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Tenants in Germany need eviction protections during energy crisis, says housing boss

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The Local ([email protected])
Tenants in Germany need eviction protections during energy crisis, says housing boss
A gas metre in an apartment building. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Jan Woitas

German housing experts say tenants who can’t pay additional costs - known as Nebenkosten -- during the energy crisis shouldn’t be evicted.

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The Federal Association of German Housing and Real Estate Companies (GdW) is calling on the German government to give tenants more protections from having their leases terminated if rising prices leave them unable to pay add-on costs (Nebenkosten).

GdW President Axel Gedaschko told Funke Mediengruppe newspapers on Tuesday that housing companies belonging to his association wouldn’t terminate any leases due to late utility bill payments. He says instead that tenants should be able to pay back late costs in instalments over time - with the payment plan determined together with tenants individually.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s €300 energy relief payout

About 13 million people in Germany live in places owned by one of the 3,000 housing companies belonging to the GdW.

At the same time, slightly more than half of Germany’s 83 million residents rent, rather than own, their home. Already in 2021, one in eight German tenants was financially overburdened due to housing costs.

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Partly to help tenants who don’t live in a GdW member place, Gedaschko says the federal government should put a cap on the price of gas used to heat homes.

So far, that’s something Economics Minister Robert Habeck has ruled out, saying that the government’s relief packages are already designed to help people offset rising costs.

READ ALSO: What’s in Germany’s support package for rising energy bills?

The German Tenants’ Association says protections need to go even further. “What we really need is a moratorium on terminations, like the ones we saw at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic,” President Lukas Siebenkotten told the Funke papers.

But there’s no sign yet that the government is willing to go that far.

For now, Federal Building Minister Clara Geywitz says she’s in favour of extending the grace period for late payments.

At the moment, tenants who have been served with an eviction notice due to unpaid bills have two months to pay back any arrears. If they do that, it voids that eviction notice and they can stay.

Geywitz says she wants to make this grace period longer and have it apply it more situations. But the federal cabinet of ministers would still need to agree to this step.

READ ALSO: Who benefits the most from Germany’s inflation relief package?

Some tenants in Germany facing steep rent increases

People with rental contracts that are indexed to inflation (indexmiete) are particularly affected by rising costs, with their rent going up at the rate of inflation--or as high as 8 percent next year. 

The German Tenants Association called for a freeze on indexed contracts earlier this year, while rent policy spokespeople Bernhard Daldrup for the Social Democrats and Canam Bayram for the Greens have already called for a limit on how much landlords can raise indexed contracts by.

However, the liberal Free Democrats have been cold on the idea recently, saying the government's relief packages will help address these costs by allowing people to hold on to more of their money through tax relief measures.

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