Monday, November 2, 2015

Live in Germany? The authorities insist on registering your address

To phrase it nicely, the German authorities really want to know where people live so they can issue a national ID, send you all kinds of official post, and sell your address to address brokers.

If you feel like browsing the text of the newly changed law in all its German glory, click here.

With very few and narrowly defined exceptions, every individual in this country is required to go to town hall when he or she moves out of a residence and into a new home. If you have more than one place of residence, they want to know that, too.

The latest version came into effect on 1 November 2015 with two important changes detailed further down.

Various regions or localities in Germany had some form of registration of residents well before the 1930s, but it was the Nazis who set up a complete nationwide system in January 1938 when they consolidated state systems under a single country wide system.

Returned to the states in West Germany, registration at town hall/city hall has been around ever since. In 2006, registration authority was once again transferred to the national level, aka. the federal government. As of 2015, you still have to show up in person to register or tell them you move.

For reasons only known to the bureaucrats who administer the system, you can only "unregister" at your current place of residence within a week before you move out. At your new location, you then have two weeks to register. If you miss the two week deadline, you can be fined. It's the German way. But if you are nice and only miss the deadline by a few days, you may get away with a stern talking to. Don't bet on it, though.

Of the many changes effective since 1 November, there really is only one that needs attention and causes more work for renters.

Landlord certification
If you rent an apartment, a house, or a room, you need the landlord to certify your status as a renter as follows: Name of the landlord, type of move (in our out) with the effective date, address of the residence, names of all persons moving in or out.

There is no specific provision for home owners, only a generic statement that "the person to be registered provides any and all requested documentation".

Address brokers/sellers
When foreigners think of Germans and data, they tend to think "strong data protection".
Wrong.
Before the recent changes, there was hardly any limit on address brokers and others for buying your address data and selling it to the highest bidder. The new regulation allows you to veto the sale for advertising purposes. And only for that.

It is an opt-out provision, so have fun.

Other details
Under the new provisions, law enforcement, intelligence agencies, courts, and pretty much any government agency that wants the data get 24/7 automated query permission.

And just to make sure landlords comply with their obligations, authorities can ask them at any time to provide data on residents of their properties.

A specific provision in the law also allows "public broadcasters" unrestricted access to the data at any time to ensure nobody escapes their civic duty of paying the "broadcasting fee".

Reduction and simplification of bureaucracy
Note that the added effort for renters is unlikely to be seen as a contradiction to oft stated efforts to reduce bureaucracy in Germany.

Take the optimistic point of view: Getting your landlord to sign or fill out one additional paper is surely offset by the super efficient 24/7 exchange of data between government agencies.

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