renters versus landlords

Landlord vs Tenants



double art scene grow/grew/grown (2)
cash case (2) come up with
decade property real estate
luxury income drive up (2)
owner pleased square (3)
worry based on put up (2)
terrace force out take place
conflict undergo pay/paid/paid
rent share (3) gentrification
occupy court (2) necessary
triple complain renovation
evict provide war of nerves
law toss (2) serious (2)
lease party (3) simmer (2)
conflict issue (3) come to a boil
boil self-help demonstration
value steadily opponent
protect model (3) misgivings
empty method deposit (2)
livable renovate frightened
recent reassure assumption
trust mistrust come up with
due landlord unconventional
raid collective guaranteed
nerves purchase foundation (2)
fund soar (2) substantial
loan resident accustomed
viable survey (2) courtyard






Berlin is a city that’s growing. Construction is taking place all over town. Each year, fifty-thousand (50,000) people move to the German capital.

Anyone who wants to buy property has to come up with some serious cash: real estate prices have doubled in a decade. The increasing number of luxury apartments in the city center is one thing driving up prices.

This terrace is part of a ninety square meter (90 m2) apartment that was sold for seven-hundred-thousand euros (€700,000). The new owner is pleased about his purchase — but a bit worried too.

Klaus Saverin, Bought an apartment in Berlin: “I have some misgivings. I’m worried that the city will get less interesting, that the arts and creative scene will be forced out by rising rental prices.

That means low-income people won’t be able to pay anymore. I’m afraid that Berlin is developing into an expensive city that won’t be so interesting anymore.”

Older buildings undergoing gentrification are at the center of the conflict. Most renters have been forced out of this building; only one shared apartment is still occupied.

The renters went to court, complaining the renovation was more costly than necessary and would have tripled their rent. The owner tried to get them evicted. It’s been a war of nerves.

The case is still in court.

Maike Ahlers, Berlin Renters Party: “This is a city of renters — they’re protected by law, so no one can just come here and buy something and force me out using these methods.”

The issue is not just simmering: the conflict between landlords and renters is coming to a boil: there have been evictions, police raids, demonstrations.

And Berliners are asking: “Who does the city belong to?”

A small part belongs to this man, Jacob Mahren. He’s a Berliner who got into the real estate business fifteen years ago with just one apartment. Now he owns two-thousand units which are steadily increasing in value.

He explains that for him, renters are not his opponents, but his partners.

Jacob Mahren, Real Estate Investor: “Our business model is not based on tossing out the renters and then selling the apartment; it’s just the opposite: without the renters, we wouldn’t have a business to operate.

In general, we do something for the renters: we try to make the entire property more livable.

And when a place is empty because people cancel their leases and move out, then we usually renovate and rent it out again.”

Journalist: “So it will be more expensive?”

Jacob Mahren, Real Estate Investor: “Usually if we invest money, it gets more expensive, yes.”

Rental prices in Berlin have soared over fifty percent (50%) in the last five years.

Can this continue?

Jacob Mahren, Real Estate Investor: “Renters are frightened that things will continue to develop the way they have in recent years. I think I can reassure them that it’s my personal assumption that Berlin real estate prices will continue to increase, sale prices as well as rents.

But just not as quickly as they have in recent years.”

Even so Berlin renters mistrust landlords: this building was due to be sold; no one told the renters who the buyer might be.

They were afraid they’d lose their homes.

So they came up with an unconventional solution — buy it themselves.

Julia Groth, Renter: “The idea is that this building belongs to us as a collective. And we’ll continue to pay rent.

But the rent will be a guaranteed low amount — the goal is to be able to stay.”

The idea came from a self-help group called Mietshauser Syndikat. It also helped them raise more than two million euros (€2 million)

Bernot Hummel, Mietshauser Syndikat: “We have good contacts to banks and foundations that can provide financing. A building needs up to eighty percent (80%). Most of that comes from banks.”

Even so, in a real estate deal, the buyer still has to put up some capital; the renters have to come up with substantial funding in order to become owners.

They had to put up a deposit of about four-hundred thousand euros, and that €400,000 came from many small loans. It’s the sum total of loans of one thousand (1,000) to five thousand (5,000), made by the people themselves and their friends.”

Once the house belonged to them, the residents were faced with an unaccustomed issue: in order to make the project viable, they had to raise their own rent.

How did that work?

Julia Groth, Renter: “Here’s how it worked: we met up in the courtyard. We had a drink. Barbeque together, and we talked about it.

We did a survey to find out how much each of us could pay. After we got answers from that, we discussed it some more.

That’s what we do: we talk about things.”

All of Berlin is having this discussion. How high should rents be? And who does the city actually belong to?


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1. Is the population of Berlin increasing, decreasing or remaining the same?

2. The type of property and their prices has not changed. Is this true or false?

3. Is Berlin become more cultural, artistic and colorful?

4. Renters are leaving because they don’t like the inner city of Berlin and prefer living in the suburbs. Is this right or wrong? Has this taken place smoothly?

5. Is Jacob Mahren a “successful” individual? What is his business? What has he done? What does he say about renters? What is his business model?

6. Do renters like and trust landlords? What did one group of renters do?

7. What was their strategy? What were some tactics that they used?


A. Are rents and housing cheap, medium-priced or expensive in your city?

B. Have things changed over the decades?

C. Is there an arts and culture scene? Is there a district where artists, musicians and writers live and work?

D. What might happen in the future?

E. What do people think about this? Is opinion unanimous or divided?

F. What can or should people do?

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