How tenant protection associations help tenants and possible alternatives

How tenant protection associations help tenants and possible alternatives
How tenant protection associations help tenants and possible alternatives

Tenant protection associations offer legal advice and help. When membership is worthwhile and what alternatives are there.

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Mold, keeping pets or eviction for personal use – there are things that can cause even the most exemplary tenants to clash with their landlord. If a dispute cannot be resolved, some disputes even end up in court. “Almost a third of all civil cases in court are rental cases,” writes the Berlin Tenants’ Association on its website. The classic cases include disputes over operating costs and housing defects, as well as rent increases and required cosmetic repairs.

It’s good when tenants are not left alone. Anyone who wants to protect themselves in case of an emergency can become a member of one of the approximately 320 tenants’ associations that exist in Germany. These offer their services in over 500 advice centers. The umbrella organization is the German Tenants’ Association, based in Berlin, which, in addition to the Berlin Tenants’ Association, also oversees the other 15 regional associations. The costs of membership vary. “Every association is self-sufficient and has its own rates,” explains Hans Jörg Depel, managing director of the Cologne Tenants’ Association. As a rule, they are between 80 and 100 euros per year for private individuals. There is also often a one-off joining fee of around 20 euros.

Wide range of offers

The services provided by tenant protection associations cover all questions relating to tenancy law. The basic services include checking documents, i.e. rental agreements, utility and heating bills and terminations. The associations also help with rent increases and rental defects.

The most convincing argument of the rental protection associations, however, is the personal legal advice from experienced experts. They are not only constantly learning through their own day-to-day consulting business: “The knowledge is passed on upwards, which means that everyone is becoming increasingly fitter in terms of expertise and topics,” says Depel.

Nevertheless, there are of course restrictions. “What we cannot do is appear in court. In this case, we would hand over to a lawyer who works with us,” explains Depel.

Include rental legal protection

In order to receive support from the tenants’ association in court proceedings, consumers need to choose a tariff that explicitly includes rental legal protection insurance. “It’s a safety net if push comes to shove and legal costs arise,” says Depel. “In tenancy law, the amount in dispute is usually not in the millions, but even smaller amounts can hurt.”

On average, he says, around three percent of all disputes end up in court. It is important to know that while members can immediately take advantage of the rental association’s advisory services, legal protection usually only takes effect after a waiting period of up to three months.

Tenants’ union, online portals and other helpers

Tenant protection associations are not the only ones who have discovered the topic of tenancy law and the associated legal advice as a business model for themselves. In addition to specialist lawyers for tenancy law, the tenants’ union and online platforms such as Mieterengel and Conny are also involved in this area. However, they have different priorities. While the tenants’ union is primarily committed to the general rights and interests of tenants and is looking for new members as supporters, the focus of the online platforms Conny and Mieterengel is on digital advice.

Both services have different priorities. Legal Tech Conny focuses on the rent cap in Berlin. Tenant Angel focuses on ‘Germany-wide tenant protection’. Membership fees range between 50 and 150 euros per year – depending on the rent protection tariff chosen. If Conny is successful, i.e. if the rent cap can be enforced, there is also a one-off commission. In the event of an out-of-court settlement, this amounts to “the savings for 6 months plus VAT”. If the lawsuit is successful in court, “the savings for eight months plus VAT” are due, as it says on the website.

If you prefer digital advice, you should compare the different online platforms and you can do well with that. If a personal conversation is more important to you, you are better off with a tenants’ protection association. Apart from specialist lawyers, these also offer the most comprehensive range of tenancy law advice.

Consumer advice centre as an alternative

If tenants are unsure whether membership in the tenants’ protection association is really worthwhile for them, or if they would like to try out a “light” version of the service, they can find what they are looking for at the NRW consumer advice center, for example. This offers a stripped-down service that is limited to a rough initial consultation on the individual tenancy law problems that exist. This lasts a maximum of 15 minutes, costs 20 euros, and can be done on site or by phone.

Those interested must register in advance for the offer, which is carried out in cooperation with the Tenants’ Association of North Rhine-Westphalia. Consumer advice centers in other federal states also offer advice on tenancy law, for example in Lower Saxony and Bavaria.

Source: Stern

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