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COST OF LIVING

How to find out if you are paying too much rent in Vienna

Experts estimate that 80 percent of renters in old buildings are paying more than they should be in Vienna. Here's how to find out if you're paying too much.

Living in Vienna's First District is more in reach of every budget because of rent controls.
Living in Vienna's First District is more in reach of every budget because of rent controls. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

Vienna’s cheap rents are the envy of many other city dwellers, and many residents looking to rent a property covet one of the capital’s famous high ceilinged Altbau (old buildings).

These are generally defined as buildings dating from before the Second World War. 

As well as looking beautiful, rent laws also mean these older buildings could actually be cheaper to live in as well. 

READ MORE: Austria: Is Vienna really a ‘renter’s paradise’? 

The City of Vienna has a rent calculator which allows you to work out how much rent you should be paying, and to see if you are due a refund. 

The rent control rules apply only to buildings in Vienna smaller than 131m2 built before 1945. Rent control rules differ in each of Austria’s federal states.

Around 80 percent of tenants in Vienna are ‘paying too much’

According to estate agent Vana Doranovic of Tristar Immobilien, around 80 percent of renters in these buildings in Vienna are paying too much.

She said: “As an example, supposing you are renting a 120 metre squared apartment in an old building, which has been built before 8th May 1945, it should cost €5.81 per metre squared – that comes to around €697 net per month, excluding VAT and operating costs.”

Mrs Doranovic also said that tenants could pay even less if they had a limited rental contract, or were living on the second floor without an elevator for example. 

So let’s say you have entered your rent into the calculator, and found you have been overpaying your rent for years.

REVEALED: The best districts to live in Vienna

How can you find out?

There are several companies in Vienna which will take on individual cases and try and reduce the rent you pay, which could mean you get your back rent refunded if you have paid too much.

This is even possible after you leave your property. In the last few years there have been reports of these companies going door to door to get business. 

However, the City of Vienna warned about using these businesses in 2018. If you win, they could take a sizeable chunk of the refunded money, from 30 percent of the spoils to even half.

Austria’s Der Standard newspaper reported last year that some even claim commission on the rent you will save in the future, if they are successful.

READ MORE: Is Vienna really a ‘renter’s paradise’?

The paper cites Walter Rosifka from the Chamber of Labor, who says he recently received a complaint from a tenant who received €11,000 in overpaid rent – €8,000 of which was collected by the litigation financier. 

However, these companies operate on a ‘no win-no fee’ basis, which means you will not have to pay anything if the application to reduce the rent is not successful. And if someone from this type of business comes ringing at your door, you can be sure you are probably paying too much rent.

Tenants’ association 

Another option is the Mietervereinigung. This is a tenants association which costs around €60 per year for membership in Vienna (it also operates in Austria’s other federal states).

Once you are a member you can go to them for help. They will assist you with claiming back your rent if you have been overpaying, and can also help with rental problems such as mould, contracts or painting. 

The third option is to go for tenants to go to the arbitration board themselves. However, Der Standard newspaper warns this is “not easy”.

‘Cost of living here is wonderful’

One thing is certain, the rent laws in Vienna mean many people find they can afford a central Altbau apartment they would never be able to rent in other cities. 

One American ex-pat living in Vienna’s First District told The Local: “I have lived in several major cities including New York and Amsterdam and the cost of living here is wonderful. What I pay in total here for an apartment in the centre is only a bit more than what I would have been paying for a room in a shared three bedroom Brooklyn apartment.

“I adore Vienna and I am incredibly grateful to be able to live in the centre.”

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VIENNA

What makes Vienna the ‘most liveable city’ and where can it improve?

Vienna is once again at the top of the global liveability index, but what does it mean and where can Austria's capital still improve?

What makes Vienna the 'most liveable city' and where can it improve?

The Austrian capital city of Vienna made a comeback as the world’s most liveable city after it tumbled down to 34th place due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

Now, Vienna tops a ranking dominated by Western European cities, and it scores highly in nearly all criteria, including stability, healthcare, education, and infrastructure, according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

READ ALSO: Vienna returns to top ranking as world’s ‘most liveable city

What does each of these points mean and in which areas is the city still not the best?

The liveability score is reached through category weights, each divided into subcategories. The indicators are then scored based on either judgement of “in-house expert geography analysts and a field correspondent based in each city” for qualitative variables.

In the case of quantitative variables, the rating is calculated based on the relative performance of a location using external data, such as information from the World Bank or Transparency International, for example.

Karlskirche, or St. Charles Church, in Vienna (Copyright: © WienTourismus/Christian Stemper)

Stability

Vienna got a 100 percent score in this category, which is measured based on several indicators. The EIU rating evaluated the prevalence of petty crime and of violent crime. It also looked into the threat of terrorism, military conflict, and civil unrest threats.

Healthcare

This was another category Austria’s capital aced – and an improvement from the pandemic years, when it lost points on healthcare.

READ ALSO: Ten essential apps to download for living in Vienna

The rating considers the availability and quality of both private and public healthcare. It also looks into the availability of over-the-counter drugs and general healthcare indicators provided by the World Bank.

Education

Vienna got a total of 100 points for this category, which considered the availability and quality of private education and looked into World Bank data on public education indicators.

Infrastructure

Another 100 percent for Austria’s capital which was found to have a good quality of road network, public transport, international links, energy provision, water provision and telecommunications. The ranking also considered the availability of good-quality housing.

Theater in Vienna (© WienTourismus/Paul Bauer)

Culture & Environment

This was the only category where Vienna did not get 100 points. Instead, it scored 96.3, which was still higher than many of the top ten cities. Vancouver, Canada, was the only city at the top of the ranking that got a 100. Melbourne and Amsterdam also fared slightly better than Vienna.

READ ALSO: ​​The downsides of Vienna you should be aware of before moving there

The category looks into humidity and temperature rating, the discomfort of climate for travellers, level of corruption, social or religious restrictions, level of censorship, sporting availability, cultural availability, food and drink, and consumer goods and services.

Among all of these indicators, only the humidity/temperature rating, which is adapted from average weather conditions, didn’t receive the highest grade.

What can Vienna do to get better?

Even in the indicators where the Austrian capital did well, there are always things to improve, especially concerning the risks to the quality of living that rising inflation and the Ukrainian war bring.

When it comes to weather, though the city cannot control when it rains or shines, there are many things it can do to improve living conditions on those scorching summer days or freezing winter evenings.

READ ALSO: ‘Cool streets’: How Vienna is preparing for climate change and heatwaves

As summer and heatwaves arrive, it is already looking to bring more green areas and avoid “heat islands” building up in the city centre. It also has built fog showers, drinking fountains and increased offers of “cool” areas where people can escape the extreme heat.

Also, looking to reduce the use of cars and make life better for residents, Vienna is betting on the “15-minute city” concept. This means that Austria’s capital is trying to make the essential everyday routes and destinations, including metro stations, reachable by a 15-minute walk.

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