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Can you get in trouble for smoking on your balcony in Germany?

While it isn’t illegal to smoke on your balcony in Germany, there are certain considerations and restrictions that smokers should be aware of.

A man spokes a cigarette on a residential balcony.
A man spokes a cigarette on a residential balcony. Photo: Ron Lach/Pexels

The sunny weather has arrived in Germany and is hopefully here to stay. For many – particularly those living in big cities – that means spending much more time in the small, private outside space they have available: on the balcony.

But what if your time reclining in the sun is constantly disturbed by wafts of cigarette smoke from your neighbour’s balcony? Is there anything you can do about it? And if you’re a smoker with a complaining neighbour, can you insist on your right to smoke?

Though there is no general smoking ban on balconies in Germany, as they are considered private spaces, it’s an issue which often leads to disputes between neighbours. As a result, there are a few cases and court rulings which offer some guidance on the rules around balcony smoking. 

In April, one Twitter user in Berlin caused a storm by sharing a story about her partner being threatened with legal action if he did not submit his planned smoking schedule to his neighbour. 

Though it’s not clear if the case went to court, there is legal precedent to show that smokers can be restricted in the times they are allowed to smoke on their balconies. 

In 2017, a woman in Berlin was prohibited by a court order from smoking on her balcony between 8 pm and 6 am, as this was disturbing her upstairs neighbour. 

READ ALSO: Berlin woman faces €250,000 fine if she smokes on balcony past 8 pm

Another judgement from the Federal Court of Justice (Case No. V ZR 110/14) decided that generally, smokers are expected to consider the well-being of others even in outdoor areas, and they can be legally obliged to only smoke on their balcony at specific times.

According to the judgement in this case, non-smokers have the right to use their balcony without being bothered by smoke, while smokers have the right to live their lives as they choose, including smoking on their balcony.

Ultimately, it was decided that neighbours are not obliged to tolerate smoke constantly and therefore, smokers can be made to smoke at only specific times.

READ ALSO: From nudity to BBQs: What you can (and can’t) do on your balcony in Germany

Overall, non-smokers seem to have been successful in court over the years. 

In 2012, for example, the Hamburg Regional Court ruled that tenants of surrounding apartments can have a right to rent reduction if someone in the building frequently smokes on the balcony (case no. 311 S 92/10).

In 2014, the Frankfurt Regional Court decided that an owner can even be completely prohibited from smoking on their own balcony if the apartment has a second balcony where the smoke would have less impact on other residents of the building (case no. 2-09 S 71/13).

Rolf Bosse, Chairman of the Hamburg Tenants’ Association, recently told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that he expected courts will only become stricter in the future.

“Smoking as an expression of personal identity is becoming less socially accepted”, he said.

It’s worth noting that landlords or property owners can also prohibit smoking in shared areas such as hallways, laundry rooms, or basements. While a general or pre-formulated clause in the lease agreement is not enough on its own to enforce a smoking ban on balconies, landlords can establish individual agreements with tenants in writing and violating these agreements can potentially result in eviction.

Should I stop smoking on my balcony?

For now, smoking on your own balcony is not illegal, but it’s telling that, even in Berlin – a city which still has many smoking bars and smoking is generally socially acceptable – residents have been restricted in their right to smoke on their balconies. 

So if you are planning to smoke a lot on your balcony this summer, it’s probably a good idea to be considerate and initiate a conversation with your neighbours if you think your habit might become a disturbance. 

If you’re someone who is disturbed by smoke from your neighbours’ balcony, you are within your rights to ask them to be more considerate. 

READ ALSO: Why Germany needs to take the smoking ban more seriously

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PROPERTY

How high interest rates are hampering homeowners’ dreams in Germany

Rising interest rates are driving property developers in Germany into bankruptcy - and leaving would-be homeowners out in the cold. Will the government's latest plans to tackle the crisis be enough?

How high interest rates are hampering homeowners' dreams in Germany

Valeriy Shevchenko felt like he made the purchase of his lifetime when he beat a queue of prospective buyers to secure a two-bedroom apartment in one of Berlin’s most popular districts.

Two years on, the 33-year-old’s housing dreams have come crashing down after the developer of his new home, Project Immobilien, went bankrupt.

Hit by a sudden jump in interest rates and raw material costs, twice as many developers have filed for insolvency over the last year than the previous 12 months.

Like hundreds of homeowners-to-be across the country, Shevchenko found construction of his new home suddenly halted, as workers cleared out of the site where the concrete skeleton of the building stands, with no windows.

“From the middle of August, the construction was frozen. The cabinets for the workers here, the crane in the middle, everything moved away,” said Shevchenko at the site, shellshocked by the setback.

With such scenes multiplying across the country, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called in leading players in the property sector for talks on Monday, with the aim of jump-starting construction.

For years, record low interest rates and strong demand had spurred new projects and investment in Germany’s property market.

But a sharp rise in consumer prices as a consequence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced the European Central Bank to aggressively raise interest rates to curb inflation, drastically pushing up mortgage costs and in turn bringing down property prices as well as profit margins of building projects.

READ ALSO: Germany sees record drop in property prices

Builders are also suffering from higher raw material costs, a problem that had already begun during the pandemic but which has been accentuated by the Ukraine war.

“Investors no longer know how to make certain projects profitable,” said Tim-Oliver Mueller, president of German building lobby group HDB.

‘All my savings’

In a sign of the crisis, developer giant Vonovia recently decided to put 60,000 projects on hold.

One in five property companies has reported cancelling building projects in August, while 11.9 percent face financing difficulties, according to a recent survey by economic research institute Ifo, which described the figures as unprecedented in 30 years.

Many of the halted projects are also well advanced, pushing buyers into dire financial straits.

In Berlin, investors of the Project Immobilien’s construction had already paid half of what is due.

“I’m not a rich person. My money is the fruit of my labour,” said Shevchenko, who had already paid up €250,000 ($266,100) for the apartment he bought for half a million euros.

Valeriy Shevchenko

Valeriy Shevchenko of Russia poses in front of the site of the unfinished “Malmoerstrasse 28” residential housing project on September 18th, 2023. Photo: JOHN MACDOUGALL / AFP

With no insurance purchased by the building company or the future homeowners, there is no financial protection against the sudden bankruptcy.

Their only hope now is to find someone else to take over the construction, or to finish it themselves.

“I never thought that something like that could happen in Germany,” said Marina Prakharchuk, 39, with tears in her eyes.

The Belarusian had paid up €175,000 for her 45-metre square apartment.

“All my savings are in there,” said the employee of a logistics company.

‘Very bad state’

Beyond the investors left roofless by insolvent developers, the property crisis risks spiralling into a giant social crisis as the knock-on effects from the building slowdown crash into the rental market.

Scholz’s government had promised to build 400,000 homes a year to alleviate an endemic housing shortage made worse by burgeoning demand from an inflow of refugees and foreign workers.

But building permits have nose-dived 25 percent between January and June compared to a year ago.

Experts believe the sector will struggle to even hit 250,000 in new-build approvals this year, while next year bodes no better with a forecast of under 200,000.

READ ALSO: Why does Germany keep missing its house-building targets?

With less new housing stock coming on the market, rents are rising unabated, further eroding households’ purchasing power.

Alarmed by the trend, Housing Minister Klara Geywitz recently announced plans to offer aid to help families get on the property ladder. She also pledged to invest another billion euro up to 2025 for student housing.

But the property sector warned that the proposals are far from sufficient.

“We are expecting a comprehensive package of measures,” said the HDB’s Müller.

“The sector is in a very bad state, people are searching urgently for housing,” he added.

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