German court extends tenants’ rights to challenge illegally high rents
The Federal Court of Justice in Baden-Württemberg has prolonged the period during which tenants can legally demand information from their landlords that could help them secure a rent decrease.
Karlsruhe court extends renters' capacity to challenge illegal rents
Germany’s Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe has ruled in favour of extending the period of time after moving into a property during which tenants are entitled to ask their landlord for information which could make it easier for them to determine whether they are paying illegally high rent.
What constitutes an illegally high rent is based on Germany’s Mietpreisbremse, a rent control law which outlines how much landlords are allowed to charge based on average rents in the neighbourhood. However, these rules don’t apply across the whole of Germany but in areas where there is a particularly fraught rental market, such as in most major German cities like Berlin or Munich.
At the moment, renters are generally entitled to access information, such as how their rent is calculated, up to three years after moving into a house or flat. After these three years are up tenants can persist and sue their landlord but don’t have the same entitlement to access the information.
Thanks to the court ruling, the limitation period has now been passed from the tenant to the landlord. This means that instead of the tenant having three years to request the information, landlords now have a maximum of three years to disclose the information once the request is made - this essentially eliminates the time limit to request the information. If the three-year limit is surpassed without the landlord supplying the information, as is currently the case, the tenant can sue the landlord to find out the requested information.
Landlords and Tenants’ Association dispute weight of the new ruling
The new ruling out of Karlsruhe means that there are now clearer stipulations about when tenants are allowed to ask for information which could help them get a rent reduction, and when landlords are legally allowed to withhold the information.
Responding to the news, the homeowners’ association Haus und Grund told the dpa that the ruling did not represent a particularly meaningful step forward for tenants’ rights, arguing that legislation brought in in 2019, which obliged landlords to be open about rent calculations from the beginning of a tenancy, had the same kind of outcome as the new ruling.
However, a spokesperson for the German Tenants’ Association countered, saying that the ruling meant renters were entitled to much more detailed information, such as how much the property had previously been rented for, the cost of any refurbishments and when said refurbishments had been done. All of these details should make it easier for tenants to build a case when demanding a rent reduction.
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