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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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For members

VIENNA

Everything that’s new in Vienna in December

From new energy bonuses being sent out to important trials and major events, here are the important changes, dates and events happening in Vienna in December.

Everything that's new in Vienna in December

Vienna will send €200 bonuses to help cushion rising energy costs

The City of Vienna announced more government assistance to cushion rising costs for residents.

Viennese households will receive €200 in a new “energy bonus’, as The Local reported. The administration said the bonus would benefit about two-thirds of all city homes.

Single households with a gross annual income of a maximum €40,000 or multi-person households with an income of up to €100,000 gross per year are entitled to receive the payment. 

In December, every household in the capital should receive an information letter with a password they will need to use for an online application for the bonus. Once applied for, the money should arrive within a few days”.

READ MORE: Vienna Energy Bonus: How to get a €200 payout

Influenza vaccination appointments

The City of Vienna has made available 64,000 influenza vaccination appointments for December in the city’s vaccination centres and those of the ÖGK. 

The City is investing a total of €9.9 million to be able to offer the flu vaccination campaign in Vienna free of charge again this year.  The campaign will run until the end of the year unless an extension becomes necessary due to high demand.

The influenza vaccination campaign focuses on people aged over 65. This avoids multiple exposures to Covid-19 and the “real flu”. Chronically ill people, children and health or care workers are also among the priority target groups. However, influenza vaccination is also recommended to all other people.

READ ALSO: Reader question: How to get a flu vaccination in Austria?

Vienna starts inquiry committee over Wien Energie

Starting on December 2nd at the Vienna City Hall, the City Council’s investigative commission on the Wien Energie case will meet every two weeks.

On the initiative of the centre-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), it will investigate the events surrounding the dramatic financial needs of Wien Energie that became known in the summer. The commission can summon people to testify and request documents.

They will focus on two issues.

The first concerns the extent to which Mayor Michael Ludwig and City Finance Councillor Peter Hanke have exercised their ownership rights regarding Wien Energie, which is wholly owned by the city via Wiener Stadtwerke. Specifically, the commission wants to know whether the two SPÖ politicians reacted in time and appropriately to the price increases in the electricity markets in the summer.

The second matter revolves around Ludwig’s emergency powers as head of the city, with which he granted Wien Energie loans totalling €1.4 billion. It is to be clarified whether this procedure was legally compliant and whether Ludwig should have informed committees such as the City Senate earlier.

READ ALSO: Why did Wien Energie ask for €6 billion from the Austrian government?

Terror trial continues

On November 2nd, 2020, a jihadist terrorist shot dead four people and injured more than 20 in the centre of Vienna before police forces killed him.

Now, the country is going through a complex trial involving six men who allegedly helped the shooter prepare for the attack started. The process first started in October, as The Local reported, but a final verdict is not expected until at least February.

In December, tricky trial stages are scheduled, including questioning people suspected of having sold weapons to the terrorist.

READ ALSO: Austria starts trial over Vienna jihadist shooting

Armed police officers stand guard by the area where the terrorist attack took place in Vienna, Austria on November, 2020. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

This Human World Festival

The This Human World Festival is celebrating its 15th anniversary and it focuses on the theme of human rights. In four Viennese cinemas (Schikaneder, Topkino, Gartenbaukino, Stadtkino) and two other venues (Brunnenpassage, Brotfabrik) you can watch films that deal with human rights, current conflicts and crises from December 1st to 11th. 

About 90 feature films, documentaries and short films await you – some of them will celebrate their Austrian premiere at the festival. 

The aim of the film festival is to draw attention to political and social grievances in a sensitive, stirring and occasionally humorous way.

You can read more about the event HERE.

Harry Potter: The Exhibition

“Harry Potter: The Exhibition” is touring worldwide and the major exhibition about the wizard’s universe will get its first European location in Vienna on December 16th, 2022. The show will be housed in the METAStadt in the 22nd district (Dr.-Otto-Neurath-Gasse 3).

The ticket sale has already started on the official site of the exhibition and via oeticket. Tickets are available from € 24.90 for children (up to 12 years) and € 29.90 for adults (from 13 years).

Weihnachtsmärkte

Last year, many markets around the country were cancelled after a snap lockdown in November, although some events still went ahead with strict rules in place.

But this year, the Christmas markets are back in full swing without restrictions, so make sure you visit one (or two) to really get into the Christmas spirit. Austria’s most famous markets are in Vienna, like the Christkindmarkt in front of the Town Hall that runs from November 19th to December 26th.

The Viennese markets are drawing in thousands of tourists to the Austrian capital. Don’t miss out on all the Glüwein (even if it is more expensive this year), geröstete Kastanien and Weihnachtskugeln you can get. 

FOR MEMBERS: IN PICTURES: A guide to the main Christmas markets in Austria

Public holidays

Besides Christmas (December 25th) and Stephan’s Day (December 26th), December 8th, when Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Mariä Empfängnis), is also a public holiday in Austria.

Of course, there are also several celebratory dates in December. For example, every Sunday until Christmas is an Advent Sunday, and Austrian families commemorate it in many ways, including lighting up candles.

On December 4th, there is Barbaratag, while on December 5th, Krampus pays his visit to Austrian villages and cities. On the next day, December 6th, it’s time for St Nikolaus to bring chocolate and tangerines to children who were nice during the year.

Christmas Eve, Day, and St Stephen’s Day (December 24th, 25th and 26th) are important dates for Austrian traditions.

It’s also worth noting that Austrians celebrate Christmas on the evening of December 24th, usually with a family meal.

READ ALSO: Austrian Christmas traditions: The festive dates you need to know

New Year celebrations

Expect lots of fireworks on New Year’s Eve (Silvester) in Austria – and especially in Vienna.

In the capital, the bells ring out at St. Stephan’s Cathedral to welcome in the New Year, which is also broadcast on national television. This is followed by fireworks and some even take part in a communal waltz on Rathausplatz in front of the Town Hall.

But if you really want to celebrate New Year like an Austrian, then give a marzipan pig to your nearest and dearest. The little pigs represent a good luck charm and are handed out every year on New Year’s Eve.

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