Berlin: Your Rent Is Illegally High. Let’s Fight Back.
By BERLIN LOVES YOU . September 27, 2017
Cost of living in Berlin is skyrocketing.
But you’re entitled to pay less rent. It’s called Mietpreisbremse.
You hear it every day, “Berlin is getting more and more expensive.” And you know what, that might just be the case. According to property consultancy Knight Frank, rent prices rose overall a mega 20.2% last year – and continued to climb, hitting 75% in some areas…
Gone are the days where you could have a two-bedroom flat on Weserstrasse for 340€ warm with Dielen, Balkon, EbK, Keller. Instead, you find yourself almost lucky, after having sold yourself out on countless WG castings and Massebesichtungen, to pay whatever the cost. But, is this a fact?
What if there was a way to transport yourself out of the Berlin-as-mini-San Francisco prices and back to that of Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire? Meet the Mietpreisbremse.
Mietpreisbremse. A word to learn for paying less rent on your apartment in Berlin.
Say that word slowly and often to yourself, because it will soon be your favorite word. Mietpreisbremse is the parliamentary act that was passed in 2015 and states that landlords are not allowed to demand excessive rents, and therefore the cost of rent for a contract cannot exceed 10% above the current rent index.
Not surprisingly, a lot of people don’t even know about Mietpreisbremse, nor are they aware that they can actually take legal action. But the fact is, you ARE paying too much rent, and it’s because of your landlord’s greed, not a changing Berlin.
How much are you overpaying on rent?
This tool offered by the Berlin government allows you to calculate how expensive your rent should be. All you need to do is click the link, input your address and answer two questions on the age and size of your apartment. The resultant figure will tell you the Berliner Mietspiegel level on how much rent you should be paying, give or take the 10% wiggle room landlords are legally afforded.
Your landlords are breaking the law. Here’s how to stop them.
Thankfully, Wenigermiete.de, a team of lawyers-turned-activists working to fight the incredible rent increases, makes all of this super easy and clear. On their site, they provide a free, comprehensive test that will help you verify if your rent is above the legal limit. Moreover, their site highlights the ins-and-outs of how landlords can increase rent and when they can’t. For instance, just because they changed the curtains or windows, doesn’t mean they can jack up your rent.
Update: Since we wrote this article, 60+ BERLIN LOVES YOU readers have saved hundreds per month on their rent through Wenigermiete.
Ok, so you’ve filled out the questionnaire, and what do you know, your landlord is greedy and heavily overcharging you. Landlords are literally breaking the law. Well, the next step you’ll have to take is to file a “qualified complaint” (qualifizierte Rüge). The best part, though, is that Wenigermiete.de will not only draft it up for you, but they’ll send it directly to your landlord.
A qualified complaint is a German way of saying, “Hey, I know you’re charging me too much, and I’m finally doing something about to because, as per law, I can do just that (Arschloch!)”.
Now that you’ve actually gone ahead and gotten the qualified complaint sent out, Wenigermiete.de does the rest for you, which includes following up with the landlord in case they’re being obstinate, conducting any legal proceedings (even taking any and all costs themselves), as well as handling every further step in the process for you until you’re paying substantially less rent. You pay nothing, and can save on average €200 a month.
Take back control of your rent and decrease your cost of living.
At this point, you’re probably thinking this is too good to be true, and that there must be some catch. Wenigermiete.de only receives payment for all of this if they are successfully able to lower your rent. And this payment comes from the landlord in compensation, never from you.
You pay nothing to Wenigermiete. Your landlord does.
Only upon successfully lowering your rent do they receive the rental savings for four months (including VAT) as compensation from your landlord. Wenigermiete will also represent you and pay the legal costs should your case go to court. You do nothing. You pay nothing.
If, for whatever reason, they cannot lower your rent according to law, then the service is entirely free. Risk-free and your Berlin rent could be dramatically lowered.
It’s time we got more informed on how this crazy beautifully fucked up city works, and the rent we pay is a huge facet of it. If we’re clueless on what we’re willing to pay, landlords’ greed will go into overdrive and raise rents for everyone else. We know how difficult it is to move here, find the perfect flat, and yet still have no clue what’s really going on regarding your rights as a tenant. With services like Wenigermiete.de and others like it, we’re starting to take back control.
Wenigermiete were the first organisation to take up this fight, and you’re bound to see many more in the coming years.
