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RENTING

Reader question: How does Vienna’s rent control system work?

Vienna has some of the cheapest rents in European capitals, and a lot of it has to do with the strict rental controls in the Austrian city.

Reader question: How does Vienna's rent control system work?

Austria’s capital often shows up near the top on lists of cities with a high standard of living – and the affordable rents in the imperial city is one of the reasons why.

Vienna has a high share of its residents, some 60 per cent, living in municipal housing estates or homes subsidised by the city, according to the government.

Besides the more than 220,000 city apartments (also known as gemeindewohnung), many residents also live in genossenschaftswohnungen, cooperative housing built by non-profits with large deposits for apartments but reduced rents.

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

The city’s subsidised apartments are part of a highly active policy from 1920 to 1938, during the period known as “das rote Wien“, with the Socialist Party ruling the city, and after the Second World War, until 1969.

However, there are other reasons for the lower rents in Vienna, especially since some private residences also have extremely affordable prices in the capital. 

One such factor is laws regulating how much landlords can raise rents, known as rent control. 

Rental controls in Austria

Austria has a history of more than 100 years of rental control, first established during World War I as protection of widows and orphans of soldiers against exorbitant rents.

READ ALSO: Property: How to find a rental flat when you arrive in Austria

The first regulations to curb rentals and restrict evictions were set in 1917. Still, they got stricter after the Second World War, when the Friedenskornenzins policy was instituted during times of peace, setting a maximum rent of 1 Shilling per square metre per month.

Incredibly, there are still some people living in apartments from those times, when 1 Schilling was the same as €0.072 – and yearly rental increases were also kept very low. Most of the famous cases of apartments in downtown Vienna costing tenants less than €400 a month can be traced back to “peace times” contracts.

Benchmark rent in Austria

Since 1994, though, a new system for capping rent was introduced in Austria, known as Richtwertmiete, or benchmark rent, as Immowelt explains.

This benchmark is valid only for apartments built before 1945 (in Vienna, a large share of the buildings are from before the war, known as Altbau) or, in some cases, before 1953, and they cannot be larger than 130 square metres. The rules can be quite specific, and you can check whether your apartment falls under rental protection in several administrative bodies and rental associations in your city.

In Vienna, the benchmark rent for old apartments that fall into the value protection agreement from 1994 is € 6.15 per square metre, a low value that was recently increased from € 5.81 on April 1st. This means that a 100-square-metre apartment would cost € 615 per month without additional costs such as VAT and living expenses if governed by the protection agreement.

The capital has the second-lowest benchmark rent in Austria, only higher than Burgenland (€5.61). Vorarlberg has the highest at €9.44 per square metre, followed by Salzburg (€8.50), Styria (€8.49), and Tyrol (€7.50).

Some apartments with rental contracts from before 1994 still follow previous rules, with even lower rents. They are put in different categories depending on appliances, location, size, and other factors and could be capped at as high as €3.80 per square metre in Vienna.

Austria also has a “right to succession” established in its Tenancy Law, stating that tenants who benefit from these low rents have a right to pass on the apartment to close relatives, such as children, grandchildren or partners. In those cases, rent can only be slightly increased – keeping prices low for decades on end.

What if my apartment does not fall into the benchmarked rent?

New buildings (Neubau) do not benefit from the capped rents in Austria. There are not many restrictions on rents for private properties. However, Austrian law has a provision covering “usury” or overcharging. Several rental associations can help you check if you are paying too much.

If an arbitration board finds that the rent was excessively high, tenants could claim retroactively.

READ ALSO: Tenant or landlord: Who pays which costs in Austria?

When it comes to rental costs, it is also essential to realise what each cost relates to and whether or not the property owner or the renter should be paying for it.

Most operating costs can be passed on to the tenant, including insurance, operational costs (such as electricity for lifts), and sewer clearing. However, some are not covered by Austrian law, and property owners need to pay for themselves, including repair work for burst pipes or damaged chimneys and connection to the public water supply network, for example.

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RENTING

Tenant or landlord: Who pays which costs in Austria?

