“Impossible is nothing” was the slogan recently emblazoned on a Berlin house facade. The advertisement of a manufacturer of sporting goods accurately describes how things are on the housing market in the capital. some renter there is currently a massive risk of blackout. Because more and more homeowners are giving away the scaffolding as an advertising medium for large-scale renovations. This brings in additional money for the owners, but robs the tenants of daylight.
A particularly blatant case of this type of squatting took place in the Neukölln district of Berlin. At the beginning of November, an apartment building on Hermannplatz was completely scaffolded and covered with advertising banners so that it was almost opaque. Apparently, the residents were not informed beforehand, nor did any significant construction work actually take place. Hardly anything was visible inside during the day, but after dark, large spotlights illuminated the posters. The “horror house from Hermannplatz” was what one tenant called his place in the Berlin newspaper.
A development has been pushed to the extreme at the house, which has kept the city busy for several years. In Berlin-Mitte, residents were blinded by a French fashion label, in the Charlottenburg district by an oil company; tenants have been living behind giant billboards on the busy Kantstrasse for the past twelve months. According to the Berlin building regulations, a maximum of six months is permitted.
The banners are approved by the districts, which appear to be largely powerless against the abuse. “We will then take action against it immediately,” says Fabian Schmitz-Grethlein (SPD), district councilor of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf. “However, the scaffolding advertising is so lucrative that it is left standing.” According to estimates, PR agencies pay five-digit amounts a month for advertising in good locations. Fines of 25,000 euros are often reduced again by the district courts and are “priced in” by the homeowners, according to Schmitz-Grethlein. Possible rent reductions are also taken into account.
The parliamentarians in the district now want to get the Berlin Senate to change the building code. Large-scale banners in front of residential buildings should be easier to ban and the fines increased. Another possibility for those affected is to start a counter-campaign. Two large corporations have already had their posters taken down in the past. Because it seems that companies often don’t know where agencies rent advertising space.
In Neukölln, too, at the so-called horror house, the residents immediately made their anger public in the press and on social media. Since the poster was not approved, a fine was immediately threatened; in case of doubt, the district wanted to have the advertising removed itself. A few days later the banner was gone. “This will simply destroy this business model,” says Moheb Shafaqyar, district councilor for the left and lawyer. His conclusion in dealing with recalcitrant landlords is therefore quite simple in the case of the advertising posters: “You have to be a little more violent.”