Sunday, 4 March 2018

Thinking About Dividing an Apartment Block into Condos in Berlin? What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

A growing number of owners of apartment blocks in Berlin are contemplating selling their property to take advantage of the high demand and increased prices. Instead of selling an apartment block in its entirety in one go, the sale of single condos is seen as a way to achieve higher prices per sqm and ultimately for the building in total.

The main issue I want to discuss here is the subdivision of an apartment block into single apartments in inner-city areas in order to be able to sell them individually.

Certain district administrations of Berlin, which are the local government in this context, have declared certain regions of their district “Milieuschutzgebiet”. These are areas where a Preservation Statute applies. Every area has a specific boundary and will quote specific regulations from Section 172 of the Federal Building Code (Baugesetzbuch).

These are the districts that already have preservation areas in place or are in the process of raising the empirical data needed to declare such an area:
  • Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf
  • Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg
  • Lichtenberg
  • Mitte
  • Neukölln
  • Pankow
  • Tempelhof-Schöneberg
  • Treptow-Köpenick 

What is the impact on the owner?

In order to convert an apartment block into condos or individual freeholds (Eigentumswohnung) a permit from the district is required. In March 2015 the Berlin city government has released a regulation called “Umwandlungsverordnung” which allows the district to refuse the permit to divide (Teilungsgenehmigung) in areas under the Preservation Statute. Since preventing the “gentrification” of these areas through conversions is one of the purposes of declaring these areas “under protection”, the permit will be denied.

However there is another aspect to the story of the Preservation Statute which is not related to the division: The owner will not get a permit for what is seen a luxury modernization, e.g. new balconies bigger than 5 m², luxury bathrooms (definition in the regulation), join small apartments into big apartments, lifts and many other major works usually leading to rent increases.

What should I do?

If you are happy with your building and don’t plan to sell it in the near future you just need to keep your building in good shape and well managed, there is nothing you need to worry about.

However, if you are considering selling your property I recommend getting experienced local advice. There are different aspects of the business plan that might lead to different decisions when looked at in isolation as opposed to the total picture. Just to name some of these aspects, permits, tax, cost of marketing, timeline, first refusal rights of city and tenants (condos only) etc.. And it’s worth mentioning that sold individually you might not sell some units for years, at least not for the price envisaged.

Call me. We are specialized in guiding international investors through the ever-changing picture of market developments and regulations. Phone number

Academic / para-legal background.

The Federal Building Code allows local authorities to define specific areas for protection. This is done by means of local government procedures within the framework of the Federal Building Code. The regulations are spelt out in Section 172 of the code. All specific regulations will have to relate to this section.
Section 172 The Preservation of Physical Structures and of the Specific Urban Character of an Area (The Preservation Statute)

You will find an English version of the code here

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