• Berlin
  • Ask Hans-Torsten: Primaries and contractually restricted electricity use


Ask Hans-Torsten: Primaries and contractually restricted electricity use

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

Image for Ask Hans-Torsten: Primaries and contractually restricted electricity use

Dear Hans-Torsten:

I’m feeling the Bern! How do I vote in the US primaries from Berlin?


Dear Sandy:

To us Germans, the US electoral system seems hopelessly baroque, outdated and complicated. But you have one cool thing we don’t have: primaries in which regular Joe Schmos get to have a say on which candidate gets to stump for a party in the presidential election come November. If you’re a Republican living in Germany, you’re out of luck, however: GOP elephants living abroad cannot participate in the presidential primaries. Then again, I suspect there are not so many Trump, Cruz or Rubio supporters here in Berlin.

If you’re a Democrat residing here, you can vote in the primaries, but you’ll have to join the Democrats Abroad organisation (free of charge) and vote by email, fax or in person between March 1-8. You can register at www.democratsabroad.org/join or at the Democrats Abroad polling station at ICD Berlin, Genthiner Str. 20, Tiergarten on Sunday, March 6 between 3-8pm – where you can also cast your vote for Hillary or Bernie. Globally, Democrats Abroad will send 21 delegates chosen by a complicated analysis of the ballots cast overseas to represent them at the Democratic Convention in July at which the presidential candidate is officially chosen. More info at www.demsinberlin.de. While you’re at it, you should make sure you’re registered for the November general election. It’s pretty complicated, too, with different deadlines depending on which US state you’re from. All that info can be found at www.votefromabroad.org, so there’s no excuse to miss your cutoff!

Dear Hans-Torsten:

I rent an 18sqm room in Prenzlauer Berg, on an eight-month fixed contract with bills included for €450/month. In a panic to find a place to live, I took the room fairly quickly (I was actually drunk while I signed the contract, which probably isn’t the best way to start…) and it was only afterwards that I found out my landlord has quite a few rules about how we use the electricity. For example, we’re not allowed an oven or a microwave in case it ‘overloads’ the electricity supply. We can only cook on a two-ring hob, and he’s told us to only use one ring at a time (we actually use both, and there have been no outages so far, which makes it all sound suspiciously like a ploy for him to save money). Another ‘rule’, which he actually wrote on the contract, is that we only use the radiators up to level three (of six) – he’s even stuck screws on them so we can’t turn them past that level. The question is: is this allowed? Can you rent out an apartment including utilities, but only allow the tenants to use half of the available heating supply?


Dear Chelsea:

Sounds like your ‘landlord’ isn’t really a landlord, but rather a shady character subletting rooms in his flat to foreigners in need of shelter and making a nice little profit while he’s at it. The ‘rule’ on limiting the heating to level three on the radiators is totally bogus. The law states that accommodation must be adequately heated. So if it’s -10 degrees outside, you should be allowed to turn up the radiator until it’s warm enough. If it’s too cold in your room, take out the screws and turn up the heat! If he tries to charge you more, just ignore it. He’s probably banking on you behaving like an insecure Ausländerin who doesn’t want any trouble, and he’s unlikely to sue you over this – it would never hold up in court. Chances are his subletting operation is illegal anyway. Good luck!

Originally published in issue #147, March 2016.