Dispute with landlord meravis: wheelchair user threatened with eviction

Mold in the apartment, leaky windows: Because Claudia Suhr did not want to accept these defects and cut the rent, she is now threatened with eviction.

Does not want to move out of her apartment: Claudia Suhr Photo: Miguel Ferraz

Claudia Suhr is desperate. Two weeks ago, the Hamburg resident received the news that she will have to vacate her apartment in a few days. For Suhr, this is dramatic. She is in a wheelchair and has not yet found an apartment that meets her needs. She is threatened with homelessness. This was preceded by a dispute with her landlord Meravis. The real estate company is a subsidiary of the German Social Welfare Association (SoVD). "I didn’t do anything wrong after all. I just wanted Meravis to fix the defects," Suhr says through tears.

She had first contacted her landlord about the defects in 2017. The issues were mold in the apartment, leaking windows and balcony doors, and noise pollution. "Meravis wasn’t particularly interested in all that," says Suhr. After giving notice and consulting her lawyer, she then reduced her rent. Again, there was no response from her landlord for a while – until one day a lawsuit, including the termination notice, arrived in her mailbox.

In spring 2019, the case ended up in court. Suhr’s lawyer Ulrich Birke is still stunned by the proceedings today. "It is completely incomprehensible to me why the judge did not grant my request to call in an expert," Birke says. Instead of consulting an expert, he says, the judge decided to take a look at the apartment himself. "He took a superficial look, didn’t respond to my client’s indications, and judged from that that there was no mold," Birke says.

Meravis repaired damage

The leaking balcony door had been replaced by Meravis shortly before the judge’s visit. The absurdity: Although the door was now tight, it was no longer wheelchair accessible. Again, the judge had not considered this problematic.

"Even the slightest mold is dangerous for me," says Suhr. She herself had become allergic in the course of the 16 years she had lived in the apartment. Her 24-year-old son has also developed asthma, she says. "But, of course, it can’t be proven that it was caused by the mold," Suhr says. Her son, meanwhile, no longer lives with her, worried about further deterioration of his health.

The part of the apartment block Suhr lives in, which was built up in the 1950s and 1960s, was renovated about 30 years ago with state funds to make the apartments handicapped-accessible. Apparently, a renewal would be due in the meantime: Other former and current tenants report to the taz about mold infestation and about the fact that Meravis does not react to these grievances or reacts only hesitantly.

"My apartment was a dump – moldy up to the top," says a former tenant who lived in the same block. Because her children kept getting sick, she moved out, she says. A current tenant also tells the taz that he wants to move out as soon as possible for the same reasons and is looking for an apartment.

Ulrich Birke, lawyer

"The judge took a superficial look at the apartment and judged from that that there was no mold"

Meravis rents out around 12,000 apartments, mainly in Hamburg, Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia. A high proportion of these apartments are suitable for the elderly and disabled. When asked, the company denies all allegations about the apartment defects. In addition, the court had confirmed Meravis’ assessment. "In such situations and cases, there are no easy decisions for us, but since there was no concession from the tenant, we decided to go this route," says Meravis spokesman Jorg Schreiber.

Apartments suitable for Rosstuhl are rare

Since Suhr’s appeal was also rejected, she now received the eviction notice. "We have filed an application for protection against execution. If that is not granted, then it becomes dramatic," says attorney Birke. At the emergency housing office, he says, they have not been able to help Suhr find a wheelchair-accessible apartment so far. "To put it bluntly, if my client is rolled out onto the street, then there is a danger to her life," says Birke.

According to Axel Bosse of the Hamburg Tenants’ Association, Meravis is not known as a particularly bad landlord compared to other housing associations, but it also rarely shows itself to be accommodating. "It’s a property management company that cracks down," says Bosse. Meravis has also attracted negative attention in Hamburg in the past because it wanted to sell 60 percent of the apartments in a new building as condominiums instead of creating affordable rental space.

The tenants’ association hopes that the real estate company will once again move in view of Suhr’s dramatic situation. "I also trust Meravis to find a way to at least allow an extension until a new apartment is found," Bosse says. He adds that Meravis also has a social responsibility because it is a wholly owned subsidiary of SoVD, whose mission also includes representing the interests of people in need of care and people with disabilities in Germany.