Everything that changes in Germany in December 2020

Everything that changes in Germany in December 2020
There's lots changing in the last month of the year. Photo: DPA
We have entered the last month of 2020. From railway timetable changes to new laws and public holidays, these are the changes you should be aware of.

New coronavirus rules and shutdown extended

The shutdown in Germany is being extended until at least December 20th and possibly into January.

There are also tightened contact restrictions –

  • From December 1st, only five adults from a maximum of two households are allowed to meet (down from 10 people currently). Children under 14 are excluded from this rule and don't count towards the total number
  • From December  23rd to January 1st, the rules will be temporarily relaxed. During this time meetings with a maximum of 10 people are allowed, regardless of the households involved. Again, children up to 14 are not counted

There are some differences in the rules between federal states so check with your local authority.

For more information check out our coverage:

Deutsche Bahn timetable and price change

From December 13th 2020 a new timetable will come into force on the Deutsche Bahn rail network. The winter timetable 2020/2021 will be in place until June 12th 2021. Among the changes are more connections, including between Hamburg and Berlin.

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Long-distance train ticket costs will increase by an average of one percent when the new timetable comes into force, but will still be below the previous years' level: on January 1st 2020, tickets were reduced by around 10 percent due to the reduction in VAT for long-distance tickets as part of the climate protection package.

Flexprice tickets will also become 1.5 percent more expensive on average compared to the current price from December 13th. The BahnCard 100 cost will go up by 1.9 percent. Savings prices and the BahnCard 25/50 are to remain the same price with the timetable change.

Note that Deutsche Bahn will have less seats available for booking on long distance trains during the December shutdown in a bid to allow for more social distancing.

Free tests after travel from risk zones to end

People returning from coronavirus risk areas outside Germany will soon not be able to receive a free test. Up until this point, travellers have been able to end their mandatory 10-day quarantine five days after returning with a free Covid-19 test.

However after December 15th, tests will no longer be free of charge, reported DPA on December 1st.

Time to relax on public holidays

This month, Germany has nationwide public holidays on December 25th (known as the First Day of Christmas) and December 26th (Second Day of Christmas). However, as December 26th falls on a Saturday, most people will not get a day for it as Germany does not transfer holidays to weekdays when they fall on the weekend.

Most companies also give their staff December 24th off as a gesture. January 1st 2021 is also a public holiday and it falls on a Friday.

This year due to the pandemic, the government is urging companies to give their staff company holidays or generous home office solutions between December 23rd and January 1st so that people can stay at home during the festive period before meeting with friends and family.

READ ALSO: What and where are Germany's public holidays in 2021?

A Christmas tree in Leipzig. Photo: DPA

New residential property law strengthens owners' rights

On December 1st, the revised German Condominium Modernisation Act (WEMoG) came into force. “The current Condominium Act of 1951 is no longer up to date,” says the federal government. Construction changes and modernisation of residential property, for example to allow for upgrades to burglary protection, e-mobility or faster internet connections, are to be made easier under the law change.

In future, flat owners and tenants will have the right to install a car charging station in the underground car park or on the property of the house. Owners will also have the right to inspect administrative documents.

Free flight rebooking still possible

In December and January, budget operator Ryanair will continue to waive the rebooking fee for flights booked from June 10th 2020 and scheduled to operate up to and including January due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, passengers must notify the company with any changes at least seven days before departure. It is possible to rebook to another Ryanair Group flight departing before September 30th 2021.

Lufthansa will also waive rebooking fees until the end of the year, as will its subsidiaries Austrian Airlines, Swiss and Brussels Airlines. All fares on short, medium and long-haul flights worldwide can be rebooked several times free of charge.

READ ALSO: Will travel in Germany be allowed at Christmas?

Long term unemployment benefit changes

The standard benefits for Hartz IV welfare recipients will increase from 2021 – although the money will be transferred as early as December 2020.

On December 30th and 31st the new Hartz IV benefits for 2021 will be paid out. Here's how the standard benefits will increase:

The Arbeitslosengeld (ALG) II – known as Hartz IV – basic standard rate (for a single household) will be €446 (plus €14) per month. The rates for young people in a so-called community of needs (Bedarfsgemeinschaft) will rise to €373 (plus €45). Children up to the age of five who live in a long-term unemployment household will receive €283 (plus €33) per month from 2021.

Meanwhile, Hartz IV benefits for couples or spouses will be €401 per person instead of €389 from 2021. Young adults under 25 who are still living with their parents will receive €357 (plus €12). The only exception are the rates for children between six and 13. Here the adjustment allocated to them through their parents or caregivers will be an increase of €1 to €309.

For more information contact the Bundesagentur für Arbeit.

Sellers must contribute to broker's commission

Until now, anyone buying a property has usually had to pay the broker's commission in full – a maximum of seven percent of the purchase price. From December 23rd 2020 this will change: sellers will also have to contribute to the costs of a broker. In future, those who commission a real estate agent will have to pay at least half of the commission themselves.

The buyer will also have to pay his or her share of the commission only after the seller has proven that he or she has paid it. This is to prevent sellers from passing on the full commission to the buyer. However, the German “Bauherren-Schutzbund” organisation said it fears that in future sellers will add the costs of the estate agent directly to the price of the property.

Stricter rules for DAX

More than three decades after its launch, DAX, the blue chip stock market index consisting of the 30 major German companies trading on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, is undergoing sweeping changes as part of a reform. From September 2021, it will comprise of 40 companies instead of 30, and stricter rules are to ensure greater quality as early as December of this year.

From December onwards, groups will have to provide proof of earnings before interest, taxes and other financial expenses in their last two financial reports before inclusion in the stock market barometer. From March 2021, companies in the DAX will be obliged to publish annual and quarterly reports – any breach of this requirement will lead to exclusion.

Brexit transition period comes to close

Not much has changed for Brits in Germany since Brexit happened at the end of January 2020. But from December 31st the Brexit transition period ends – and there will be lots of changes after that, such as end to freedom of movement in the EU.

But there is good news: Germany has just passed a law to ensure Brits already living in the Bundesrepublik can secure their residence status.

If you are a Brit living in Germany, you must be registered in the country and you must report your residence to the foreigners authority (Ausländerbehörde) responsible by June 30th 2021. Some foreigners authorities have already asked Brits to register, while other areas will wait until January 2021 to start the process.

We've been reporting on Brexit issues in the run up to December 31st, but we'll also do more in the coming weeks so keep an eye on our Brexit section.

READ ALSO: Britons in Germany urged to apply for residence status by June 2021

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