Renters in Austria are eligible for some operating costs and certain bills associated with renting a property. Here’s what you need to know.

Tenant or landlord: Who pays which costs in Austria?

When renting an apartment or a house in Austria it’s important to know your rights when it comes to expenses.

Operating costs, also known as the “second rent”, cover things like insurance, management fees and rubbish removal. Then there are utility bills, such as gas, electricity and internet, all of which can add up to significant monthly outgoings on top of the rent payment.

But when renting a property in Austria, who is responsible for which costs? The tenant or the landlord?

As with most things in life, it depends. Here’s why.

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: Which documents do you need to rent a flat in Austria?

What are operating costs? 

Operating costs (Betriebskosten) are financial expenses that landlords can pass onto tenants in Austria. It’s to ensure tenants pay their share of the running costs of a property.

However, the type of operating costs that a tenant is liable for will depend on the type of property they live in. Thankfully this is laid out in the Tenancy Act (MRG).

For example, in Vienna if you live in a new building that is subsidised with public funds, or an Altbau (old building built before 1945), then the law specifies which costs can be charged by a landlord.

These include water, garbage collection, electricity for lighting staircases and common areas, insurance for fire and water damage, management fees and running costs of communal facilities.

Whereas in a privately owned building, the rental contract should specify the operating costs that have to be paid by the tenant and which costs are covered by the landlord.

This can be negotiated before signing a contract.

READ MORE: ENERGY COSTS: How to claim financial support in Vienna

How are operating costs calculated?

According to The Tenants Association, operating costs are typically billed monthly at a flat rate. Each tenant pays a share of the expenses for the building in relation to the size of their apartment. 

The monthly amount is calculated by the total expenses of the previous year, plus a maximum increase of 10 per cent. Operating costs can legally be increased once a year.

A landlord must submit the bill for operating costs for the previous calendar year by June 30th. The landlord then has until the end of the year to correct the amount (if necessary). Once this deadline has passed the landlord can no longer make any claims for operating costs for the previous year.

Tenants with concerns about their bill for operating costs should seek advice from professional rental associations like Tenants Assistance for Vienna or The Tenants Association.

Stadt Wien also has a useful operating costs calculator that is free to use. 

READ ALSO: How to navigate the Austrian rental market

Who pays for utilities?

Eligibility for the cost of utilities (gas, electricity, water) will be stated in the rental contract. 

Usually the tenant pays these bills unless the cost of utilities is included in the rent, with the exception of cold water which is covered by the Tenancy Act and can be included in operating costs.

If utilities are not included in the rent, the good news is that you can sign up with a provider of your choice. However, if the utilities are included, then the landlord will typically choose the provider.

Operating costs covered by the Tenancy Act

These are operating costs that can be passed on to the tenant by the landlord in accordance with the law.

  • Cold water costs
  • Insurance for fire, liability and water
  • Operational costs for communal facilities, such as electricity for lifts or maintenance of a shared garden
  • Housekeeping and management fees
  • Taxes, including property tax
  • Pest control
  • Chimney sweeping
  • Rubbish removal
  • Sewer clearing

Operating costs not covered by the Tenancy Act

The following costs are not covered by Austrian law, which means landlords can’t pass on these costs to tenants.

  • Electricity in apartments (this is usually paid for by the tenant unless stated otherwise in the contract)
  • Repair work for burst pipes, damaged chimneys, lighting in staircases or intercoms
  • Connection to the public water supply network
  • Bank charges, interest or telephone fees
  • Clearing rubbish, such as after renovations on the building

Additional costs for tenants

The following are typical monthly costs that must be paid by tenants unless otherwise stated in the rental contract. 

  • Heating and energy costs (e.g. gas and electricity)
  • Hot water
  • Contents insurance (if stated in the rental agreement)
  • Internet
  • Phone 
  • Laundry charges (e.g. if shared facilities)
  • TV fees

Useful links

Mieterhilfe – Tenants Assistance for Vienna

Die Mieter Vereinigung – The Tenants Association

Arbitration Board Vienna – operated by the City of Vienna

ÖMB – Austrian Tenants and Apartment Owners Association

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