If you suspect that you are paying too much rent and want to prove it, you need some information from the landlord – for example about the year the house was built or how old it is. But what happens if the right to access information is legally restricted before a potential overpayment claim is made?
The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) is dealing with this question today. In particular, there are about four simultaneously discussed cases of Berlin tenants, which the legal service provider Conny GmbH (formerly Wenigermiete.de) is prosecuting. He claims a violation of the rental price brake.
Too much tax from the point of view of the plaintiffs
The landlords had refused to pay the rent which the plaintiffs felt was too high to pay. At the same time, however, they also refused to give specific information about the apartments. But it is important to assess whether the agreed rent is too high.
The landlords referred to the fact that they no longer had to provide any information after three years had passed because of the statute of limitations. “It cannot be that this right of access to information is freely withheld before the payment claims are proven or that they are withheld,” said attorney Christina Heber, who represented the Conny plaintiffs in the lower courts.
In three cases, the planners were already right. The competent chambers of the Berlin Regional Court held that the landlord was not protected from claims for compensation by statute of limitations. After all, information is a prerequisite for enforcing claims. The statute of limitations does not contribute to legal peace.
judgment of great consequence
According to Heber, the four cases are about overpaid rent for 6 to 48 months and an additional payment amount of 155 to 300 euros per month. In addition, the lower rent can be applied to the tenants involved in the future – two of them still live in the apartment in question.
Whether there is already a decision today is unclear – but from the perspective of attorney Heber, it could be very important. “If we are right, it will certainly be a judgment that will have great consequences, not only for Berlin, but for the entire republic,” he explained. Tenants with old leases can also refer to this.
Since June 2015, state governments have been able to designate “areas with a small housing market”. The Berlin apartments in four BGH cases are also in highly sought-after locations. There, for example, landlords can add a maximum of ten percent to the local benchmark rent when new tenants move in. But there are exceptions: For example, for new or modern apartments or if the previous tenant has already paid more.