• Germany edition
 
No wartime paperwork? Tear down your home
Liedtke in front of her home near Cologne. Photo: DPA

No wartime paperwork? Tear down your home

Published: 13 May 2014 08:58 GMT+02:00
Updated: 13 May 2014 08:58 GMT+02:00

Christa Liedtke, 75, decided to sell the half-timbered house near Cologne three years ago, after she began to find the steep stairs too much to handle.

She fell in love with the house in 2005 and poured thousands of euros into renovating it. "As soon as I saw it, I knew it was the one," she said. “In 2011 I wanted to sell it, with a heavy heart, and that’s when this all started.”

Local authority officials told her she had to pull it down because there was no planning permission to build the house in the first place.

Irmgard Mertins, widow of a Jewish banker murdered by the Nazis, had built the house in 1939, as a place to wait out the war. In the chaos of war she failed to apply for all the right paperwork.

Legal cases turning on the absence of key permission, and documents lost, falsified or destroyed during the war are quite common in Germany. They sometimes leave homeowners realising with dismay their wartime-built houses do not have valid planning permission.

"In the last eight years we have seen six such cases," Birgit Bär, a spokeswoman for the district authority Rheinisch-Bergischer Kreis told The Local.

She said in the aftermath of the war many small buildings were converted into flats to cope with the sudden housing shortage due to bomb damage - and very few of the new landlords bothered to secure building permission for the new properties.

When Liedtke and her daughter bought the building - paying €250,000 for it in 2005 - they were not made aware of the missing paperwork.

And Bär says the letter of the law must be followed in such cases.

"Entry in the land register is just proof of ownership of the property, not of permission for a building, and for that reason the relevant laws must be exercised," she said.

"We can't just close the book on this one because she's so nice."

Bär agreed the demolition order was a regrettable outcome, saying her office had explored all the legal alternatives, and had even offered Liedtke a special permit to continuing living in the house.

"Of course it's not sensible to demolish it completely; no one wants to do that," Bär told The Local.

"But we have to do it, because German building law is very clear on this point. Houses outside of built-up areas with no planning permission have to go."

Bär said her office wanted to see a new law requiring an expert notary to be involved in house purchases, to spare people buying buildings they will later be forced to have pulled down.

But she added: "We are grown up people, we are responsible for what we sign our names to. Absence of important documents should always ring alarm bells."

Liedtke's appeal against the demolition order is to go to the region's higher administrative court in Münster, but a date has not yet been set.

SEE ALSO: Germany debates draft law on Nazi-looted art

For more stories about Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter

DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Karstadt closes stores to stay afloat
Photo: DPA

Karstadt closes stores to stay afloat

Germany's biggest department store chain Karstadt will close at least six stores, putting around 2,000 jobs at risk, in a drastic bid by its new boss to return it to profit. READ  

Quiz
How well do you know Germany?
Photos: DPA/Shutterstock

How well do you know Germany?

Do you know your Saxony facts from your Saxony-Anhalt ones? Test your knowledge of Germany's federal states in The Local's quiz. READ  

Climate chief hails Bonn greenhouse gas deal
Pollution from a coal-fired power station in Frimmersdorf, North Rhine-Westphalia. Photo: DPA

Climate chief hails Bonn greenhouse gas deal

The UN's climate chief hailed a European agreement in Bonn on greenhouse gases on Friday as providing "valuable momentum" for a world pact to be inked in Paris next year. READ  

Germany gets €780m EU rebate for poor growth
Photo: DPA

Germany gets €780m EU rebate for poor growth

Germany will get an early Christmas present of around €779 million from the EU, thanks to weaker than expected GDP growth. READ  

Stay inside after blast, Ludwigshafen told
Photo: DPA

Stay inside after blast, Ludwigshafen told

It will take several days to find out what caused a massive explosion on Thursday which rocked a town on the Rhine, killing a builder and injuring 26 others. READ  

German helicopter fleet 'not fit for Nato'
An NH90 helicopter. Photo: DPA

German helicopter fleet 'not fit for Nato'

Germany's fleet of NH90 helicopters is undergoing engineering checks after one of them suffered a serious engine failure, in the latest blow to the country's military capabilities. READ  

Ex-boss of Berlin Airport farce gets €1.2m
Rainer Schwarz at a court hearing in September into the case. Photo: DPA

Ex-boss of Berlin Airport farce gets €1.2m

The man who was blamed for Berlin's miserable attempt to build a new airport must be paid more than €1 million - after being fired. READ  

Steinmeier challenges UN over Isis gas reports
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Kurds watching the attack on Kobane. Photo: DPA

Steinmeier challenges UN over Isis gas reports

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier pressed UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon to bring possible poison gas use by Isis in Iraq before the Security Council. READ  

Spring back in German consumers' step?
Photo: DPA

Spring back in German consumers' step?

Update: Consumer confidence in Germany has stopped falling, as households appear to be no longer fazed by concerns about the economic fallout from geopolitical crises, a new poll found on Friday. READ  

Ludwigshafen explosion kills one, injures 26
An eyewitness captured the moment of the explosion on their phone. Photo: DPA

Ludwigshafen explosion kills one, injures 26

UPDATE: One person has died and 26 others are injured after a huge explosion in Ludwigshafen, western Germany on Thursday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Gallery
PHOTOS: Huge explosion rocks Ludwigshafen
Photo: DPA/Shutterstock
Gallery
Which high school cliche is your German city?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Storm hits southern Germany
Sponsored Article
An international school unlike any other : School on the Rhine
Photo: Fitzpatrick family
Society
'We still don't know what happened to Matthew'
Photo: Mariana Schroeder
Munich
Special Report: Hope and chaos at Munich's refugee shelters
Photo: DPA
Culture
Can you top our history quiz leaderboard?
Photo: DPA
Politics
UKIP ‘seeks EU pact’ with German satirical party
Photo: DPA/Shutterstock
Gallery
11 things Germans are afraid of...
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,528
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd