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Ask Hans-Torsten: Kurzstrecke and rental agreements

Hans-Torsten Richter answers your questions about surviving and thriving in Berlin, like why you can't call for a Kurzstrecke-cab or how to go from subletter to main renter.

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

Dear Hans-Torsten,

The other night I ordered a cab by phone, asked for a Kurzstrecke – I only needed to travel a couple of kilometres or so – and the cabbie refused. My German’s pretty rubbish, so I didn’t really understand why.

– Juanita

Dear Juanita,

There’s a lot of confusion about this amongst expats and tourists. Berlin’s Kurzstrecke cab fare (€4) is only available to passengers who hail a cab on the street. You have to state that you want a Kurzstrecke before he or she starts driving.

The trip can be no longer than two kilometres 
and there can be no intermediary stops before your final destination. If the trip goes over two kilometres, the meter switches automatically to the regular fare. That’s just the way it is and there’s no point arguing with the already low-earning Berlin cabbies about it.

They might grumble about your Kurzstrecke. If they don’t, consider leaving a small tip.

Dear Hans-Torsten,

I live in central Kreuzberg. I’m subletting from my flatmate and would like to get on to the main rental agreement with her. Any tips?

– Henry

Dear Henry,

If you’re just subletting, you’re not in the strongest position as a tenant, legally speaking. Getting you onto the main contract requires the cooperation of your landlord. How is your flatmate’s relationship with the landlord? Does the rent always get paid on time? Is there any reason they might want to get rid of her? This is crucial, because a new person on the contract basically means a new contract, i.e. grounds to bump up the rent.

And since you live in “central Kreuzberg” – a highly sought-after location right now – you should tread very carefully. All you can do is ask your Hausverwaltung (building management) whether or not it would be possible. Kiss ass, in other words.

If they say yes, try and get it through as quickly as possible. In these times of turbo-gentrification, you never know what your landlord might have up his sleeves in terms of building renovations and rent increases – much easier for him to push through with a fresh contract.

Also important to know: if you get onto the main rental agreement, you’ll be expected to fork over your share of the security deposit. If things end up complicated with the Hausverwaltung or landlord, you have no choice but to seek advice at your local branch of the Berlin Tenants’ association (Mieterverein). Good luck! 

Originally published in issue #123, January 2014.