After a modernization, the rent increases. The housing groups Vonovia, LEG and Vivawest have now issued guidelines on how they want to deal with hardship cases. Moving should only be the last resort.
Dhe housing companies Vonovia, LEG and Vivawest, together with the German Tenants’ Association, have developed guidelines for managing hardship cases after modernization. Tenants who can no longer afford the increased rent after modernization are considered hardship cases. The French housing group Covivio and the GWG group from Baden-Württemberg have also joined the guideline.
Disputes between tenants and landlords occur again and again, but especially when there are no uniform standards or specifications for the necessary documents from tenants. Increasing the rent from perhaps 6 euros by 1 euros per square meter after modernization is often a challenge, especially for people with low incomes. On the other hand, the process of resolving a hardship case via courts is time-consuming and takes a long time. At the same time, the housing groups have to increase their modernization speed in order to achieve their climate targets, which often fails due to resistance from tenants.
In the jointly agreed paper, the factors of income and apartment size are now taken into account, as well as personal framework conditions such as health or family problems or roots in the neighborhood.
The remaining income after payment of the rent and the operating costs as well as the health and long-term care insurance costs is measured either on the Hartz IV rates or on the recommendations for the income limit of the German Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband, which amount to 644 euros per month for single parents. “We don’t want to modernize a tenant out of the apartment,” says Volker Wiegel, who is responsible for the operative business on the LEG Board of Management.
“A lot of people fell by the wayside”
In the guideline, the companies commit themselves not only to legal deadlines, but also to customer needs. The tenants must therefore submit their last three proof of income or pension, the costs for health insurance and long-term care insurance and the last tax assessment. If possible, the test should take place before the start of construction. “We don’t want tenants to lose their homes or worry. This means that we make decisions very quickly, ”says Elke Fischer, Head of Apartment Management at Vonovia. After that, the rent can either be reduced or staggered, and the companies also want to advise on further social benefits. Moving to another apartment should only be the last resort, and according to the guidelines, the housing companies want to provide support.
Bernhard von Grünberg of the German Tenants’ Association describes the guide as a “really good thing”. “As a long-standing tenant representative, I know that hardly any other topic is so conflictual between tenants and landlords,” says von Grünberg. Now there are comprehensible and fair criteria. In consultations it is otherwise repeatedly shown that tenants are more likely to move out or pay the higher rent than to deal with the conflict with the landlord. “A lot of people fell by the wayside, so this is now a step in the right direction,” says von Grünberg.
At Vivawest, the majority of which is owned by the RAG-Stiftung, there were 100 cases of hardship in around 8,000 modernizations last year, 70 of which were due to financial difficulties. The North Rhine-Westphalian competitor LEG also reports about 100 cases a year. The largest German housing group Vonovia has a four-person team for such hardship cases at its headquarters. In the case of 21,000 modernizations in the past year, first appeals were lodged in 2.2 percent of the cases. Even if so far there have been few cases that end up in court, the housing groups see their voluntary guidelines as an important means of communication for the coming years if the modernization rate is to be increased significantly from the current slightly more than 1 percent of the stock per year. “We are convinced that this will also increase the overall social acceptance of modernizations, which we urgently need, not least to achieve the climate targets,” says LEG board member Wiegel.