Home Is Where The Landlord Is A Pain In Your Butt

, , , , | Legal | June 25, 2020

I get a new job in a city away from home where living is expensive and hard to get. I go home on the weekends, so I rent a furnished room, lucky to have found something in time. 

The landlady wants the rent in cash — a red flag for me — but I figure if she wants to evade taxes, it’s her problem, not mine.

She also says she does not need a written rental agreement but understands that I insist on one. To cancel a rental agreement for a furnished room in Germany, you need to give fourteen days of notice; this goes both for the tenant and the landlord. She insists on two whole months for both sides. Needing this room and knowing that writing this into the contract is actually void because the law says otherwise, I agree to that, as well.

When I finally want to register this room as my second address — as you are required to do in Germany — after putting it off for far too long, this goes down.

I have shortened the conversation a lot.

Me: “I need to register now!”

Landlady: “Oh… We haven’t discussed that, you know?”

I think, “We shouldn’t have to; it’s the legal thing to do!”

Me: “Is that a problem for you?”

Landlady: “Yes, I would have to make a different statement for my taxes.” (Meaning: “I would actually have to pay taxes!”) “Is it a no-go for you to just do it this way?”

I think, “Yes, absolutely; it’s illegal!”

Me: “Well, I need to register in order to be able to get money for commuting.”

Landlady: “I’ve been renting out that room since my kids were small.” (This means at least ten years.) “No one ever registered here before! Because then I can’t just throw them out when there’s trouble.”

I wonder how she can argue this way and still want an illegally long cancellation period. Then, she drops this:

Landlady: “Can’t we just pretend you live here free of charge?”

Me: “Well… I don’t know how to do that. I also have to pay extra taxes that depend on the rent in order to have a second address, so I don’t know how they would do the maths, then.”

Landlady: “But there must be a way to do it when people live with family.”

Me: “I guess… I can look into it.”

Landlady: “Then we do that. And I need you to give me back the rental agreement and I would trust you not to take a picture of it.”

I immediately think, “I am SO going to take a picture of that agreement!”

I am absolutely not happy about this idea but I am scared both of conflicts and of losing my place to stay. I also tend to be easily persuaded as long as the person is still in front of me, so for a split-second, I actually consider this. Begrudgingly, I agree to look into it. 

Following this conversation, we make some small-talk and I mention how officials make me nervous, especially because when I applied for job seekers’ allowance, they told me I had to tell them about every last cent or I would face serious consequences, blah blah.

She answers with this gem:

Landlady: “But I think it’s very good they scare you in that way! Way too many people take advantage of the system!”

Lady… you just told me you’ve been evading taxes for over ten years!

I started looking for a new flat, especially after one other incident where — after telling me I wouldn’t need to tell her when I was there and when not — she told me how annoying it was that I was home during her holiday.

I found a shared flat that I moved into yesterday! And thanks to home office times during the health crisis, I never had to go back to that room in the meantime except for picking up my stuff. And, of course, I kept the rental agreement safe and sound. I was so glad to get out of there.

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