The Daily Mail reports:

German woman becomes the second to be evicted from her home to make room for migrants


A German woman is being booted out of her home of 23 years to make room for migrants. Gabrielle Keller is the second such case to emerge in the country as it struggles to cope with an expected influx of some 800,000 refugees this year.

Did this actually happen? If so, was there a reasonable explanation such as the evicted families being evicted for unrelated reasons?

  • A few points for those who might not click through: She's not being "evicted"; she's being told that her rent contract will end and not be renewed. She's not being kicked out on the spot; her contract is through the end of the year. Her "home" is a rented apartment that belongs to the city of Eschbach.
    – Kyralessa
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 8:34

3 Answers 3


These cases have been well covered by German media as well, and since both the tenants, the location and the municipal politicians have been named, the cases can easily be verified and I don't see any reason to doubt it. Just to mention a few of the articles about this specific case:

What is not so clear from the Daily Mail article is that Gabrielle Keller is renting an apartment from the municipality, a rather uncommon situation in Germany, since the municipalities themselves usually don't own houses usable as living space.

The termination of (housing) rental contracts is regulated in the German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch) §573 which rather vaguely states:

Der Vermieter kann nur kündigen, wenn er ein berechtigtes Interesse an der Beendigung des Mietverhältnisses hat.

My English translation:

The landlord can only then terminate (the contract), when he has a justified interest in the termination of the tenancy.

The civil code continues with an incomplete list of justified interests. Most commonly, the termination of a German rental contract is justified with the landlord's personal need.

The highest court in Germany (Federal Court of Justice of Germany, Bundesgerichtshof) has in their verdict VIII ZR 238/11 already ruled that the 'justified interest' requirement is fulfilled for a legal entity (in this case, the municipailty as landlord is a legal entity and not a natural person) if the entity needs the housing space to fulfil official duties.

Even if the exact circumstances are different in the high court verdict, the German municipalities have been required to shelter a given number of refugees and they are hence justifying the cancellation of the rental contracts with their demand for housing space to fulfil their official duties. In most of the covered cases, the current tenants have disputed the termination notice and if it comes to a court ruling, the courts may of course rule differently, since the surrounding circumstances are different.

Also very different opinions have been expressed on the legal standing of the termination of the rental contracts. In the article from the Badische Zeitung, Udo Kasper from 'Mieterbund Baden-Württemberg' (a tenants' association) claims the termination to be void, since equal interests and requirements of two tenants are played against each other. He continues: 'The last consequence of the situation would be: The municipality evicts the current tenant. The municipality would then be responsible for finding accomodation for the now homeless woman. They would have to provide her with living quarters.' So far so good, however the municipality would not be required to provide the current tenant with a 78m² appartment, in which she lives alone.

In a followup article in Focus, 'lawyers' (they are not named) consider the termination void, since it is justified with the municipality's own need. According to the quoted lawyers, the concept of 'own need' or 'personal need' (Eigenbedarf) as defined in the German Civil Code can allegedly only be applied by natural persons and not a municipality. This opinion is however in contradiction with the court verdict I linked to, in which the highest court has already ruled that the principle of 'Eigenbedarf' can be claimed by legal entities as well.

In the Die Welt article, Wiebke Werner from another tenants' association finds the termination not necessarily disqualified and states: 'it depends on the assessment of each single case'.

  • 2
    "and they are hence justifying the cancellation of the rental contracts with their demand for housing space to fulfil their official duties. " - why can't they fulfill their duties by paying to rent, or buy, space owned by someone else?
    – Random832
    Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 17:44
  • 4
    @Random832 I don't know the details in this case, but it might simply be a problem that there is nothing else to rent or buy. In this case, Gabrielle Keller has been quoted by media to initially agree to the cancellation of her contract, but disputing it after she realized that she is not able to find new housing for herself. If she can't find a new apartment, there is most likely nothing else on the market for the municipality to rent or buy either. Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 18:15
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    @StefanWalter: I think her case is even differet, while the Wohnungsbaugesellschaften are often 100% owned by the municipality, in this case the house is directly owned by the municipality. In the former case, they would not have the right to evict her, since they would not legally be the landlords.
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 8:26
  • 1
    If you say that the cases have been well covered, please provide links to establish that fact.
    – Christian
    Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 8:32
  • 1
    @Kevin I already wrote: ' In most of the covered cases, the current tenants have disputed the termination notice and if it comes to a court ruling, the courts may of course rule differently, since the surrounding circumstances are different.' Doesn't that answer your question? If not, please clarify what you're not understanding. Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 22:59

I've edited my answer with a few more links. They're all German, so I didn't cite them earlier.

