After renovations have been carried out in a Berlin apartment building, tenants will have to pay more rent in the future – also a Hartz IV receiver. The increase is not yet ripe for decision, the Karlsruhe Federal Court of Justice (BGH) clarifies the case.
A Berlin Hartz IV recipient should pay 240 euros more rent after modernizing his home. Of the BGH now checks whether this increase is permissible. Tenant protectors also hope for clarifications for other affected parties.
What exactly is it about?
The landlord had the apartment building from 1929 brought up to scratch. The facade and the top floor were insulated and the balconies enlarged to around five square meters. An elevator that was shut down decades ago is now back in operation. The residents should also bear the costs through significantly higher rents. This is hard to cope with for Hartz IV recipients: his rent recently was around 575 euros, plus 90 euros advance on heating costs. From the office, the man receives a good 460 euros a month for living.
What are the chances for the Berlin tenant?
Not bad at the moment: According to a judgment by the Berlin district court, the man would only have to pay 4.16 euros more a month after the modernization because of his “cramped economic conditions”. The fact that he lives on just under 86 square meters did not matter to the judges. The point and purpose of the hardship objection is that even tenants with little money can still afford their apartments after modernization. The man had moved into the apartment with his parents as a child. He cannot be reproached for living above his means from the start. What is decisive, however, is how the BGH sees the case. There the landlord defends herself against the Berlin judgment.
What does the procedure mean for other tenants?
The German Tenants’ Association hopes that the Karlsruhe judgment will make it clearer in which cases tenants can claim financial hardship. Managing Director Ulrich Ropertz sees a need for clarification above all in terms of apartment size. Large landlords in particular often argued according to the motto: “Move into a smaller apartment – then it will be affordable for you again.” According to his observation, very few modernize landlordto get rid of tenants. Nevertheless, it often boils down to the result. Even after the reform, rent increases of 20 to 40 percent are possible. “It is a bit of a hammer for the households concerned.”
Can landlords increase rent so drastically?
By the beginning of the year, landlords were able to increase the annual rent by 11 percent of the pro rata costs. After the modernization, the landlord can currently allocate up to eight percent of the costs to the annual rent; additional limits must also be observed. However, he must point out the increase with the announcement of the modernization. Tenants who see a particular hardship in this can inform the landlord by the end of the month after the announcement.
The so-called capping limit is new: due to modernization, the rent may increase by a maximum of three euros per square meter within six years, and by a maximum of two euros for lower rents (less than seven euros per square meter). The old legal situation still applies to the Berlin case.
What else do tenants have to consider?
It is different if the rent is to be increased to the local comparative rent, explains Beate Heilmann, lawyer for real estate law: “The tenant has to check whether he has to agree to the increase.” Have all the landlords signed up, have the correct apartment size and the old rent been specified correctly and is the increase within limits?
Tenants must not allow themselves to take too long with the check: by the end of the second month following the access, they must have consented to a justified rent increase. Heilmann explains what this means: “If the rent increase was announced in October, the tenant would have to agree by the end of December at the latest, and the rent increase would take effect on January 1. Otherwise, the landlord can sue for approval until the end of March.”
How can tenants defend themselves?
As a rule, tenants have to accept modernization. However, you have a special right of termination. If there is a lot of noise and dirt from the work, you may be able to temporarily reduce the rent. The law also explicitly protects people who can hardly afford their apartment anyway from the impending rent increase: it should always be excluded if it would mean “hardship that cannot be justified even if the landlord’s legitimate interests are justified” . Those affected have to raise this hardship objection immediately after the announcement of the modernization. However, it will only be checked later if the rent should actually increase.