Switzerland, Austria and Germany have the highest share of tenants in Europe. Economically, rental tenancies constitute an efficient debt financing of housing needs; renting is thus more beneficial than owner occupation. This finding gives rise to a basic thesis: To the extent that balanced regulation contributes to high shares of rental tenancies, it also accounts for macroeconomic benefits. For Austria, this thesis may be confirmed only partially with respect to the well-regulated and organised social rental sector funded by the state. However, private rentals are covered by complicated regimes most of which stipulate forms of statutory rent control. The Swiss case is more in point: Tenancy law is regulated in a relatively balanced way although there is a certain pro landlord-tendency. However, the resort to tenancies may also be explained by the lack of viable alternatives, due to the lack of social housing, very high prices and a prohibitive tax treatment. The German case is most in point. Regulation is relatively equilibrated, though with slight advantages for tenants; the ‘Mietspiegel’, a statistical compilation of comparative rents, constitutes a viable compromise solution between free market rents and rents fixed by statute. Yet, the current balance of private rental markets is fragile.
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