The Berlin rent freeze: Everything tenants should know now

Is it coming or not? As a tenant in Berlin, you have been following the developments regarding the rent freeze (Mietendeckel) with interest for months. From when does it apply? Will the law remain in force? And should you really use the rent freeze to reduce the rent? All important information and news at a glance.

In short

  • The Berlin rent freeze has been in force since 23 February 2020 with the setting of a rent cap for new rentals.
  • In addition, net cold rents in Berlin were frozen at the level of 18 June 2019 with the rent freeze.
  • From 23 November 2020, rents that exceed the rent cap by more than 20 percent must be reduced.
  • The law can still be overturned: The final decision on the constitutionality of the law by the Federal Constitutional Court is expected in the first half of 2021.
  • As a tenant, you should save the rent saved by the law until the decision is made.

The current status of the Berlin rent freeze

The law on rent freeze in the housing sector in Berlin (MietenWoG Bln) is colloquially called "Mietendeckel". It came into force on 23 February 2020 and consists of three key points:

  1. The rent cap set a maximum level of the basic rent for new rentals. The amount depends mainly on the year of construction and the location of the apartment building as well as the equipment of the flat.
  2. As a result of the rent freeze, rents in Berlin were frozen at the level of 18 June 2019. Increases in the net cold rent are not permitted for five years.
  3. The rent reduction will come into force from 23 November 2020. Rents that are more than 20 percent above the rent ceiling must be reduced.

There have been several rulings on the law in recent months, but these have not affected the validity of MietenWoG Bln. Nevertheless, the rent freeze is not stable as there is an ongoing procedure at the Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG): In 2021 it will be decided whether the law is at all in conformity with the constitution.

Overview: What has happened so far & what is still to come

  • 22 October 2019: The red-red-green government in the Berlin Senate decides on the rent freeze to counteract the sharp rise in rents in the capital. Together with the resolution, a rent table to determine the rent freeze per flat is published by the Senate. In order for the law to enter into force, the Chamber of Deputies has yet to make a positive decision on the bill.
  • 30 January 2020: The Berlin Chamber of Deputies votes by a majority of yes-votes and confirms the rent freeze. The opposition immediately announces constitutional complaints as it fears that investors in the Berlin housing market will be deterred.
  • 22 February 2020: The MietenWoG Bln is published in the Berlin Law and Ordinance Gazette.
  • 23 February 2020: The first part of the rent freeze law comes into force. With immediate effect, the rent cap and the rent freeze apply.
  • 12 March 2020: The Berlin Regional Court doubts the constitutionality of the rent cap and submits this question to the Federal Constitutional Court for a decision. According to the Berlin Regional Court, the State of Berlin may not be authorised to pass such a legislative resolution. The assessment was prompted by an expert opinion commissioned by the party CSU on the decision-making powers of the Land of Berlin in rental law.
  • 2 April 2020: The implementing regulations for the law are published in the Berlin Official Gazette.
  • 23 April 2020: By today at the latest, landlords had to provide all tenants, without being asked and in writing, with information on the calculation of the rent freeze for the respective flat. If they do this too late, however, landlords need not fear any penalty due to the Corona crisis. The state of Berlin has announced that it will waive sanctions such as fines in the event of delays due to the crisis.
  • 25 May 2020: The Berlin opposition parties CDU and FDP file a complaint with the Constitutional Court of the State of Berlin against the rent freeze.
  • 3 June 2020: A total of twelve constitutional complaints are submitted to the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe as a collective complaint against the rent freeze.
  • 17 July 2020: The lawyers of the Berlin Senate suggest to the Constitutional Court of Berlin to suspend the proceedings until the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court. The Senate hopes for a decision in principle by the BVerfG which will make the rent freeze legally secure.
  • 22 October 2020: The Berlin Constitutional Court responds to the suggestion of the Berlin Senate and puts the lawsuit of the CDU and FDP on hold. The decision of the Federal Constitutional Court is to be awaited.
  • 28 October 2020: The Federal Constitutional Court rejects an urgent motion against the rent freeze law. A Berlin landlord had tried to prevent the rent reduction due from 23 November 2020 until the final decision in 2021. With the rejection of the application by the court, the rent freeze has cleared another hurdle. It remains to be seen, however, whether it will stand.
  • 23 November 2020: With the rent reduction, the second part of the rent freeze law comes into force. Landlords must reduce excessively high rents in existing tenancies from this date.
  • 2021: The final ruling on the constitutionality of the rent freeze by the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe is expected in the first half of the year. We will keep you informed of all developments.

