The dreaded Kehr-Woche is a thorn in many renters’ eyes, who live in a multi-family apartment building in Germany. Common areas, such as stairwells, laundry rooms, basements, and sidewalks have to be cleaned eventually, but by whom?
That’s where the Swabians in the late 1500s had a brilliant idea how to hold tenants responsible for cleanliness and order in the common areas and the front of the buildings they lived in. Every week, usually on Saturdays, the tenants of each apartment take turns sweeping and mopping the stair-wells and do other chores that is stipulated in the rental contract. Usually a sign is hung on the door of whose turn it is to do the honors that week. (Today, a simple schedule at the entrance of the building serves the same purpose).
The Penalty for Lazy Tenants
If a tenant does not comply and neglects to do his or her part, he/she will be frowned upon by the neighbors. That’s really no fun – because Germans know how to stare at people just right. And EVERYBODY knows, who the lazy person is – because the “Kehr-Woche” sign is prominently displayed on their door for all the world to see… When the landlord receives a complaint, a warning is sent to that tenant to catch up on the chores. If the tenant does not respond, a Putzfrau (cleaning lady), or a commercial cleaning team will do the work, and the tenant will be billed for the services.
What about Vacations?
Should a tenant be on vacation during his/her turn, it is their responsibility to arrange for trading turns with a neighbor, or have a friend help out. Should no-one be willing to step in, the tenant has to pay for someone to do so. Therefore, it really pays to be on good terms with your neighbors.
Real Life Experience
When I was a kid, we always lived in multi-family houses. I can remember how my grandma or other neighbors where on their hands and knees cleaning the steps of our 3 story apartment building. Personally, I would’ve just grabbed a Swiffer mop and be done with it…
I still recall how my grandparents were complaining about certain tenants not doing their part. “She didn’t clean the stairs again!” was something I heard on a regular basis.
Also, when I went out to play on a Saturday morning, all the men of the street were out, sweeping the sidewalks. Funny, I just realized how hardly anybody sweeps a sidewalk here in the States. Come to think of it, when the driveway needs cleaning, the American way is to point a garden hose to the ground and spray that sucker down. At first, I used to cringe at the thought of wasting that much water, where instead, I could just take a big push-broom and be done with the task in 10 minutes. But I have to admit, I’m guilty of occasionally partaking in a nice hose-down of my own driveway on a few hot and sticky Alabama afternoons.
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