the announcement of the modernization, if the landlord announces that the rent will be doubled or the construction work is unnecessarily burdensome for tenants.
Such a modernization or its announcement “in an abusive way” counts as an administrative offense in the future and can be punished with a fine of up to 100,000 euros.
In practice, however, it will be difficult to prove to the landlord that the goal of modernization is to get rid of the tenant. The question also arises to what extent these new regulations reduce the incentive for landlords to undertake necessary renovations and modernizations. With fewer opportunities to pass the costs on to tenants and potential penalties of 100,000 euros, landlords should not allow necessary modernizations for the time being in order to avoid conflicts – and that could worsen the building fabric in the long term.