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Ask Hans-Torsten: Housing regulations and insurance

Hans-Torsten Richter answers your questions about surviving and thriving in Berlin. Write to [email protected].

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Dear Hans-Torsten:

I just moved into a new flat in Neukölln and was baffled to find out that there was no kitchen whatsoever – not even a sink! Someone told me that landlords are legally obligated to provide you with a stove and sink when you move in. Is that true?

– Jane

Dear Jane:

In Berlin there is a widely held notion that your landlord is legally required to provide a stove and a kitchen sink. And up until not so long ago, virtually every flat did include at least a very basic electric or gas cooker and cheap sink. It was based on a paragraph in Berlin’s Wohnungsaufsichtsgesetz (housing regulation) which states that every rental flat must have adequate “cooking and heating possibilities as well as water provision and drainage” (Koch- und Heizungsmöglichkeitsowie Wasserversorgung und Ausguss). The law is gloriously vague: as of late, landlords and their lawyers have interpreted this as meaning that even a simple camping stove or electric hotplate fulfils the cooking requirements, while one can fetch water from the bathroom washbasin and dispose of it in the toilet. In practical terms, fewer and fewer flats come with a kitchen sink and stove – and few renters insist upon a camping stove. With tighter regulations on rent increases coming this year, expect landlords to justify higher prices by providing “modern” kitchen fittings and equipment. Right now, because of growing demand, it’s a landlord’s market– and the more unscrupulous among them will do anything to justify higher rents (often totally legally).

Dear Hans-Torsten:

My new rental contract requires me to get private Haftpflichtversicherung (personal liability insurance). Do I really have to get it? What about Hausratversicherung (household insurance)?

– Samuel

Dear Samuel:

They don’t call me the most German of the Germans at the Exberliner office for nothing: err on the side of caution and get both! Not tomorrow. Today! If nothing else, Haftpflichtversicherung (practice saying that every day!) is a must for cyclists, i.e. everyone in Berlin. If you hit a pedestrian (and it’s your fault) and the victim is severely injured, bedridden for months, can’t work etc., it could cost you tens of thousands in damages and lead to your financial ruin. Even for less spectacular mishaps – if you burn a hole in a friend’s sofa with a cigarette or smash a vase by accident at a party. A must if you have children. A decent Haftpflichtversicherung will set you back roughly €40-100 per year. The slightly more expensive ones cover the loss of keys and all the associated costs (not bad to have if your flat has those high-tech keys where the locks have to get changed if you lose them).Regarding Hausratversicherung: a fire in your flat caused by a short-circuited dishwasher left to run while no one is home (true story!) could destroy your flat and possessions. A leaky washing machine hose could cause water damage to the flat below. Hausratversicherung insures you against burst pipes, burglary and, for a little extra money, bike theft. This insurance will cost you about €70-100 per year. Get it!

Originally published in issue #137, May 2015.