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Hamado Dipama (middle), his lawyer Ugur Kör (far right) and other supporters outside the court in Augsburg /Photo: Agaby

German court rules against landlord who refused to rent to an African

Major victory over housing discrimination in Germany as court fines a landlord for refusing to let his apartment to an African. It’s symbolic that the verdict was delivered on 10 December, the International Human Rights Day.

A court has ruled that it’s illegal for a landlord or landlady to refuse to rent a flat to a would-be tenant on account of their nationality.

A district court in Augsburg, state of Bavaria, on Tuesday (10 December) found an 81-year-old landlord, who had advertised that he would only let his property to Germans, guilty of violating Germany’s General Law on Equal Treatment. The landlord had been taken to court after he refused to rent an apartment to Hamado Dipama, who is originally from Burkina Faso, who then complained to the authorities.

Mr Dipama, who was moving from Munich, told the court that the landlord swiftly ended his phone call after he realized he was a foreigner.

The landlord, who was asked to pay the sum of 1,000 euros in damages to the African, was ordered by the court to refrain from advertising for tenants in the future with a preference for only Germans.

About 70% of foreigners in Germany report feeling discriminated against in the housing market, according to an investigative reporting done by German public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk and news magazine Der Spiegel in 2017 / Photo: Femi Awoniyi

 

In the event that he repeats the offence, the landlord could be fined up to 250,000 euros or alternatively sentenced to up to 6 months in prison, the judge said.

“This open discrimination against foreigners is simply unacceptable,” Judge Andreas Roth said in his short verdict.

During the court hearing of the case on 15 October 2019, the landlord had clearly stated that he did not want to and would not rent his apartment to “non-Germans” and also not to Germans, who collaborate with “foreigners” or support refugees.

Furthermore, the landlord claimed during the public hearing that he had decided, due to a previous bad experience with a Turkish drug dealer who he claimed had rented his apartment, not to give his apartment to “foreigners”.

“Crimes and offenses are committed by people, not by nationalities,” the judge said.

READ ALSO Foreigners in Germany face discrimination in housing – report

 “We welcome the decision of the district court of Augsburg, which  fully asserts the complainant’s refusal not to accept racism and discrimination,” Netzwerk Rassismus- und Diskriminierungsfreies Bayern e.V., reacting to the verdict, said. The anti-racism group had supported the complainant’s cause in the court case.

Hamado Dipama, founder and board member of Pan-Africanism Working Group Munich, has pledged to donate the compensation to anti-racism and anti-discrimination organisations.

“This is a small victory against racism and discrimination on the International Human Rights Day …. The fight continues, however,” Dipama said. “My special thanks go to my brave lawyer Ugur Kör.”

The fight against racism is of great importance to Dipama, who is also involved in the Foreigners Advisory Council of the City of Munich and the Bavarian Refugee Council. In 2013, he conducted tests at Munich nightclubs and found that it was harder for dark-skinned people to be allowed in. Even then, he went to court. He won twice, lost once and reached a settlement three times. “There is discrimination at all levels,” said Dipama. “At work, in the public space, in leisure time and on the housing market”.

“Our goal is to show that discrimination on the rental market is not acceptable,” Dipama’s lawyer, Ugur Kör, said. In his experience, citizens with a migration background often have to struggle with “hidden discrimination”.

Most landlords would not tell why they reject applicants. It is very rare for someone to openly say that they do not want to rent their apartment to foreigners.

About 70% of foreigners in Germany report feeling discriminated against in the housing market, according to an investigative reporting done by German public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk and news magazine Der Spiegel in 2017.

Femi Awoniyi

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