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Rents in German cities have fallen slightly except in the capital Berlin where they continue to rise, a study released on Wednesday showed. But is rent in Germany too expensive and what can be done to stop it rising? Have your say.
The continuous year-on-year rise in rents may have begun to level off, the Welt newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Rents fell over the period from July to September, not only in cities with shrinking populations, but also in Germany's main cities, according to the IMX housing index study by estate agency portal Immobilienscout24.

“In Munich, Hamburg, Cologne and Frankfurt am Main rents fell by up to 1.8 percent,” Michael Kiefer, head analyst at Immobilienscout24 told the Welt. In the capital, however, rents rose over the same period by 1.42 percent.

It marks the end of years of rent rises for tenants. In 2012, prices jumped in Munich by 6.25 percent, in Hamburg by 5.29 percent and in Stuttgart 4.17 percent.

Berlin – where for a long time after reunification tenants enjoyed disproportionately cheap rent - outstripped all other cities, with a rise of 7.62 percent. Overall, average rent in Berlin has shot up by 35.6 percent since the annual index was launched in March 2007.


“The very high rents demanded no longer correspond to the living conditions of many people,” said Kiefer.

Rising rents have prompted many families to vote with their feet and opt for larger, cheaper properties on the outskirts of cities. But some argue that there is no need for politicians to intervene in the housing market to keep rents affordable – it will regulate itself if left alone.

Have you been affected by exploding rents over the past years? Do you think politicians should intervene in places like Berlin where rents continue to rise? Or should the state leave well alone and let the capital catch up with the rest of the country? Leave your comments below.

The Local/jlb

A German court on Wednesday ordered a pensioner to share his €500,000 lottery winnings with his ex-wife despite splitting up with her eight years before hitting the jackpot.
The ruling from Germany’s Supreme Court in Karlsruhe on Wednesday afternoon follows years of legal wrangling between the estranged couple, who had been living apart for eight years but were not yet divorced when the man won the lottery in November 2008. He filed for divorce two months later.

The case was brought to the Supreme Court after a lower court of appeals in Düsseldorf upheld the man’s claim to the entire sum of money, describing the woman’s demands as “grossly unreasonable.”

But the Supreme Court did not consider the length of time the couple had been living apart as sufficient grounds for the man to keep the full value of the prize and ordered him to hand over €242,500 to his ex-wife.

"The law is clear, the cut-off date regulation applies," said the woman's lawyer, Peter Wassermann, who successfully argued in favour of treating the dispute as a standard division of marital assets rather than as a special case.

Supreme Court judge Frank Klinkhammer decided that the man’s lottery win should be included in the calculation of his assets and, unlike cash gifts, inheritance and compensation payments, could not be treated as an exception. The man has also been ordered to pay both sides’ legal fees.


DPA/The Local/kkf

A German bishop is spending €31 million on a luxury complex, including €380,000 on furniture for his new home. The project costs ten times more than the original estimate, it was revealed on Monday.

The spending on the diocesan centre and Episcopal residence by Bishop of Limburg, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, has been criticized by his own financial council, who claim they were not told about the outgoings.

In June, Der Spiegel news magazine reported the costs of the residence in the west German town had soared to €15m and described the project as a “monstrous luxury complex.”

The bill was originally estimated at €3m, newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on Tuesday, but on Monday the diocese financial council revealed it would cost €31 million.

Building his private home alone will cost €3m and the furnishings €380,000. His lavish spending has come at the same time as a cost-cutting programme across the diocese sees churches merge.

The three members of the council said the Catholic Bishop had not been open with them. They said: “Our members on the financial council did not know about the costs until the end. He refused to go into details.” They guessed that what had been spent by the bishop so far was not in the diocese budget for 2012 and 2013 and not accounted for in other projects.

The 53-year-old has long been criticized for his spending. Earlier this year priests and Catholics in his diocese accused him of personal extravagance and a lack of accountability. But he was cleared of any wrongdoing by the Vatican.

thelocal.de

Chancellor Angela Merkel clinched a surprise absolute majority in her winning bid for a third term in German elections on Sunday, estimates on public television indicated.


Voters turned out in droves to reward Merkel, often called the world's most powerful woman, with another four years at the helm for steering them unscathed through the debt turmoil that engulfed the eurozone's southern flank.

But in one of the tightest races in German history, they punished her pro-business partner, the Free Democrats (FDP), kicking them out of parliament for the first time since 1949, according to preliminary results on two public television networks.

Merkel's stunning 42.5 percent score - the conservatives' highest result since national reunification in 1990 - means that she may become the only chancellor to govern without a junior partner since Germany's first post-war leader, Konrad Adenauer.

"Together we will do everything in the next four years to again make them successful years for Germany," Merkel told cheering members of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Berlin.

