The managers of the real estate company Deutsche Wohnen had probably never expected that. An invoice for 14.5 million euros, issued by the Data Protection Officer of the State of Berlin, reached the listed company this Tuesday. It is a fine that seeks his match. The charge is weighty.
After investigations of the Berlin data protection authority the enterprise is to have illegally archived sensitive data of its tenants for years. As a rule, these are documents that prospective tenants must present before concluding a rental agreement to prove their creditworthiness, such as proof of income, Schufa information, employment contracts. By law, these documents must be destroyed upon conclusion of the lease. The real estate company has apparently renounced this.
According to SPIEGEL information, the Berlin Data Protection Authority has been investigating since 2017. Twice there were suburban appointments at Deutsche Wohnen. Twice, the privacy advocates the real estate managers have pointed to maladministration in data management, most recently this year. But nothing has happened. The sensitive tenants data were also, it said internally, completely inadequately stored - as in a huge data cemetery, almost an invitation for hackers.
The data protection officer of the state of Berlin, Maja Smoltczyk, confirmed on request the procedure and the amount of the fine. The group did not want to comment on the request on request.
Highest fine for data protection offense
The amount of fines for data breaches in Germany depends on the seriousness of the offense, intent and in the case of private companies on the annual turnover. Legislation provides for a maximum fine of 20 million euros or four percent of Group sales.
Authorities have only had to punish data protection offenses since May 2018 with fines. Since then fines have been imposed in 75 cases. The highest penalty so far was 80,000 euros - thus penalized the data protection officer of Baden-Württemberg the misuse of health data. A fine in the double-digit millions, as now by the data protection officer of Berlin against Deutsche Wohnen, has never been imposed.
The drastic fine notice hits the real estate company at a rather unfavorable time. With 111,000 apartments, the company is the largest private property owner in Berlin and has been criticized for years. He is accused again and again of having renovated apartments mainly because of being able to get rid of old tenants with favorable leases, and be able to re-rent considerably more expensive. The company has repeatedly rejected these allegations.
It is clear, however, that German residential apartments have become much more expensive after modernization. In an object in Berlin Langwitz, the net cold rent rose on average by one third from 5.60 euros to 8.40 euros. Such rent increases had an especially positive effect on the shareholders. Last year, the Group distributed 262 million euros in dividends, four years ago it was just 46 million euros.
For this reason, critics also refer to Deutsche Wohnen as a return-oriented financial group rather than a classic housing construction company. In February, rental activists and tenants' associations launched a referendum on the expropriation of Deutsche Wohnen and other major landlords. More than 70,000 Berliners have supported the request. The Senate is currently examining whether the expropriation agreement is compatible with the Berlin Land Constitution.
In the summer, the company has tried to defuse the criticism of its business model - and announced its own Mietendeckel for his apartments.