A decade-old tenant in Mitte is threatened with eviction after exhausting legal remedies. The BVV sees a way out. The district does not.
Protest against the eviction of an apartment at Dubliner Strabe 8 in Berlin-Wedding Photo: picture alliance/Paul Zinken/dpa
It would be too good: apartments from which private owners want to evict their tenants could be seized by the district without further ado in order to ward off homelessness. In fact, there was such a decision in Mitte’s district parliament at the end of November.
It concerned the case of a decade-long tenant in Wedding, who was threatened with eviction at the end of January after exhaustion of legal remedies. But the responsible district councilor, Ephraim Gothe (SPD), does not want to implement the resolution, and the district initiative "Hands off Wedding" is now mobilizing against it.
In fact, the hurdles for such a seizure are extremely high. The Left Party, which had introduced the motion in the district parliament, relies on an expert opinion prepared by the Scientific Service of the Berlin House of Representatives on behalf of the Left Party in February 2019. In it, it is indeed stated that the regulatory authorities are authorized to prevent imminent homelessness through a regulatory seizure of housing.
However, an overall reading of the report as well as relevant court rulings also make it clear that such a seizure is a last resort. First of all, the tenant has to make an effort to find other living space. If he does not succeed, the authorities are responsible. And only if the no other possibility of the accommodation find, for instance in housing for the homeless or pensions, only then a seizing comes into question.
Not a suitable vehicle
The Weddinger Initiative now argues that accommodation in shelters for the homeless, also an instrument of regulatory law, has nothing to do with decent housing. In fact, the annual report of the German Institute for Human Rights, published only a few days ago, put the practice of regulatory housing for the homeless to the test.
The verdict: In view of the housing shortage, the length of stay of those accommodated is sometimes so long that the low standards applied to these accommodations are not compatible with the right to dignified housing. The authors called on the federal government to develop new standards. In Berlin, the social affairs senator wants to improve the conditions of regulatory housing with a city-wide control system before the end of the current legislative period.
But that is basically a different issue, one that places the onus on politicians and administrators to prevent homelessness, not on private homeowners. In any case, a regulatory seizure means at best a short delay for the solution of a permanent problem: It is limited to a very limited period of time, according to literature and case law 2 to 6 months.
Regulatory seizure is the last resort
Those who think that private housing owners:in are inadequate to uphold the constitutionally guaranteed right to decent housing should support efforts to curb private owners’ ability to make a profit or to increasingly place the housing industry in public welfare-oriented hands. In any case, the short-term regulatory confiscation of private residential property does not seem to be a suitable vehicle for this.