Attorney Carola Handwerg oversaw several cases in which people were expelled without being prepared. She calls for a change in the law.

A protest sign that says: Stop evictions

Protests against forced evictions often have little success Photo: Weingartner photo/imago

taz: Mrs Handwerg, according to the current legal situation, can people simply be thrown out onto the streets like that?

Carola Handwerg: Of course not, an eviction notice is required. Only then can a bailiff carry out the eviction.

Is it necessary to ensure that the evicted person has alternative accommodation?

Unfortunately, that is not the case. If the landlord was able to obtain an eviction judgment, the original tenants have to decide for themselves where to stay.

What happens to things in a vacant apartment?

The landlord or bailiff is obliged to keep the things for one month. After that, what can be recycled can be recycled, the rest is destroyed.

Destroyed?

It's really dramatic. All the papers in life are lost, records, birth certificates, everything. I still have cases where horrified people call me and tell me I just got evicted. Then I say, but there must have been a judicial process and a verdict, but unfortunately there are many who cannot deal with their mail for psychological reasons. And these people suffer an eviction in the shower or at the breakfast table.

The “Housing Action Days” will take place in numerous European cities from March 27 to April 7, 2024. In focus: displacement, excessive rents, fight against homelessness. For example, on April 4, the alliance “Prevention of Forced Evictions” protested against personal use dismissals in Berlin-Charlottenburg against law firms that want to evict long-term tenants.

Would it at least be possible to regulate that no one can be evicted as long as there is no other accommodation?

Of course, this would be possible if the federal legislator so wishes. In France, for example, it is prohibited to evacuate in winter. In December of last year I had a single mother with a son who was evicted just before Christmas. That was so terrible. Of course, one may wonder why homeowners do this, because it triggers foreclosure orders. But the real question is: why isn't the legislature taking action?

Is there no protection mechanism? It is a concern of the federal government that people do not become homeless.

Yes, you would think so. When an eviction notice is received, the courts are required to inform the social welfare office. But the authorities approach it very differently. In Berlin, for example, social workers were sent to ring Neukölln's doorbell. Other districts simply send a letter and that's it. But there are many people who no longer go to the mailbox because they are afraid of negative mail. And a social worker could do it. Then there would also be the possibility of filing an application for protection against eviction.

There are different reasons for evictions. Insolvency is very common, but personal needs can also be claimed. Are there hardship provisions if, for example, someone is very old or sick?

In the personal use termination example, a hardship assessment will be performed if you have filed a timely objection. Of course, these are obstacles that can usually only be overcome with legal advice. If an eviction becomes legally binding after a first and second instance hardship assessment, there are only two adjustments: You can file an application for an extension of the eviction deadline. And if the sheriff rules, you can still file for protection from eviction. At this point a medical certificate could be obtained that the eviction appointment will be canceled again.

How often does this happen?

The obstacle to this is very big. There must be a reasonable risk of suicide. The courts want to see that the person already has a concrete idea of ​​how he wants to carry out his suicide. It sounds sarcastic, but it's actually true. Only if you have said qualified certificate will you be able to avoid eviction. But this does not help the elderly, the sick, people with children or single mothers.

Carola Handwerg He is a lawyer specializing in tenancy law and a member of the RAV Republican Bar Association. He advises the Berlin Initiative to prevent forced evictions.

That is hard.

Yes. Several people have committed suicide after being evicted. In 2013, a woman died in Berlin after being evicted from a homeless shelter. And the case of the aforementioned single mother and her daughter also had a profound impact on me. She had fixed up the whole apartment before Christmas, we had a certificate from the pediatrician, we had a letter from the school about how important it is not to remove the child from the environment. It was the middle of winter. But it didn't help at all. This mother and her son were evicted.

Where did the two stay?

In friends.

What was it like in other cases you have handled?

Many people manage to find a new apartment in time. However, some enter into precarious sublease contracts. Others stay with friends or family. The cases that are caught off guard by forced evictions are really bad. I had three cases of this last year. In fact, they find themselves completely unprepared in front of a closed door and, if there is no family or friend network there, they end up on the street.

A common reason for eviction is rent or energy debts.
. It is repeatedly criticized that in the case of a regular termination there is no grace period with which one can pay one's debts in two months and avoid termination. In case of extraordinary termination, there is such a grace period. Why is this not done?

I can't think of any other reason other than the owners' lobby is very strong. At least the coalition agreement plan is for the grace period regulation to be extended to ordinary termination. The legislator could make it very simple: in principle it would be enough to add a paragraph indicating that the grace period regulation also applies to ordinary termination, which is normally given as an alternative.

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