Caution: Why the rent freeze in Berlin is still uncertain

Since March 2020, rents in Berlin have been regulated by the rent cap and rent freeze. The reduction of existing rents as part of the rent reduction would also accommodate many tenants with longer existing rental contracts. It was to be expected that landlords and the opposition would take legal action against this. The wave of lawsuits has so far had various results against, but also in favour of the rent freeze.

Due to the pending decision of the Federal Constitutional Court , there is still a chance that the law on the Berlin rent freeze is not constitutional. Many experts expect the court to rule in favour of the landlords in 2021 and the law to be overturned. In this case, landlords will be able to claim back from tenants the rental income lost through the rent freeze from November 2020.

Since the rent freeze came into force, many landlords have included the so-called shadow rent in their new rental agreements as a precautionary measure. In such contracts, flat seekers must agree to two rent levels: a rent in conformity with the rent freeze and another higher rent in case the law is overturned. Despite the validity of the rent freeze, tenants are threatened with rent increases. The rent freeze has therefore already had negative effects.

Our recommendation: What tenants should do now

You are rightly insecure and do not know exactly what to do now. We help you and explain the next steps depending on your individual situation.

Your landlord reduces the rent: You as a tenant will pay less rent from 23 November 2020 through the rent freeze. Do not include the amount saved in your daily expenses. Put back the money you save every month and wait for the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court. If you have to pay the landlord back the amount, you will not be financially surprised.

Your landlord will not lower the rent, although he should: According to the rent freeze, you are entitled to a reduction of the rent from 23 November 2020. You now have two options:

  1. Either you waive the reduction and wait for the final decision by the Federal Constitutional Court in the first half of 2021. If the law remains in force, you can demand the reduction retroactively.
  2. Or you can enforce your right and obtain the rent reduction from the landlord now. CONNY can help you with this. If the rent is reduced as a result, you too should put aside the monthly amount saved until the final judgement is pronounced.

Your landlord does not have to reduce the rent: Your rent is legal within the rent freeze and your landlord is therefore not obliged to reduce it. There is nothing else for you to do. You can check whether you are entitled to a reduction of your rent by means of the rent cap with our free rent index calculator.

Rent freeze or rent control? How to successfully reduce your rent

The rent control applies almost all over Germany and is recognised by the highest court, while the rent freeze is still under scrutiny. Before tenants enforce the rent freeze with their landlord, it is therefore worth considering the rent control.

  • In Berlin, the rent control applies to all rental agreements concluded since 1 June 2015.
  • If the rent for your flat in Berlin exceeds the local comparative rent plus 10 percent, you can apply the rent control.
  • Overpaid rent can be reclaimed for up to two and a half years under the rent control.

Higher savings potential through the rent freeze?

The savings potential depends on various factors, which makes it impossible to make a general statement. The calculation depends on the furnishings of your individual flat, its age and location. Here is a calculation example for an old building flat typical for Berlin in a simple residential area, built until 1918 with collective heating and with a bathroom:

Upper limit according to rent freeze: For a flat in Sonnenallee (Neukölln) in a building built before 1918, the upper limit is 7.40 euros per square metre.

Upper limit after rent control: According to Berlin's rent index, a rental agreement signed in March 2017 in a simple residential area in Sonnenallee (Neukölln) is subject to a range of between 4.22 euros per square metre and 8.41 euros per square metre, with an average of 5.72 euros. To this must be added 10 per cent, which is permitted under the rent control. This means that the average upper limit after the rent control is 6.29 euros per square metre.

In this case the tenant even saves more per month with the rent control. The amount of the savings can vary from case to case for the rent freeze and the rent control, so the reverse is also possible.

The fact is that your savings potential as a tenant is already legally secure with the rent control. CONNY has been able to advocate fair rents in thousands of cases and will help you too.

You would like to be
on the safe side?
Learn now, how much you can
save monthly with the Rent Control.