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Angry Berlin renters protest court ruling

April 16, 2021

A decision by Germany's constitutional court has sparked fears among renters that they could now be hit with sudden rent increases.

Police and protesters scuffle in Berlin. April 15, 2021.
Scuffles broke out between police and protesters following the end of the official marchImage: Christoph Soeder/dpa/picture alliance

Several thousand people turned out in Germany's capital Berlin to demonstrate against the lifting of the city's rent cap on Thursday.

Germany's constitutional court in Karlsruhe earlier ruled that the Berlin state government had no right to impose the cap.

Coming into effect in February 2020, it saw rents for 90% of Berlin's apartments frozen for five years at their June 2019 level.

Renters are concerned that they now could be hit by sudden rent hikes.

A crowd of people stand in the street in Berlin with signs against the court ruling
Police estimated the crowd of protesters to have reached 'four figures'Image: Christoph Soeder/dpa/picture alliance

Even the UN is 'quite concerned'

In an Interview with DW, Balakrishnan Rajagopal, UN's special rapporteur on the right to housing, warnend of the impact the court's decision could have.

"My main concern is that this particular ruling could affect the ability of the Berlin government, as well as the federal government, to ensure that housing remains affordable."

He added, that there is "general interest" in "the influence that Germany's record will have on other countries that are also facing similar crises of affordability in other large global cities like Berlin around the world, how it will affect their ability to control the problem of affordability."

Protesters demand an end to 'rent madness'

Yesterday demonstrators first gathered at Hermannplatz in Neukoelln then marched to Kottbusser Tor in Kreuzberg, in the east of the city.

Many brought saucepan lids and drummed on them, a play on the German word "Deckel" (also the lid of a cooking pan or the cap of a bottle) used to describe the rent cap. Some shouted, "If you take one lid from us, we'll come back with thousands."

A woman within a crowd bangs a saucepan lid and holds a placard saying 'we only want affordable apartments' during the protest.
'We only want affordable apartments' this placard readsImage: Christoph Soeder/dpa/picture alliance

Demonstrators demanded politicians clamp down on what they described as "rent madness."

Police put the number of participants in the rally organized by the Berlin Tenants' Association in the "mid-four-digit range."

Most protesters wore medical masks in compliance with coronavirus regulations.

Clashes with police

There were reports of scuffles between police and some protesters — part of a group of around 400 people who remained after the official end of the march.

Police stand watch near the demonstration at the Kottbusser Tor in Berlin.
Police reported isolated incidences of violence as they tried to disperse the protestsImage: Christoph Soeder/dpa/picture alliance

Some carried out isolated offenses against the police, a police spokesperson said.

The German newspaper Tagesspiegel reported that some protesters threw bottles and police made arrests.

Berlin's police said it would provide further information about events on Friday.

kmm/msh (dpa, AP)