"The party leadership will discuss everything when we have a final result but we can already celebrate tonight," a beaming Merkel told supporters, including her chemist husband Joachim Sauer, a music fan who so rarely appears in public he is nicknamed "The Phantom of the Opera".

An upstart anti-euro party, AfD, appeared to fall just short of the five-percent hurdle to representation with their bid to tap into anger over German contributions to bailout packages for stricken eurozone partners.

Exit polls had initially pointed to an awkward left-right "grand coalition" between Merkel's Christian Democrats and their traditional opponents, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), which scored around 26 percent.

Merkel led a fractious grand coalition during her first term in 2005-2009, with the SPD's chancellor candidate this time around, Peer Steinbrück, as her finance minister.

Political scientist Nils Diederich said Merkel had a tendency to bleed her coalition partners dry.

"You can compare Ms Merkel to a spider that feeds on the flies it captures," he told AFP. "That is what she did to the Social Democrats in 2009 and that is what she is doing now with the FDP."

A physicist by training, Merkel is only the third person to win a third term in Germany after Adenauer and Helmut Kohl, the father of German unity.

If she serves at least until 2017, she will become Europe's longest serving female leader, besting Margaret Thatcher who was Britain's prime minister for 11 years.

While Merkel became Germany's most popular post-war chancellor, the eurozone crisis laid waste to the careers of leaders in hard-hit countries such as Ireland, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain and France.

A landslide for Merkel's eurozone strategy

In contrast to Merkel's austerity-driven response to the eurozone crisis, the SPD called for a bit more generosity and patience with nations as they pay back their debts.

But voters handed Merkel a landslide, fully endorsing her strategy of demanding biting reforms in exchange for funding bailouts.

The near success of the AfD, which advocates ditching the single currency mand an "orderly dissolution" of the 17-member eurozone, sent a jolt through German politics, where a eurosceptic party has never gained a foothold.

In a last-minute appeal for votes at a Berlin rally Saturday, Merkel had urged voters not to succumb to the AfD's siren call. "The stabilization of the euro is not just a good thing for Europe but it is also in Germany's fundamental interest," she said.

Nearly 62 million people were called to the polls after a campaign many voters complained was largely superficial and personality-based.

Economic growth is steady, unemployment at below seven percent – its lowest level in two decades -- and the political culture is dominated by a long post-war tradition of consensus rather than red-blooded jousting.

That left few issues to separate the main candidates. "I think we have a good standard of living in Europe, and for me, this must
remain stable. So, to me, voting for the extremes, on the left or the right, isn't an answer," Sister Elisabeth Bauer, a nun, told AFP as she cast her vote in Berlin.

The ecologist Green Party, the SPD's preferred coalition partner, scored around a disappointing eight percent in Sunday's poll.

And the far-left Die Linke, which has roots in former East Germany's ruling communist party, also tallied about eight percent but the SPD has repeatedly ruled out forming a coalition with it at the national level.

The brash, gaffe-prone Steinbrück stumbled again in the home-stretch of the campaign with a front-page magazine photo of him making a surly middle-finger reply to a question on his limping candidacy.

He had zeroed in on a growing low-wage sector, but it was not enough to dislodge Merkel from the top job.

"The SPD did not lead a campaign devoid of content," Steinbrück said late Sunday in a jab aimed at Merkel. "But we did not achieve the result we wanted."

thelocal

A Berlin teacher was burnt to death on Sunday in a block of flats, allegedly by her boyfriend. Neighbours witnessed the woman running through the apartment covered in two-metre high flames before she died in the stairwell.
The woman, named in media reports as Ulla N., is thought to have been set on fire by her boyfriend of eight years in their home in the West Berlin district of Charlottenburg at 2am on Sunday morning after an argument escalated, the BZ newspaper reported.

The woman's downstairs neighbour, 65-year-old Dusko Momic, told the newspaper how he heard loud screaming from the flat above, where Ulla N. lived. “I went into the corridor to see what was going on,” he said.

It was there that he saw the 45-year-old. “Her whole body was burning like a torch,” she said. “The flames were two metres above her body.”

Momic tried to cover the burning woman in a blanket to extinguish the flames. But it was too late. “She was already completely black. It was horrible,” the man said. She died in the stairwell.

Another neighbour rang the fire brigade as the woman's flat was also on fire and poisonous smoke had begun to fill the building. The building was evacuated and firefighters spent an hour putting out the blaze.

At around 5am, Ulla N.'s partner rang the police, telling them: “I've killed my girlfriend”. It appears, the BZ said, that the Cuban-born 51-year-old and Ulla N. were arguing before he covered her in lighter fluid and set her alight.

