Rent Freeze – Berlin’s Rental Revolution
This is an experiment. What happens when an entire city of 3.5 million residents stops paying rent increases for the next five years? Rent Freeze is a podcast about Berlin’s rental revolution. A radical new housing law is attempting to stop runaway rental prices by freezing them for half a decade. On this series, we’ll explain what the rent freeze is all about, speak to supporters and critics, and follow the consequences – intended and unexpected. No one knows what will happen next. After all, this is an experiment.
Rent Freeze is produced and presented by Joel Dullroy, Maisie Hitchcock, Jöran Mandik and Daniel Stern. Music by Tom Evans. Sound recording by Stefan Lindner. Artwork by Jim Avignon.
Rent Freeze #1: The Experiment
What happens when an entire city of 3.5 million residents stops paying rent increases for the next five years? Welcome to Rent Freeze, a podcast about Berlin’s rental revolution.
Berlin is about to introduce the Mietendeckel, a law that will freeze rents for five years, cap new rental contracts at a maximum price, and allow some tenants to claim a rent reduction. Supporters say it will be the best thing to happen to the city since the fall of the Wall
But investors and landlords are outraged. They say the reforms will scare off businesses, leave houses unbuilt and in disrepair, and feed a grey market for off-the-books rental as desperate Berliners try to find a flat.
On this episode we explain the basics of the law, and talk to Daniel Halmer of Wenigermiete.de about why the existing rent controls haven’t worked.
Berlin’s rent freeze has begun, but nobody seems to know what’s going on. Landlords and tenants alike are confused about what to do next. Rents are now capped at the rate paid in June 2019 – all increases since then are invalid. New contracts can’t exceed about €9.80 a square meter – half as much as many advertised prices. And landlords face fines of half a million euros for cheating.
On this episode we go inside Berlin’s parliament to hear the moment the rent freeze law was passed. Supporters and opponents gave fiery speeches in a rowdy session, which ended with politicians voting to suspend the free market for rental property for five years.
We hear what landlords think about the new law. Some are devising ways to cheat – by renting to ignorant foreigners: “Those who screw their landlords are old Germans.” Despite the threat of huge fines, some don’t think the city has the resources to prosecute them.
And what should tenants do if they hope for a rent decrease? Lawyer Daniel Halmer from Wenigermieter.de says they should start adding three magic words to their rent transfers: “Zahlung unter Vorbehalt.” It means paid with reservations, and gives tenants the right to to try to claim back overpayments at a later date.
Rent Freeze is produced and presented by Joel Dullroy, Maisie Hitchcock, Jöran Mandik and Daniel Stern. Artwork by Jim Avignon. Music by Tom Evans and Ducks!. Recorded by Stephan Lindner. Rent Freeze is a production of Radio Spaetkauf and RadioEins.