Map of Berlin’s residential areas (supplemented by my district). Image: urban development.berlin.en
How do I lower my rent from 530 euros to 437 euros?? A guide using the example of a normal Berlin rental apartment
Since 2009, movements such as the Recht-Auf-Stadt-Bundnis (Right to a City) in Hamburg have emerged nationwide, mobilizing in a variety of protest actions against segregation in cities and against urban development policies that are made over the heads of the inhabitants and put prestige projects above the needs of the majority of the population.
In 2015, as a result of the protests, the German government and its Justice Minister Maas (SPD) finally felt compelled to pass a so-called rent brake. The law makes a half-hearted attempt to slow the rise in rents somewhat. Real reform approaches, such as the capping of rents – not to mention the decreases demanded here – are unfortunately still utopia at present.
The Mietpreisbremse does not yet apply everywhere and only to new rentals of apartments. An up-to-date overview of the regions in which the law currently applies can be found at haufe.de.
In August 2015, I moved into a 59-square-meter apartment in the pleasant Berlin district of Weibensee, which has since gained nationwide notoriety for the TV series of the same name. Although the series still focuses on the ramshackle Weibensee of the last decade of the GDR, today Weibensee is a very nice, green district – and also quite centrally located (5 km to Alexanderplatz).
Actually you are not allowed to write something like this. So that the quarter is already, because each such sentence provides directly or indirectly for a further rent increase. As is well known, Berlin is still hip and "cool". It doesn’t matter if you’re a young person coming from a village in southern Spain, from the US Midwest or from the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern province, the city is so attractive for certain milieus that, contrary to the general demographic trend, it has been attracting an international population for years.
Be that as it may. Location and condition of my new apartment are typical for Berlin: old building in the front building – with floorboards and some stucco as well as a balcony. The apartment will have been renovated within the last 15 years. Otherwise nothing special, no luxury, but pleasant.
The rent brake in Berlin has been in effect since June 2015, so its rules also apply to my apartment. As is the case with landlords, an excessive rent is initially demanded, namely that which the apartment tenants are willing to pay as a maximum (whereby they usually have no choice and no negotiating power). In my case, the residential location as "Mainly simple" classified. This means that the rents here should be rather low.
In the lease agreement there is a net rent of 530 euros for the 59 square meters. This corresponds to a net rent per square meter of just under 9 euros (8.98 €). And that for a "simple residential area"! For me, the question now arose whether this rent is justified. To check this, the local rent index should be consulted.
Check rent index for your own apartment
For all major cities, the authorities regularly publish a so-called rent index. In my case this is the Berlin rent index 2015. On the corresponding website of the city of Berlin, one can enter one’s exact address and then, after specifying the age of the house and the number of square meters, one is shown the local comparative rent in three variants of the net cold rent. In the equipment 1 to 3. The equipment level indicates how comfortable the apartment is and how high the local comparative rent is accordingly. Here a spectrum of minimum, average and maximum is given for a comparable apartment.
Image: urban development.berlin.de
For the calculation of the maximum rent one has to pay, the average value is relevant. The landlord is only allowed to charge 10% more per square meter than this average value, if the equipment is exactly defined.
On the same website, you can now specify the exact equipment of your own apartment. Here, the interpretation of the tenant usually differs from the interpretation of the landlord. So everything needs to be checked – from the coarseness of the bathroom, to whether the landlord has provided a coil for the kitchen, to whether the area for the garbage cans in the backyard has been made respectable.
If one has now filled out all this, a value comes out. Let’s say a net cold rent per square meter of 5 euros. This value is now compared with the value in the lease you pay. If the value in the lease is more than 10% above this, i.e. above €5.50, further steps should be checked – as described below.
Bringing the rent down
In accordance with the recommendation of the Mieterschutzbund Berlin, I now first write a "Ruge for the rent level" to my landlord and send this off by registered letter. Here I ask the landlord to adjust my rent to a maximum of 10% above the local comparative rent. First, then, as a lump sum from 8.98 € to 6.33 € according to my calculation with the help of the Berlin rent price index. Daruber hinaus zeige ich mich verargert daruber, dass der Vermieter zu Mietpreissteigerungen und damit zur Verdrangung armerer Bevolkerungsschichten beitragt.
The landlord writes back three weeks later that the apartment has been rented:
- A particularly high-quality floor covering ("high quality parquet").
- A coil in the kitchen was still present from the previous tenant, so the apartment was not handed over without a coil.
- The apartment has a broadband connection with jerk channels (cable TV with Internet).
These three factors justified the rent hike. After all, the landlord in this letter already goes down 20 cents per square meter. Nevertheless, I disagree:
- The floor is normal parquet.
- A coil in the kitchen is indeed available. However, the landlord could only claim an increase in the rent (according to the wording of the rent index), if he had to itself and financed.
- The apartment has a broadband connection with back channel, but this is only considered to increase the rent if I as the tenant no Vertrag mit einem Internetanbieter abschlieben musse.
- In addition, the bathroom is smaller than 4 square meters and this is another rent-reducing factor according to the rent index.
In this respect I insist on my demand to adjust the rent further downwards.
The landlord now takes a little more time – about one and a half months – and then replies that he agrees with me – but on the points of the broadband connection and the coil. So I go to my tenant protection association. In this case he heibt Mieterschutzbund Berlin e.V. and let myself be advised by the lawyer (there are of course other corresponding organizations such as a tenants’ association, the German Tenants’ Association, etc.).)
The lawyer of the Tenants’ Protection Association agrees with my legal catch, I now write to my landlord again regarding the disputed ies of the coil and the broadband connection. Um das Ganze argumentativ zu unterstreichen, zitiere ich den Wortlaut des Mietspiegels, der ziemlich eindeutig ist. Am Ende drohe ich damit, den Fall den Anwalten des Mieterschutzbundes zu ubergeben, falls man meiner Argumentation nicht stattgebe.
A month later I get the answer: they give in and I have prevailed. The landlord’s proposal is now to reduce the net cold rent from 530 euros to 437 euros (7.40 € / per m² – i.e. 6.75 € plus 10%). The rent is then exactly 10% more than the landlord is allowed to charge according to the current local comparative price. The policy has given this 10% to the landlords, although they had also gotten with the local comparative rent their return. After all, even 10 years ago, these companies were making a return on investment high enough to be profitable, with rents as low as 5 euros per square meter. But we live in a "democracy in line with the market" and in which it is clear who profits and at whose expense.
A good thing for me in the whole procedure is that the rent reduction that you have negotiated is not valid from the moment when everything is completed, but from the moment when you ask the landlord for the high rent "gerugt" has. So since the first letter.
The consequence is that I now get a repayment for the past months in the amount of 550 euros. Also divided by two for both occupants of the apartment a worthwhile bonus for my mothers.
It is every tenant, who since the 2. It is highly recommended to every tenant who has rented a new apartment since the second half of last year (or plans to do so in the near future) to check the rent and to take action against the landlord according to these instructions. It can not be that landlords at the expense of society the social-spatial separation in the cities (keyword gentrification) advance without at least being slowed down. Since a cover of the rents in the age of the Neoliberalismus still seems utopian at present, one should seize first to this means, which one is entitled also if one stands in the society hierarchy in the center or below.
The steps to do this are very simple:
- Join Mieterschutzbund
- Check rent index
- Sending the landlord a ruge for the rent price
- Wait for answer, go to Mieterschutzbund with answer
- Continue to negotiate with landlords
- If necessary. Threaten with tenant protection association lawyer and hand over the case
Christopher Stark runs the blog Neoliberalysis.de.