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April 1998

Little White Lies Answering those questionable rental questionnaires

Your options as a tenant in filling out rental questionnaires.

Finding an apartment or house to rent in Munich is considerably less difficult than it was a few years ago. Once you have located the apartment of your dreams, however, there is still the problem of convincing the landlord (Vermieter/in) that you are their ideal tenant (Mieter/in). Many landlords, or the real estate agent (Makler) or management company (Hausverwaltung) acting on their behalf, screen potential tenants by asking them to fill in a questionnaire (Fragebogen) giving information (Selbstauskunft) about their personal and professional circumstances. Wolfgang Weber of the tenants' organization Mieter helfen Mietern estimates that questionnaires are used in approximately 80 per cent of all rentals that go through agents in Munich. In the case of direct rental from the landlord, the figure is around only 10 per cent, and these questionnaires often contain the most detailed questions. In principle, this practice is allowed (zulässig), but if you refuse to fill in the questionnaire, chances are that you won't be offered the apartment. Questions about race, skin color or nationality, are not permitted. You may be surprised to learn, however, that you can deliberately answer numerous other questions incorrectly - which obviously looks better than giving no answer at all - without any negative consequences for you as a renter. You need answer truthfully (wahrheitsgemäß) only those questions that are of "substantive interest" to the landlord for the renting of their property. These include questions about your current income (Ein-kommen), your marital status (Familienstand) and the number of children you have (Kinderzahl). If you deliberately answer such questions incorrectly, your lease (Mietvertrag) could later be contested, and you could even be sued for damages (Schadensersatz). There is a whole range of questions that prospective tenants are not required to answer truthfully because they are of no direct relevance to the lease. Some of these questions include whether or not: you are pregnant or planning to have (more) children; belong to a tenants' organization (Mieterverein); have a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis); have a criminal record; are currently under investigation for a crime; have legal insurance (Rechtsschutzversicherung); are a member of a political party; have a foreign partner; are a smoker. If your landlord discovers at some later date that you have given false information in reply to these questions, your lease may not be terminated (gekündigt) on those grounds. Likewise, people who have been declared incapable of managing their own affairs cannot lose their apartments because they did not reveal this information. Questions about chronic illnesses, disabilities, hobbies, reasons why you are moving or whether your partner hasan income can also safely be answered falsely. So can questions about previous leases: your new landlord is not permitted to contact your previous landlords without your permission. The credit agency Schufa (Schutzgemeinschaft für Allgemeine Kreditsicherung GmbH) is not entitled to give landlords information about your creditworthiness. On the other hand, landlords are entitled to ask you to request this information yourself; this costs DM 15 from the regional Schufa. Data protection laws forbid landlords from keeping the questionnaires once the apartment has been rented; the document must either be returned to you or destroyed. For further advice and assistance in matters relating to rented accommodation, join one of Munich's tenants' organizations. The three main ones are Mieter helfen Mietern, Weißenburgerstraße 25, tel. 48 0 28 10; Mieterverein München, Sonnenstraße 10, tel. 552 14 30; and the Mieterhilfe Deutschland, Ringeisstraße 8, tel. 543 83 53.

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