For a lot more information, including among other things, if your landlord can cancel your contract if you enforce Mietpreisbremse (they cannot), check out Wenigermiete’s FAQ page in its entirety below.
FAQ for Wenigermiete.de
What is the rent control act (Mietpreisbremse)?
The so called “Mietpreisbremse” is an act of parliament, applicable since June 2015 in most German States (except for Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saarland, Sachsen und Sachsen-Anhalt). It states that landlords are not allowed to demand excessive rents and therefor rents are limited to the current rent index plus 10%. In case you are paying more than allowed, you can request the landlord to lower the rent – even during tenancy. Wenigermiete.de supports you in enforcing your rights – without hassle and cost risk.
How does the “Mietpreisbremse” work?
The basic principle is simple: in case of a new lease agreement, landlords are only allowed to demand a rent equal to the local rent index plus 10%. If you realise that you are paying more rent than allowed after signing the lease agreement, you can request the landlord to lower the rent. From the time of the complaint forward you can reclaim the overcharged rent from the landlord.
The devil is in the details: the tenant has to “activate” the rent control by issuing a so-called qualified complaint (qualifizierte Rüge). To be valid the complaint must be in line with some legal requirements and based on the current local rent index. But you don’t have to worry about that: wenigermiete.de is taking care of the qualified complaint for you.
Furthermore, landlords can try to invoke certain exceptions, arguing that the tenancy is not affected by the “Mietpreisbremse” – wenigermiete.de will verify those arguments for you (see next question).
Are there exceptions for the “Mietpreisbremse”?
Yes, in order to protect certain interests of the landlords. In the following cases rent control is not applicable:
Newly constructed buildings that were first rented after October 1st 2014.
First occupancy after comprehensive modernisation (“umfassende Modernisierung”).
Note: to qualify as comprehensive modernisation an amount equal to at least one third of the cost of a comparable newly constructed building has to be invested. Just installing new windows or a new kitchen is therefore not sufficient. Many landlords try to invoke this exception but fail to provide proper. Wenigermiete.de enforces tenants’ respective information claims.
In case previous tenants already payed a rent in excess of the local rent index the landlord is allowed to demand the same rent from a new tenant. Note: prior rents are only relevant if the former tenant moved in before applicable deadline regarding the introduction of the “Mietpreisbremse” andif the previous rent was not otherwise violating the law. You don’t have to research that, wenigermiete.de is taking care of that, too.
Do I have to research former rents or possible modernisation measures performed by the landlord?
No. Landlords are required by law to provide information of previous rents and modernisation measures. Wenigermiete.de will enforce you information claims for you. You don’t have to take care of that.
Does the “Mietpreisbremse” apply retrospectively?
No, first the tenant has to activate the “Mietpreisbremse” issuing a a qualified complaint to the landlord. Only from that point of time onwards the overcharged rent can be reclaimed by the tenant. That’s why it is so important that you act quickly and mandate wenigermiete.de before the end of the calender month.
My flat is furnished. Is the “Mietpreisbremse” still applicable?
Yes. Your landlord is allowed to charge a reasonable extra amount for the furniture, but he has to justify the charged amount by disclosing the furniture costs. So he cannot charge 100 € extra a month by putting in two old shelves from Ikea.
I am not sure with every answer in the questionnaire. What should I do?
Don’t worry. Just fill out the questionnaire applying with your best knowledge. You are not a real estate expert and you don’t have to be. It’s sufficient if the statements are plausible for you. Most important are correct statements regarding net rent (without service charges), area of the flat, address and year of construction.
How does wenigermiete.de work?
Step 1: Within 3 minutes you calculate your savings potential – with our free online rent calculator. The result will be more reliable when you type in as accurate as possible information.
Step 2: By mouse click you instruct wenigermiete.de to enforce the reduction of your rent.
Step 3: Lean back and relax. We will now contact your landlord and claim your right in a friendly and professional manner. As soon as we are successful you simply pay less rent. We will inform you.
How exactly does wenigermiete.de do that?
When you engage us to lower your rent you only have to send us a copy of your lease agreement (e.g., via E-Mail) and a send us a signed copy of your engagement confirmation via mail, because some landlords demand to see the original mandate.