The IT-specialist managed to slip out of the building, unnoticed by neighbours. Police arrested him immediately after the phone call and on Monday he was still in custody.
thelocal.de

Germany has made a historic amendment to the social security law in favor of its migrant workers.

About two years ago, Ghanaians in German petitioned the Government of Ghana to enter into a bilateral agreement on old age pension with the German Government. The Union of Ghanaian Associations in Germany – UGAG, who submitted the petition on behalf of all Ghanaian Unions and Institutions in Germany, has since been mounting fervent pressure to ensure that the petition meets the approval of both governments and enable every Ghanaian the right to claim full pension entitlements and the payment of pensions upon their return to Ghana when on pension.

As at now, Ghanaians who retire and wishes to return to Ghana or chooses to live in any non-EU State is paid only 70% of the pension which is due to him/her.

A Ghanaian who is supposed to receive 500.00€ as monthly pension in Germany will only get the 500.00€ when he/she continues to live in Germany. If the beneficiary decides to relocate to Ghana or any other nation, which is not a member of the European Union receives 350.00€ - thus 70% - and not the full 500.00€. Alternatively, if he/she chooses to claim his/her pension in bulk instead of monthly remittances, he/she is paid 70% of his total contributions made. This is just because Ghana does not have a bilateral agreement on social security with Germany.

The good news is that Germany has made a historic amendment to the social security law in favor of migrant workers whose countries of origin have no bilateral agreement on pension scheme with Germany. In accordance with the amendment, with effect from 1st October, 2013, every Ghanaian who chooses to return to Ghana whiles on pension, shall receive 100% of his entitlement due to him/her.


From 1st October, 2013, Ghanaians as well as all foreigners, whose countries of origin have no bilateral agreement on pension with Germany, will be treated equally. That means no more 70% but 100% pension, no matter where you choose to live and collect your pension.

The great news is that all those who went on pension from 1992 and relocated to their countries of origin or any other place other than Germany and for that reason received 30% less of what was due to them, will get it refunded to them. This means retrospectively from 01.01.1992 they will get the pension recalculated, a new and corrected pension slips sent to them and the deducted 30% refunded to them. A refund for the period of 249 months as per 30th September, 2013.

Those who went on retirement from 1992 need NOT take any action. But they will be shocked to fine huge amount of money on their bank account, if because of the poor addressing systems; the information does not reach them at all or on time. For example someone who received just 100.00€ less per month from the 01.01.1992 will be due to get about 24900.00€ refunded to him/her!

Anyone who went on retirement before 1992 will ONLY get consideration, if they apply for it. That means, unlike those from 1992, those who went on pension up to 31.12.2013, must actively submit an application before they can be considered. The applications must be submitted latest by 31.12.2017.

How can the beneficiaries, their surviving spouses or children be informed about this changes or good news?

We want to use this opportunity to appeal to the embassies and consuls, the mass media, the radios and local union, churches and all fellow Ghanaians to cascade this information to whoever it may concern.

Should anyone have any questions on this subject, please do not hesitate to approach your responsible pension office, German Embassies and other responsible office.


By Alexander Okai Anane
President, Ghana Union Stuttgart e.V.

While we had federal elections in Germany, a plebiscite(Poll) also took place in Hamburg. The inhabitants were supposed to decide about the repurchase of the electricity and gas grids.

Until now Hamburg owns just 25.1% of the grids, the rest belongs to the companies “Vattenfall and Eon”. So the city can´t really take part in business decisions concerning the energy costs to consumers.


51% of those who voted were for the poll which means that the city has to buy the grids back.

But what does that really mean for the citizens of Hamburg?

The costs for the repurchase will come up to two billion Euros. How the city will pay for it is uncertain yet, but the city can get a reasonable loan and they don´t have to pay the whole amount all at once, but probably until 2017.

Surely the city can get this money back within the next few years. With the running of the grids the city has the chance to earn a high amount of money steadily. According to estimates they could earn up to 450 million Euros a year, so in a long-term it could be worth it.

For the consumer that means, that not only the companies, but also Hamburg regulates the prices for gas and electricity.
So the chance for the consumers, that the prices get cheaper or at least don’t rise up, exists.
The city can also organize a better and faster energy transmission, but “Vattenfall” and “Eon” refuse to invest in that.

The main reason against the repurchase was the financial risk.


Personally I don´t see that as a good reason, because in the last years the city for example built buildings, where they said, there will be no financial risk (example: Elphilharmonien) and in the end the costs exploded.


Also they want to build more, like a new cruise terminal, but I think this don´t have any advantage for most of the citizens, but if our energy is better for our environment and could amount to lower prices for consumers, it is an advantage for all the citizens of Hamburg and I think folks who voted made the right decision.


Janina Grabbert (Topafric)


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