The subject line was:

Have German citizens been evicted to make room for refugees?

  • The citizenship of a tenant shouldn't matter here. The question should be if a legal tenant has been evicted to make room for refugees.
  • The question strongly implies that it is talking only about evictions from a family home. Other posters have answered that there were a few isolated cases, which will probably not be upheld in court. A more common case (and a slightly different question) are evictions from commercial buildings.

German state and municipal authorities are now routinely seizing buildings, both empty buildings and e.g. sports facilities, to house refugees.

News article by Focus about the general trend, mentioning a few specific cases (German language).

News Article by Der Spiegel about the applicable laws (German language).

They are required to pay compensation for such temporary use, and in many cases it happens with the tacit approval of the owners.

News article by taz about the seizure of a former bank building (German language). Not mentioned in the article is that there are now negotiations to buy it at market rates from the current owner. The building had been used by a TV production company as a set for banks, so it wasn't completely empty.

Having seized the building to prevent a present danger (link to the law, German language) to persons (i.e. the refugees seeking shelter), it becomes possible for the city to disregard building codes which would apply if they had rented it for the purpose. For example, refugees have been put into office buildings without showers; the showers were set up a few days later in containers outside. They can also disregard problems like asbestos if they think that temporarily living inside the building is safer than living outside in the rain.

Germany uses the Königsteiner Schlüssel to distribute refugees, a quota system named after the town where it was agreed, and most states then distribute the refugees further. The two cases mentioned in the press are apparently errors of judgement by small town administrations who are required to house a few refugees, they seem unlikely to stand up to legal scrutiny. Bigger cities are slightly more professional, and they don't bother with single apartments either.

  • 1
    I'm not clear on how temporary use of a building is considered seizing the building. Doesn't seizure usually mean taking possession of evidence or property as part of a criminal investigation?
    – barbecue
    Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 22:25
  • The following parts of your answer seem to be irrelevant to the question: Whether they are seizing buildings, how they justify seizing buildings, whether they ignore building codes, how they agreed to distribute refugees.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 0:57
  • 1
    Please provide references to support your claims that (a) the two cases mentioned in the press actually happened, and (b) that they are errors of judgement.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 0:57
  • 1
    @barbecue, the German word is Beschlagnahme. That can happen in criminal cases or as part of a disaster response.
    – o.m.
    Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 5:54
  • @Oddthinking, the quota explains why small town mayors did give tenants notice to leave. The seizure of other buildings explains how properties have been taken away from their owners, and the building codes explain why this is commonly a legal fiction -- the owner and the authorities agree to house refugees, and seizure with compensation are a more suitable legal framework than a lease contract.
    – o.m.
    Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 6:01

I just read a report on this at welt.de (a respected German newspaper) so it appears to contain some truth. (http://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article147154375/Wenn-Gemeinden-Fluechtlinge-gutgeschrieben-werden.html)

The woman has lived in the apartment for 23 years and has been offered alternative but smaller accommodation.

The apartment is rented directly from the town and is described as social accommodation. A speaker for the town explained that the apartment was allocated to her because she was a single mum with 2 children. The children have now left home.

Those are the facts as reported but it is obviously a difficult situation for the woman. There is a lot of rented accommodation in Germany and there have been tax incentives for house builders to build big and add extra space which can be rented out. There is a law for 'Eigenbedarf' which allows the landlord to cancel a rental if he or a family member wants to use the apartment. This has often led to unhappy situations similar to this one. This case is just made even more difficult due to the refugee tensions at present and the media attention.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 7:32

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