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What to do in case of a sudden rent increase

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Suddenly your landlord wants more money from you. Tip: first question the legality of the rent increase. We’ll tell you when a rent increase is justified.

At some point it hits almost every tenant: The landlord explains that he is terribly sorry, but that it is now inevitable. For the next first thing, he had to increase the rent. Then suddenly the apartment is no longer that cheap and the family budget may get into trouble.

The German Tenants’ Association (DMB)

The German Tenants’ Association (DMB) has created a checklist that tenants can use to easily check the legality of an impending rent increase and, if necessary, defend themselves.

rent increase

If there is a rent increase in the house, the first question to be answered is: Who is actually sending the rent increase letter? Because only the landlord himself can raise the rent.

If, for example, the increase comes after the landlord’s death by their heirs, they must be able to produce a certificate of inheritance. Even if the house or apartment changes hands, the new owner can only request an increase if he is also entered in the land register.

A rent increase in Germany is only valid in writing

Important to know: verbal or telephone rent increases are not enough. The written rent increase must come from all landlords. In other words, if the landlord’s wife also signed the rental agreement, she must now also sign the rent increase letter.

In addition, the landlord can authorize lawyers, property managers or owner associations to submit the rent increase declaration for him. Then the rent increase must be accompanied by the original power of attorney. If it is missing, the rent increase can be rejected. The tenant has a maximum of 14 days for this rejection.

rent increase

Check addressees – look at a rent index

You should also check whether the letter is correctly addressed. The rent increase is not effective if, for example, it has only been sent to one partner in the case of married couples or only one tenant has been informed in the case of a shared apartment.

An increase is also ineffective if the so-called annual lock-up period has not been complied with. Because there must be at least twelve months between moving into the apartment or the last rent increase.

The landlord cannot simply come up with reasons such as “everything is going to be more expensive” or “the high bills for tradesmen”, according to the German Tenants Association. Rather, he has to prove that the rent demanded of him is customary for the location. 

He can refer to a rental database or an expert report, three comparable apartments or rent index that have been recognized by the municipalities or jointly by tenants ‘associations and owners’ associations. If he justifies the increase elsewhere, he must nonetheless include the figures in the qualified rent index for comparison. 

Because price overviews from banks or brokers, for example, are also not recognized. A rent increase based on such information is always ineffective.

Beware of comparable apartments

If the landlord points out alleged comparable apartments, you as the tenant should remember: Pay attention! Because in practice, comparable apartments are often not at all comparable. 

Experience has shown that they are rather overpriced. In order to be able to check this specifically, the address, floor and square meter price of the comparable apartments must be given. 

And here, too, the following applies: If a qualified rent index is available online, the landlord must always state this.

People also like to cheat on the size of the apartment. Therefore, tenants should always check carefully whether the landlord has not added a few square meters to the rent increase. Basically, it depends on the contractually agreed area. But: If this area deviates by more than ten percent from the actual area, then the latter applies.

rent increase

You have enough time to think

Without the consent of the tenant, the adjustment to the local rent will not take effect. It is best if the tenant agrees in writing. In the opinion of many courts, however, it is sufficient for approval that he pays the new rent.

However, the tenant can only partially agree to the rent increase – for example, if he considers certain items to be unjustified. However, to the extent that the increase is justified, the tenant is obliged to agree.

But don’t panic: As a tenant, you have enough time to check whether you agree to the rent increase or not. The reflection period applies from the day on which you receive the rent increase until the end of the second following calendar month. So if the letter is in the mailbox on May 15th, you have until the end of July to think about it. 

If you have not nodded off the increase by then, the landlord may sue for payment within three calendar months.

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