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 |  Dr. Dieter Jasper, LL.M.

Massive real estate development in your neighbourhood, what to do?

Massive Quartiersentwicklung droht, was tun?

The conurbations in the Federal Republic of Germany are becoming more and more densely populated. Since there is not an unlimited amount of new land available, there is now a tendency for existing neighbourhoods to be massively densified. Residents, some of whom have lived in these neighbourhoods for decades, are increasingly resisting this. Such resistance, however, requires precise planning, a clever approach and the bundling of forces in order to be able to stand up to professional neighbourhood developers.

This article will only provide a rough outline of what measures seem sensible in such a case for the current residents and what mistakes should not be made, especially at the beginning of such a "defensive battle":

1. The first problem is that there is not enough information available to even have legal recourse against massive new neighbourhood developments. In order to do this, residents first have to rely on the usual channels such as the press, the internet, personal contacts, etc. to gather information about what is going on in the neighbourhood. The first step is to gather information on what is planned in the neighbourhood in general and in particular in terms of densification. This includes additional new buildings, additions of storeys, erection of penthouse flats, extension of roofs, construction of new neighbourhood garages etc. As a rule, for such larger projects, the developers will want to consult with the city and, if necessary, check not only the political but also the administrative feasibility through preliminary building applications or similar. And this is already where the first starting points lie, which residents should definitely take into account.

2. An important, but sometimes overly focussed measure is "media measures", meaning the usual "Then I'll just call in the press! However, press statements, advertisements, interviews, etc. are only advisable if a legal starting point in favour of the residents emerges after an initial rough assessment.

3. The second level should then be considered. As soon as the relevant notices of preliminary building applications or even building permits have been issued, the affected residents are called upon to take action against them in the short term. If they, as neighbours, are served with the building permit, they have a period of one month to challenge this administrative act before the competent administrative court (in some federal states also only within the framework of an appeal procedure). If they were not directly served and had no knowledge, a one-year period runs from the date of knowledge, within which a corresponding legal action must then be initiated.

4. Unfortunately, many mistakes are made even with such legal steps. People often fail to realise that not just anyone can take action against such a building permit. Only those who have the right to sue (§ 42 VwGO) can take legal action. As a neighbour, he must show that his neighbouring rights have been impaired. Careful attention must be paid here, as these regulations are intended to prevent popular lawsuits ("everyone sues as they please").

5. A final note: Not every infringement of provisions in a law will lead to a successful lawsuit by a neighbour against such a neighbourhood development or building permit at the long end. Success will only be achieved if the neighbour's rights have been concretely impaired. In case of doubt, this must be demonstrated and proven.

In summary, it is highly advisable to seek competent legal assistance at an early stage in disputes concerning neighbourhood developments.

Düsseldorf, 20. August 2021
Dieter Jasper

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