Living in berlin: misappropriation depending on the district

The districts of Mitte and Treptow-Kopenick want to strictly implement the ban on vacation homes. Pankow and Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg are somewhat more relaxed.

Illegal vacation rental or permitted private rental? Depends on the district! Image: dpa

During their own vacation trip, a family rents out their apartment to tourists spending a few days in Berlin. This model of apartment sharing, organized by means of the Internet exchange Airbnb and similar sites, can hardly take place in some districts. Among others, Mitte and Kopenick are trying to prevent such rentals. But the application of the law against misappropriation of housing varies widely: Pankow and Kreuzberg are much more lenient.

Zweckentfremdung

"Letting more than once as a vacation home is misappropriation," the Mitte district states bluntly. If a few Spaniards or Frenchmen stay with Berliners for several nights and pay several hundred euros for it, this is only okay the first time, but not the second time. Then the main tenant or owner of the apartment must register the rental to tourists with the district and have it approved.

What is the decision of the district office Mitte? "A permit is the exception, since the ordinance was issued precisely for the purpose of protecting housing." Kopenick handles applications similarly: "As a rule, it can be assumed that no permit can be issued." The corresponding law banning misappropriation has been in effect since May of this year. The House of Representatives and the Senate want to use it to prevent further rental and owner-occupied apartments from being converted into vacation homes.

Allegedly, around 12,000 apartments are now already being used to generate additional income. Prices between euros per night are quite common. It may seem lucrative to some locals to rent out apartments in their entirety to constantly changing visitors to Berlin. The Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain district, on the other hand, is not as strict as Mitte and Kopenick. Renting to tourists should only remain within manageable limits and should not serve predominantly commercial interests, says Sascha Langenbach, spokesman for the district office. "In such cases, registration is also not necessary."

Tenants and owners of condominiums in this district could therefore still rent out their place to changing Berlin travelers for several weeks a year. This line seems plausible because the use of private apartments does not change when sporadic tourists live there.

And how does the district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg draw the line? Private apartments may not be used primarily for commercial purposes, it says. This is the case, for example, if the rental lasts longer than half a year or if the income from renting to tourists is three or four times the normal rent.

Control difficult

Pankow sets the limit differently: there, a two-week rental to tourists is tolerated once a year. The district office of Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain is also so generous because the temporary transfer is difficult to control and therefore impossible to stop.

However, control is likely to be a problem for other districts as well: According to the Zweckentfremdungsgesetz, the offices are not allowed to search the Internet to discover vacation rentals. Airbnb is therefore beyond their reach. The tough handling in districts such as Mitte and Kopenick applies to all apartments where the rental to tourists has not been reported to the district by the end of July 2014. If the owners have registered before then, they can take advantage of a two-year transition period.