Berlin: Your Rent Is Illegally High. Let’s Fight Back.
By BERLIN LOVES YOU . March 27, 2020
Cost of living in Berlin has skyrocketed.
You have a legal right to pay less rent. It’s called Mietpreisbremse.
Berlin isn’t what it used to be. Unless you’ve been here a long time or lucked into an old rental contract, your rent is almost certainly too high. Unlike New York, Paris, and London, or wherever else people can hardly scrape together a living, though, there is a way to fight back. Maybe Berlin’s slogan, “arm, aber sexy”, isn’t so lost, after all.
Let’s look at the facts. In 2017, most Neukölln apartments cost over 1,300EUR more than they should have per year. Now, the average Neukölln resident pays 1,800EUR too much per year. In Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, that number jumps to 2,150EUR.
Landlords are stealing from you, and you owe it to yourself and to the city we love to fight back.
Mietpreisbremse. A word to learn for paying less rent on your apartment in Berlin.
Mietpreisbremse is the 2015 parliamentary act that states landlords are not allowed to demand excessive rents. The cost of rent for a contract cannot extend beyond 10% of the current rent index as specified by the local government.
It’s not some soft rule, either: it’s literally part of the German constitution, and it’s been re-ratified till 2025.
Not surprisingly, many people don’t know about Mietpreisbremse. Landlords aren’t exactly advertising it. But don’t let the legality of the whole thing scare you away.
It’s surprisingly easy to take action, with a simple process that actually works. You can even backdate your overpaid rent to April 2020. This means: even if you apply in January 2021, you can receive compensation for overpaid rent from April-December 2020.
And Mietpreisbremse has already worked for hundreds, if not thousands, of Berliners.
Find out how much rent you’re overpaying.
Check out this tool. It’s offered by the Berlin government and shows you how much your rent should be legally paying, based on the Berliner Mietspiegel index.
Just click the link, add your address, and answer two questions: how old is your apartment and how big is it? The tool will then tell you how much you should be paying, give or take the 10% wiggle room landlords are legally afforded.
If your landlords are charging too much, you know you can take action.
Your landlords are breaking the law. Here’s how to stop them.
Wenigermiete is a team of lawyers-turned-activists working to fight rent increases. They make everything very easy and clear. Their website provides a free, comprehensive test to help verify that your rent is above the legal limit. Moreover, their site highlights the ins-and-outs of when landlords can legally increase the rent and when they can’t. For example: if they’ve added an elevator to your building, they might be in the right to raise; if they’ve only added some new curtains, they’re probably in the wrong.
On average, your rent can be lowered 200-250EUR per month.
After you’ve finished the Wenigermiete online questionnaire and you’ve seen how much rent you’re currently overpaying, you’ll probably want to take action. Luckily, you can do this with the click of a button.
Legally, you must file a ‘qualified complaint’ or “qualifizierte Rüge.” This is the German way of saying: “Hey, the law says you’re charging me too much, and I’m doing something about it.”
Through Wenigermiete, you won’t have to write up the complaint yourself. They’ll draft it for you and even send it to your landlord.
Wenigermiete doesn’t stop there. They follow up with the landlord in the case of their obstinance, conduct any legal proceedings, pay out any costs for those legal proceedings, and handle every step of the process afterwards until you find yourself paying less rent and happy that you’ve exercised your tenants’ rights.
Wenigermiete only makes money if you save money.
If and only if Wenigermiete is successful in lowering your rent, they receive payment in the form of the rental savings from five months (including VAT). This is taken directly from your landlord, out of your Kaution (which is now lower). There are no cash transfers and no invoices.
Should your case go to court, Wenigermiete will represent you and pay all legal fees.
That means that within five months, you will have made all your money back (and continue to live with this cheaper rent for as long as you live in your apartment).
If for some reason Wenigermiete cannot lower your rent according to law, then their service is entirely free. That means you have nothing at all to lose.
Find out if you’re paying too much rent now. You have rights as a tenant. Get informed and take back control.
We’re all in this together.
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 was 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 whether your landlord can cancel your contract if you enforce the Mietpreisbremse (they cannot, BTW), 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 the 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 onwards, 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 evidence. Wenigermiete.de enforces tenants’ respective information claims.
In case previous tenants already paid 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 the applicable deadline regarding the introduction of the “Mietpreisbremse” and if 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 on previous rents and modernisation measures. Wenigermiete.de will enforce your information claims for you. You don’t have to take care of that.
Does the “Mietpreisbremse” apply retroactively?
Yes, if you signed your contract on or after 1 April 2020. You have to make the claim within the first 30 months of your contract. First, the tenant has to activate the “Mietpreisbremse” issuing a qualified complaint to the landlord. 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 calendar 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 the complaint, we inform then landlord about 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 the question regarding exceptions of the “Mietpreisbremse”).
Do I receive legal advice from wenigermiete.de?
No, we simply try to enforce your rights.
Background information: Daniel Halmer is a certified lawyer. Conny 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 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 five 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 engagement 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 cases, 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 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.
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 the related costs.
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