Although I’ve been blogging about our travels since before we lived in Germany for the second time, I am aware that my “travel blog” has somewhat turned into a German living blog. Many of my regular readers are Americans who live in the Stuttgart area. Quite a few “local” readers are also somehow affiliated with the U.S. military.
A couple of months ago, I decided to leave several of our local Facebook groups. I had a few reasons for doing so. The main reason was that some of the drama in the local groups was causing me annoyance and distress. However, I am grateful that I was in one of the local groups long enough to be talked into buying German liability insurance.
One of our local Facebook groups is run by Gerhard Koch, a German who sells insurance for a living. He very frequently advertises his products to group members. He even hosts information dinners to talk up his insurance policies. More than once, someone has accused him of using the group to bolster his business.
It seems that many Americans assume that the insurance they can get through USAA or another American insurance company is enough for living here in Germany. For all I know, that could be true. Bill and I do have renter’s insurance through USAA that we’ve never had to use. We recently had a situation in our rental property that we could have tried using our USAA insurance to cover. However, I will go on record to say that I’m glad we didn’t have to go that route.
A couple of years ago, I told Bill that I thought it would be a good idea to invest in German liability insurance. Although at that time, we had not experienced it personally, I had read a lot of horror stories from people who had mishaps in their rental houses or had otherwise damaged someone’s property. Germans are every bit as litigious as Americans are. I know one woman who had a guest stay at her home in Germany and he somehow flooded and ruined their kitchen! She and her husband did not have liability insurance and ended up having to use their life savings to cover the damage. It amounted to many thousands of euros that they had to cover personally!
After hearing about that, I nagged Bill to buy the policy. Actually, we got policies for personal liability and for our dogs, since both dogs and accidents are unpredictable. Together, I think we spent a couple of hundred euros for a year’s coverage under both policies, which I believe cover us into millions of euros of potential damage. It made me feel better to have that coverage. For most of our marriage, Bill and I have been rather broke. We are now pretty financially comfortable and, for the first time ever, don’t have to worry much about money. In less than a year, my student loans will finally be paid off years ahead of schedule. We can finally think about settling in a home of our own. The last thing I want to deal with or pay for is damage to our rental house in Germany. So Bill bought the policy and made me happy.
Sure enough, in late August of this year, we had occasion to use our policy. We had an old awning attached to our house. I didn’t use the awning that often, except on days when the sun was especially brutal. The awning helped keep our living room from getting too hot. For some reason, this year the awning had started to list a bit. One side hung lower than the other side did. We told our landlords and the husband came over to “fix” it. He did manage to temporarily fix the problem, but our landlady said she didn’t know how long the repair would last. She did not tell us not to use the awning and, I note, did not have a qualified repair person fix it. Our landlord is very handy, but I’m not sure he’s an expert on awnings.
For a few weeks, all was fine. I used the awning a couple of times on hot days with no issues. Then one warm day in late August, I had cranked out the awning and gone upstairs for a bit. The wind suddenly gusted and the awning collapsed. I heard it hit the patio with a resounding thud and there was a loud scrape as the awning violently pushed our outdoor furniture aside. I went outside to inspect the damage. The awning is very heavy. I’m really glad no one was standing under it when it fell, because I’m pretty sure someone could have been seriously hurt or even killed if it had fallen on their head.
The landlady immediately accused me of negligence because I used the defective awning on a hot, “windy” day. It was not windy when I unrolled it. The gust of wind had been swift, sudden, and unexpected. But because I wasn’t sitting outside when the wind blew, and it fell, she claimed I was at fault. Then she asked about liability insurance after she complained about some dog hair in the doorway and claimed that I wasn’t taking good enough care of the new windows and doors she had installed right after we moved in.
Now… I don’t actually have a problem with using liability insurance for the awning. After all, insurance is supposed to be used for accidental events like random awning failures. My issue is that she accused me of negligence. Frankly, I think if anyone was negligent, it was she.
She finally brought a legitimate repair person over who said the awning couldn’t be fixed. At the same time, we also happened to be having a problem with the electric rolladens. I got blamed for that situation, too. She said we weren’t using them often enough, and that’s why when we pressed the button to get them to come down, one of the rolladens wouldn’t budge. The actual problem was that rolladen came off track somehow in the wall above the door. After the repair for the rolladens was done, the landlady eventually admitted that it wasn’t installed properly in the first place. However, the awning remained a sticking point… she continually sent Bill emails about the insurance money.
I have to admit, we were both really pissed off and even considering moving over her insistence that we were “bad tenants”. I’m still pretty angry with our landlady for the way she handled this situation. However, we did learn yesterday that, after having inspected the damage last week, the insurance company decided to give our landlords 540 euros (although the landlady claims they only gave her 310 euros and reminds us that awnings cost 2800 euros). That amount more than covers several times over what we paid for the insurance. Moreover, if I hear another word about the awning, I can tell the landlady that I wasn’t negligent. It’s because of me that we even had that liability insurance in the first place.
I don’t think she or her husband want us to move. If we moved, she’d have to vet new people and it’s likely they wouldn’t buy insurance because many Americans seem to think it’s a scam. Moreover, while we have had a couple of mishaps in the house, we pay our bills and the neighbors seem to like us. We represent a dependable flow of a lot of euros for a house that isn’t all that great.
The truth is, we don’t want to move, either. Moving is a pain in the ass. Finding a place to live in this area is an even bigger pain in the ass. There’s no guarantee that the next landlords would be any less irritating. Also, we like the neighborhood where we live. People are nice here and not overly uptight, as they were in the first neighborhood we lived in when we were here from 07-09.
However, if there’s one thing I learned from this situation, it’s that I’m ready to be a homeowner and because we had insurance, that will be an easier goal to attain. Folks, if you live in Germany, you really should consider buying liability insurance. It’s very cheap and if you have an “Unfall” like we did, chances are it will be covered. I’d rather pay a hundred or so euros for an insurance policy than several hundred euros for an old awning that collapsed due to a sudden breeze. Just something to think about.