We enforce your right by issuing a qualified complaint vis-à-vis your landlord. In that complaint we inform then landlord abou the potential violation of the rent control act and ask the landlord to agree to a reduced rent. Furthermore, we ask for disclosure of information regarding potential exceptions (see question regarding exceptions of the “Mietpreisbremse”).
Do I receive legal advice from wenigermiete.de?
No, we simply try to enforce your rights.
Background information: We – Frederik Gärtner and Daniel Halmer – are certified lawyers. Mietright GmbH – the company behind the platform wenigermiete.de – is not a law firm but a legal services company and therefore not allowed to give legal advice. In case you wish to seek legal advice which goes beyond enforcing your rights, we gladly connect you with one of our contract lawyers.
What happens when the landlord doesn’t react?
If the landlord shows no signs of reaction or doesn’t fulfil the claims within a given deadline, he will receive a reminder. During any phase within the process we try to find an agreement between you and your landlord.
What are the costs for the service?
We only receive a compensation if we are able to successfully lower your rent. If we are not successful, for whatever reason, the service is completely free. In case of a successful reduction of your rent we receive the rental savings for four months (incl. VAT). But you don’t have to pay us anything. We receive the amount from your landlord because we offset your refund claim with our compensation.
Who is carrying the costs when the case is brought to court?
I really don’t have to pay anything in case wenigermiete.de is not successful in lowering my rent?
Yes, for sure.
What do I have to do after engaging wenigermiete.de to enforce my rights?
When you engage us to lower your rent you only have to send us a copy of your lease agreement (gladly via e-mail) and a signed confirmation of engagenment via mail, because some landlords demand to see the original mandate.
And then: lean back and relax.
Is the landlord able to terminate the lease agreement when I activate the “Mietpreisbremse”?
No, the landlord is not able to terminate the lease agreement just because you enforce your rights with respect to the “Mietpreisbremse” or engage us. Moreover, he is not allowed to pressurize you in any way. It is crucial that you keep paying your full rent in time and that don’t otherwise violate your lease agreement (e.g. not keeping an unannounced pat or subletting a room without permission).
How do most landlords respond?
Most landlords respond in a neutral and reasonable way. In many the property management company is handling the case. Some landlords call in a lawyer. Which is good, because it helps to keep the process professional.
Will my relationship with the landlord suffer when I engage wenigermiete.de?
You know your landlord better than we do and should think about that with care. That said, please note the following:
At any given point during the process we act in a professional and friendly manner and are open for an agreement between you and your landlord.
It’s not you who are violating the law – it’s your landlord who might act in violation of the law.
Many of our customers calculated savings potentials of a couple of thousand EUR per year. Even if you are a peaceful person it could be worth enforcing your rights in light of the specific EUR amount in question.
In the end it’s you who has to make the decision.
I am just happy that I got the flat. Is it still possible to lower the rent?
Absolutely. From a legal point-of-view you can activate the “Mietpreisbremse” even if you knew already that the rent is too high when you signed the lease agreement. If you ask your landlord about the rent control upfront you end up not getting getting the flat at all.
The calculated savings potential seems too high to me. Could it still be right?
Yes, we created our online rent calculator on the basis of the qualified local rent index. On average tenants calculated a monthly savings potential of more than EUR 200. If your savings potential is much higher it might be due to modernisation measures of your landlord. He is allowed to forward a certain fraction of those costs to the tenant – but he has to provide proper evidence of such costs
How long takes the process?
The length of the process mainly depends on the reaction of the landlord. Some act right away, others take their time. Basically we try to handle the process as fast as possible, without putting too much pressure on the landlord. That’s why we set appropriate deadlines. Usually we are able to achieve an agreement within two to three months. If the case is brought to court it may take considerably longer.
Is it possible to find an agreement with the landlord?
Of course. If you seek to find an agreement between you and your landlord – which we recommend – you can record online a specific rent stating the maximum amount you would be willing to pay. If the landlord does not react in time on all claims, we give him the opportunity within a reminder to propose a settlement offer. For that specific case we created an online-agreement-tool which helps the landlord to comprehend the calculation of the max. allowed rent and give him the opportunity to propose a settlement offer from his side.
Is wenigermiete.de going to court if necessary?
Yes. If no out of court settlement seems possible and we assess the case as promising, we are going to bring the case to court. Of course we carry all related costs.
This piece was not written as an advertorial, but since 07/12/2017 affiliate links have been added.