An attractive alternative to many renters is becoming a member of a nonprofit cooperative building society (Gemeinnützige Bauvereinigung). Most co-ops in Vienna are publicly subsidized developments, and tenants must meet eligibility criteria similar to those for public housing. However, there are also private / corporate co-op societies without such restrictions.
How do Co-Ops in Vienna work?
- Co-op residents are not legally owners, but rather members of a building society. Upon joining a co-op, a tenant commits to a large lump-sum payment up front. This co-finances the construction and land use (Finanzierungsbeitrag). In return, the tenant’s monthly costs are typically lower than rent and operating costs for a similar rental property.
- Upon moving out, the building society reimburses the tenant for their initial investment. The co-ops deduct a nominal percentage as a financing fee (usually 1 percent per year of occupancy).
- Some co-ops will offer tenants a purchase option (Mietkauf or Kaufoption). However, unlike lease-to-own models for car ownership, it is not a given that cumulative rental payments are applied against the purchase price.
Transfer of co-ops to another tenant
- When a co-op tenant wants to move out, he or she might have the right to recommend a new tenant (Vorschlagsrecht). However, the actual transfer rights (Weitergaberecht) usually belong to the building society, unless otherwise explicitly laid out in the tenancy contract.
- Upon terminating a co-ops lease, a co-op tenant may ask for a one-off transfer fee (Ablöse) from the incoming tenant. Often such fees are prohibited, except in cases where the outgoing tenant has made improvements to the apartment or conveys fixtures and furnishings to the new tenant.
- Under certain conditions, tenants within the same building society may swap apartments (Wohnungstausch) without having to terminate their existing leases.
- Before accepting a transfer deal from an outgoing tenant or paying a transfer fee, an incoming tenant should consult with a professional advocate.