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Berlin and Hamburg Will Force Landlords to Disclose Previous Rents

It’s just the latest in a string of experiments aimed at keeping skyrocketing rents in check.
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Oh-Berlin.com/Flickr

Berlin’s rental laws may be among Europe’s tightest, but along with those in some other German cities, they’re about to get tighter still. According to a joint announcement this week from Berlin, Hamburg and North-Rhine Westphalia (Germany’s largest urban area), city authorities in all three locales will soon introduce a new requirement for landlords to disclose to prospective tenants exactly how much their chosen apartment was previously rented for.

To understand why the change is necessary, you need to go back to the introduction of the so-called “Rent Price Brake” in Berlin last summer. Since June 1, rents in the city have been regulated by neighborhood and quality. An oversight body called a rental observatory now separates apartments into different categories and locations, and fixes an average rent per square meter for each group. A rise of more than 10 percent above this rate for any new contract was also banned. Voted through with substantial popular support (in a city where most people rent), the new law seemed at first to be working. As Berlin moved beyond the immediate aftermath of the law’s introduction, however, rents continued to rise as before. So far, the law has met one major problem: some renters have reported landlords who were breaking the rules.