Germany: Berlin rent cap overturned by Germany’s top court

Germany’s constitutional court has decided that the Berlin rent cap violates Germany’s constitution. The cap is one of the most-debated laws in the country. Campaigners argued it was a vital way to preserve affordable housing in the German capital, where rents have been soaring for years. The German Property Foundation (ZIA) calculated last year that rents in new contracts in the city had risen 27% from 2013 to 2019 alone.

Barbara Steenbergen, EU liaison head of the International Union of Tenants (IUT), said she was shocked by the German court decision, not least because other state-level in Berlin laws did in fact regulate regulate private property rights: There is a law that bans landlords from keeping property empty as a speculation, for instance.

Steenbergen said that the Berlin state government had been forced to act because the federal government’s rent control measures, the rent brake, had not slowed the capital’s spiraling rents.

She also expressed some hope for other tenants’ campaigns in other countries. “This decision is not about whether the rent cap is good or bad, it is purely about jurisdiction,” she told DW. “So now what legislators in the rest of Europe have to check is: What is actually the jurisdiction that you have – in order to avoid possible mistakes like in Berlin.”

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