Discover more from 20 Percent Berlin
#141: Tiger babies, growing economy, troubled cops
Plus a reader wrestling with their landlord - fix the heat please
Hello 20 Percent!
Occasionally I think about making my third attempt at getting dual citizenship. If the federal government is signalling that it will soon make it possible for people like me, maybe local authorities are already approving applications.
My hopes were quickly dashed. The Pankow naturalization office has an unusually forthright and detailed note on it page that says not only is the office closed to anything but pre-scheduled business this month, but that the wait is now more than two years(!).
The Morgenpost said it’s not just like that in Pankow. Spandau, Marzahn-Hellersdorf and Reinickendorf are also out of appointments for this year. Why? Because everyone is preparing for the centralization of naturalizations from individual boroughs to the Ausländerbehörde. Mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) hatched the plan earlier this year to boost annual naturalizatios to 20k per year from about 8.5k right now.
Yes, the bureaucracy created to simplify the bureaucracy is too bureaucratic. If you read Dante in German, you’ll discover there’s an extra — ninth — ring of hell, and it’s only in Germany.
I’ll just wait a little longer.
Below we’ve got a letter from a reader about his lack of heating with some advice from Maurice and if you’re looking for a career in coding, our sponsor today can help.
Have a good weekend!
Cops roar into Remmo crime family’s lair
About 90 police officers stormed the villa of the Neukölln Remmo crime family Tuesday, after Firas Remmo posted video and photos of himself with a baby tiger on Instagram, RBB24 reported. Officials were concerned the family was involved in illegal animal trade and that the tiger could become a danger to the public if it got loose, Tagesspiegel reported. But the tiger was only on-hand briefly for a photo shoot as part of a wedding at the mansion — it had been rented from Circus Berolina in nearby Schönefeld. But the fuzz’s action wasn’t all for naught — they reportedly later impounded a wanted Porsche at a subsequent wedding reception in Nobelstraße. Circus Berolina told RBB it will no longer be renting out its animals for photo shoots, though it even once loaned a bear to former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit (SPD).
Berlin economy growing despite … everything
Berlin’s economic output likely rose 2.5% last year, well-above the German average of 1.7%, as tourism, an increasing number of bureaucratic jobs and subsidies kept the cash flowing, the Morgenpost reported, citing Berlin business minister Stephan Schwarz (no party affiliation). The city-state was also the only of 16 German states to book a decline in unemployment from November to December (4,241 unemployed people got jobs, or 0.1% fewer). Germany’s capital is also no longer one of the country’s poorest states — the average per capita gross domestic product (the value of what we each produce) was €44,472 last year, No. 7 in Germany behind Hamburg, Bremen and Bavaria but ahead of North-Rhine Westphalia, the country’s most populous state and home to Cologne, Düsseldorf and half a dozen unsuccessful pro football teams.
Speaking of last year
Berlin cops last year launched 101 investigations into worrisome speech by officers, 53 of which could lead to legal consequences, Berlin police chief Barbara Slowik told newsire dpa. Think insulting someone, muttering something racist or participating in a racist online discussion. Some of the events happened before 2022 though the Polizei in December said it had discovered a 62-member racist police chat group. Slowik said the investigations don’t mean there’s that many far-right police officers or that everyone involved in the groups are racists — they were just passive members. For context: Berin has just under 27,000 police officers.
A strike by food wholesalers on this day in 100 years ago was the symbolic start of hyperinflation in Germany that led to … well we all know what it led to, according to RBB24. The wholesalers were protesting the city increasing stand rents at Alex to 29,800 marks from just 67 marks per month on Jan. 1, 1923. Although Berlin and the wholesalers reached an agreement and food again began flowing Jan. 9, prices jumped 50% per month from there on and then hyperinflation kicked in that summer.
Longish read: Another landlord from hell?
20% Berlin reader Milan Javanovic reached out a couple of days ago: His building at Wiener Straße 51 in Kreuzberg hasn’t had heating since Christmas. To make things worse, his wife is expecting to give birth any day now. As someone with kids, I absolutely sympathise with them – this must be causing so much unnecessary anxiety.
Unfortunately, the situation isn’t unheard-of in Berlin. In December an entire building in Spandau was without heating and hot water for two weeks.
Naturally, Milan and other residents have contacted the Hausverwaltung — the property management — several times by email, to little avail. On the advice of the Berliner Mieterverein, the non-profit tenants’ association, residents have threatened a Mietminderung or rent reduction.
Based on my own experience, the landlord doesn’t actually have to agree to a Mietminderung, before you can pay less rent. Tenants can just reduce what they pay over the affected period of time – but it should be in line with German legal precedents. Immowelt has a handy table on how much of a rent reduction one can get away with: 70% less in the case of non-functioning heating between October and April. Remember, your Mietminderung should be calculated proportionally and precisely, meaning you can only pay less rent for the actual days the heating is broken.
This should motivate the landlord to get the thing fixed quickly. Milan’s Hausverwaltung, von Rüden Immobilien, don’t seem especially bothered by problems affecting renter health and well-being – sadly an all-too-common phenomenon in Berlin (like the one we wrote about that erected a giant ad banner overnight, darkening every flat in a building on Sonnenallee in Neukölln).
Milan has already been through this hellish scenario: Last February the building was without heat for three weeks.
“What's different this time, for me and my wife personally,” Milan says, “is that in two weeks at the latest we'll become parents.”
Milan finally received an email response from von Rüden. The company requires the authorisation of the Wohnungseigentümergemeinschaft, the body representing the owners of the individual flats in the building, in order to hire a company to carry out the repair. Previously, their excuse had been a “missing part”. Seems like a typical Berlin combination of being lax with the truth, incompetence and actual bureaucratic bottlenecks is to blame for this disgraceful state of things.
We contacted von Rüden for comment, but at the time of publication they hadn’t responded.
I say: If this problem isn’t solved rapidly, up your game: stage a renters’ protest outside the building, go to the German media.
Good luck, Milan. Keep us posted!
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