The most important Information for the Inhabitants of the Heimstaden Houses

Those who learned that their home is one of more than 130 houses bought by the Swedish Heimstaden AB now have many urgent questions. In the latest weeks of organizing and at large networking meetings, many questions have already been collected and answered. We have documented these together with the Tenants’ Union of Berlin and summarized them here. You can find the german version here.

Who is Heimstaden?

Heimstaden Bostad AB is one of the largest Swedish housing companies and operates throughout Europe. It owns almost 44,000 apartments in Scandinavia, 42,000 in the Czech Republic and so far about 1,000 in Germany. The largest share of Heimstaden Bostad AB is owned by the Norwegian insvestment company “Fredensborg AS”, which is owned by the billionaire Ivar Tollefsen. In Berlin, the Skjerven Group GmbH buys houses on behalf of Heimstaden Bostad AB. The initiative “Hands off Wedding” has researched the Skjerven Group GmbH.

Our house was sold to Heimstaden. How can we organize ourselves?

Send one or more delegates to the Berlin-wide network, which decides on essential demands and coordinates the efforts of the working groups and the district groups. Register for the Berlin-wide email distribution list here: https://lists.riseup.net/www/subscribe/stopheimstaden

There are also three working groups:

AG Öffentlichkeitsarbeit deals with press inquiries and social media channels:
https://lists.riseup.net/www/subscribe/ag_pr_heimstaden-vernetzung

AG Aktionen organizes rallies, demos and other actions:
https://lists.riseup.net/www/subscribe/ag_aktionen_heimstaden-vernetzung

AG Strategie forges plans for the houses Heimstaden bought and for which no right of first refusal was drawn:
lists.riseup.net/www/subscribe/ag-planb_heimstaden-vernetzung

How do I know if my house was bought by Heimstaden?

Heimstaden has made a so-called package purchase. The seller is Gabriel International. Among tenants it is notorious for its property management company “Stadthaus Verwaltungsgesellschaft mbH”, formerly “GMRE”. If you live in a house that is managed by “Stadthaus Verwaltungsgesellschaft mbH”, your house was probably sold to Heimstaden. Through contacts in politics and their own research, several initiatives have compiled a list and a map showing the affected houses.

What is (municipal) right of preemption?

Preemption, or right of first refusal, is an urban instrument for use by municipalities (in Berlin, for the individual boroughs). If a property located in a conservation area (see §172 BauGB) is sold, special authorization is required from the district, and the district authority may intervene in the terms of the sale. In order to preserve the social structure of the area, special stipulations may be determined regarding the use of the property, and in certain circumstances, the district can “reallocate” the sale to an alternate buyer (for example a public housing association). The district authority will inform you if preemption is being considered for your building. 

Stipulations relating to the use of the property are summarized in a special prevention agreement that the borough presents to the potential buyer. If he or she agrees to the terms of the agreement and signs it, he or she is able to prevent the use of the right of preemption on the sale. This is the primary purpose of this instrument. If this agreement is not agreed to, the district can exercise the right of preemption for a so-called “third party buyer”. 

More information: https://aks.gemeinwohl.berlin/download/

What are the options for houses that are not located in a Milieuschutzgebiet (neighborhood preservation zone)?

Outside neighborhood preservation zones, the districts can neither exercise the right of pre-emption nor conclude an averting agreement. For houses that are not located in neighborhood preservation zones, long-term networking with other potential Heimstaden houses makes sense. This also applies to houses in neighborhood preservation zones that do not exercise their right of pre-emption and for which no averting agreements are concluded. The Tenants Union is already networking houses for which no right of pre-emption has been exercised and intends to catch up to the other houses as well. It proposes to position the potential Heimstaden houses with a strong voice vis-à-vis the new owner. The model is a Swedish trade union in Sweden, which also conducts collective bargaining with the group.

If the owner changes and we remain as tenants, we will get a new rental agreement (also with regard to the rent cap?)

No, the rental agreement remains valid. A house sale never changes the lease! The only thing that changes is the account to which the rent is transferred.

Does it make sense to hire a lawyer?

At this point in time, a lawyer cannot do anything. Tenant organizations such as the Berlin Tenants Association (Berliner Mieterverein) or the Berlin Tenants Community (Berliner Mietergemeinschaft) offer their members legal protection and advice. The job centers pay the membership fees for the Berliner Mieterverein e. V., the AMV – Alternative Mieter- und Verbraucherschutzbund e. V., or in Spandau also for the Spandauer Mieterverein für Verbraucherschutz e. V.

What is the advantage of having a cooperative as a homeowner?

Cooperatives usually deal attentively with the tenants and are not profit-oriented. Therefore the rents rise substantially more slowly than on the free market, and unnecessary modernizations are omitted. As a member of a cooperative you buy shares in it (you can give them back when you move out) and decide together with the other members what happens in your house.

Which data about the house is worth collecting to show to the cooperatives during the conversation?

You will need the number of apartments, their respective square meters, and the number of rooms (without kitchen, bathroom, and hallway). In addition, the type of heating should be noted (for example, stove, gas, or central heating) and how the bathroom is equipped.

I live in one of the five houses for which the deadline has expired. However, our house did not exercise our right of pre-emption. So what will happen for us now? Is the house already owned by Heimstaden?

Yes, because if the deadline has expired and no right of preemption has been exercised, the district must issue the so-called negative certificate. Afterwards the land purchase contract is entered into the land register by the land registry.

What steps have to be taken to get access to the land register?

As a tenant you have a legitimate interest in knowing who the owner of your house is. You can make an appointment with the land registry. You must bring legal proof of your identity to the appointment.

Why is it bad if Heimstaden converts apartments into condominiums? Would the apartments or houses not fall back into the hands of the residents?

To do this, the tenants would have to be able to afford to exercise their right of pre-emption when selling the apartments. Out of nearly 18,000 apartments that were converted into milieu protection areas between 2015 and 2018, only 54 have been purchased by tenants.