Germany’s largest landlord to restrict heating at night

Vonovia, one of Germany's largest landlords, wants to save energy by lowering the heat in tenants' buildings overnight.

A thermostat on a radiator. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Fernando Gutierrez-Juarez

When the heating season starts in autumn, tenants will only be able to turn up their radiators to 17C between 11pm and 6am at night, the company announced on Thursday. 

It said the move was intended to save energy and gas use during the current crisis. 

According to Vonovia, the change won’t affect temperatures during the daytime and access to hot water also won’t be affected, meaning tenants can wash and shower as usual.

The changes to the heating system will be carried out during routine maintenance ahead of the colder months. It is estimated that heating costs will drop by around eight percent once the change comes into force.

READ ALSO: When does your landlord in Germany have to turn on the heating?

Vonovia’s announcement comes after it emerged that a housing co-op in Saxony had taken drastic steps to minimise energy use in its buildings – including turning off the hot water for several hours a day.

The move means tenants of Dippoldiswalde Housing Cooperative can only take warm showers in the early mornings and late afternoons on the weekdays. The heating systems are also set to remain off until September. 

READ ALSO: German housing co-op slammed for restricting access to tenants’ hot water

Minimum temperature laws

In recent weeks, the Federal Network Agency has also been advocating a change in the legal minimum temperatures for tenants.

Speaking to the Rheinische Post in mid-June, Klaus Müller said tenants should be put under greater pressure to contribute to attempts to save energy ahead of winter. 

“In tenancy law, there are specifications according to which the landlord must set the heating system so that a minimum temperature of between 20C and 22C is achieved,” he said. “The state could temporarily lower the specifications for landlords. We are discussing this with politicians.”

The legal minimum temperature is currently set at 16-17C in the nighttime and 20-22C during the day. 

READ ALSO: German energy crisis: Call for reduction in minimum temperatures for tenants

As Germany races to secures it energy supply over winter, Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) has set strict legal targets for filling the gas storage facilities.

Currently, just 40 percent of the usual gas deliveries are flowing through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline from Russia into Germany. 

So far, Habeck has focussed his attention on campaigns to encourage both businesses and households to save energy.

However, it’s possible that caps on energy usage or other legal mechanisms – such as the reduction of temperatures in tenanted buildings – may be used if the situation continues to worsen. 

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Germany to thrash out details of €200 billion energy support package

Chancellor Olaf Scholz is meeting with Germany’s 16 state leaders on Tuesday to work out the details of the country’s energy relief packages and a cap on the price of gas. But a few questions remain open.

Germany to thrash out details of €200 billion energy support package

What’s happening?

With power bills more than doubling in some cases, German federal and state leaders have decided more support is needed. Chancellor Scholz last week announced a €200 billion package to cushion the blow for people in Germany yet further.

One of the most expensive planned measures is a Gaspreisdeckel – or a cap on the price of gas households would pay this winter.

That comes on top of a combined €100 billion in relief spending over three spending packages already passed in the Bundestag. The last one, amounting to €65 billion, was passed only about a month ago.

Those packages are paying or have paid everything from the popular €9 nationwide public transport ticket, a VAT cut on gas bills, to one-off energy and cost of living relief payments.

But that wasn’t enough for many state leaders, who began calling for a gas price cap.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Everything Germany is doing to help relieve rising energy costs

These calls also come from across the German political spectrum.

Both Markus Söder, the Bavarian premier from the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) and Berlin mayor Franziska Giffey of the Social Democrats, have been particularly vocal in their support for a gas price cap.

Is a gas price cap coming?

Households in Germany are very likely to see a cap on their gas bills of some sort this winter.

What’s not clear yet – and what federal and state leaders are hammering out Tuesday – is how precisely it will work in practice, when it might come in, how long it will last, and how it’ll be paid for.

The SPD-led government of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and national Green co-leader Ricarda Lang want a gas price cap that would cover 80 percent of what households use.

German state leaders attend the conference on Wednesday.

German state leaders attend a conference. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd von Jutrczenka

Under a plan like that, 80 percent would be termed a “basic consumption” requirement and capped in price for the average consumer. The other 20 percent would float according to the market rate for gas – to help encourage people to still save energy.

Söder’s Bavarian CSU has previously advocated for a 75/25 percent split between the capped portion and the floating portion to encourage more energy saving.

The government is then on the hook to pay the rest.

READ ALSO: Why did Germany make a U-turn on gas levy – and what do the new plans mean?

The cap is likely to last for the winter months at least, although this depends on Tuesday’s government talks, which also cover the thorny issue of how the government intends to pay for the cap.

The German Institute for Economic Research’s Marcel Fratzscher told broadcaster RTL and ntv last week that a cap alone could cost anywhere between €30 and €50 billion.

The Scholz government wants to pay for this primarily by running up government debt, something Finance Minister Christian Lindner has reservations about, as it would mean suspending Germany’s constitutional debt brake.

The federal state governments would be expected to pay for at least some of it, and any disputes Tuesday could hamper an agreement—potentially delaying the start of any cap or further relief measures.

A €9 ticket successor and relief for small businesses. What else do Germany’s states want?

Germany’s 16 federal state leaders are also bringing in a list of other measures they want to see from Scholz’s promised €200 billion in relief spending.

Chief among these is the unresolved question of how to pay for the planned successor to Germany’s popular €9 nationwide public transport ticket this summer.

Politicians are floating the idea of a more expensive €49 ticket, although the price could reach above €60, depending on how much money federal states are willing to kick in for it along with the federal government.

READ ALSO: Germany to set out plans for €49 transport ticket in October

North-Rhine Westphalia premier Hendrik Wüst is also calling for the federal government to make more money available for refugee housing, particularly as around 1 million Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Germany since the Russian invasion began in February.