If the rent is not enough: Who gets housing benefit?

The rent is too high, the energy costs are unaffordable.

If the rent is not enough: Who gets housing benefit?

The rent is too high, the energy costs are unaffordable. Now receiving housing benefit could help. However, only half of those entitled make an application at all. Maybe out of shame or ignorance. At least in the latter case we can help.

It is no longer a secret that rents have risen in some places in recent years. Nor that the energy costs for a warm home drive up housing costs massively. This overwhelms many households financially. The old principle of spending around a third of your income on housing no longer works for many. In some cases, 40 percent and more have to be paid for the rent including heating, especially in the lower income bracket. Here you will find mainly low-wage workers, young professionals, students and pensioners.

If moving is not an option to avoid escalating housing costs, tenants should seriously consider applying for housing benefit. However, according to the Institute of German Economics, only half of those entitled make an application at all, even though they are entitled to it. Maybe out of shame or ignorance. Questions and answers on the topic:

What is housing benefit?

Housing benefit is paid as a rent subsidy for people who rent an apartment or room, or as a load subsidy for people who own an apartment or house. According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the latter supports, among other things, in coping with the costs of interest and repayment of a loan, with construction or modernization measures and also with property tax. Only households that otherwise do not receive any support such as Hartz IV or basic security in old age benefit from state subsidies.

Is there a legal right?

The housing benefit is not handouts. Those who meet the legal requirements have a legal right to these payments. And this should also be taken advantage of in order to be able to live in reasonable living space at affordable costs. According to the German Tenants' Association in Berlin, the rent or load subsidy is available to all those whose total monthly household income is below a certain income limit.

Who is eligible?

Whether someone can claim housing benefit and, if so, how much, essentially depends on three factors: the number of household members to be taken into account, the total monthly income of the household and the amount of the eligible rent or burden.

How is the total income of all household members calculated?

The total income is made up of the sum of the annual income of all household members to be taken into account less certain allowances and deductions, for example for maintenance payments. The amount of income must be proven. The child benefit and child supplement are not taken into account when determining income. The total monthly income is one-twelfth of the total income.

Who are among the household members to be considered?

Household member is the person entitled to housing benefit. Household members are also included if they live together with the person entitled to housing benefit in the apartment for which housing benefit is requested and this apartment is the center of their living relationships:

Are own assets also taken into account?

Any assets have an impact on the entitlement to housing benefit. In contrast to unemployment benefit II, for example, the exemption limits are set very high here, so that housing benefit is not denied to applicants in most cases. The maximum limit for usable assets is 60,000 euros for the first household member to be taken into account and 30,000 euros for each additional household member.

Is an application necessary?

Housing benefit can only be drawn if an application is made and the requirements are met. Application forms are available from the local housing benefit authority: the municipal, city, office or district administration. Comprehensive advice is also available there. The respective housing benefit office also calculates the specific amount of the housing benefit. The competent authority will issue a written notification of the housing benefit application.

When will the payment be made?

Only from the beginning of the month in which the application is received. With appropriate approval and then also retrospectively. If you are in a hurry, you should first submit the application informally and only then submit the completed application for housing benefit.

How long does the processing take?

Several weeks depending on the housing benefit authority. In Berlin there are about seven.

How long is housing benefit paid?

The benefit is usually granted for twelve months. Anyone who then wants to continue to claim housing benefit must submit a new application - if possible about two months before the end of the approval period, so that the ongoing payment of housing benefit is not interrupted.

Is every rent subsidized?

Support will not be provided for unreasonably high housing costs. The rent or burden is only eligible up to a certain maximum amount. These maximum amounts depend on the local rent level and the number of household members to be taken into account. In principle, the rent subsidy is calculated individually.

What does the rent include?

The calculation basis for the housing benefit is the so-called gross rent. This results from the net cold rent plus the cold operating costs such as: the costs of water consumption, street cleaning and garbage disposal and building liability insurance and property tax. These costs can also be added to the rent if they are not paid to the landlord but directly to a third party (e.g. the municipality) on the basis of the rental agreement or a similar usage agreement.

Are heating costs and the costs for hot water also subsidised?

No, not so far. Heating costs and costs for heating water as well as corresponding costs for the independent commercial supply of heat and hot water are not included in the rent.

Does the state support here?

Yes, the state is providing support here as part of its relief packages. Recipients of housing benefit have already automatically (without an additional application) received a heating cost subsidy of the following amount as a result of the 2nd relief package:

Further payments have now been promised in the recently announced 3rd relief package

Is the entire rent covered by housing benefit?

No, housing benefit is only a supplement to the rent or burden. In any case, part of the expenses for the living space must be borne by the person entitled to housing benefit and by the household members themselves.

Anyone who has calculated the size of the household, the total monthly income and the eligible rent or burden can read the amount of the housing benefit from the relevant housing benefit tables.

The housing benefit authority may check the details of all household members by comparing data. This is to prevent someone from receiving housing benefit unjustly. For example, the housing benefit authority can determine whether someone receives the benefit more than once or whether the apartment for which housing benefit was paid is actually being used.

How much housing benefit is there on average?

There are no fixed benefit rates for the housing allowance, as it is calculated individually. According to the Stiftung Warentest, beneficiaries receive an average of 150 euros in housing benefit. On January 1, 2022, the housing benefit was adjusted to the development of rent and income. It increased by 13 euros on average. This adjustment will take place every two years in the future.

The maximum amounts depend on the local rent level. When determining this rent level, only the rents of living space for which housing benefit is paid are taken into account. Each municipality with 10,000 or more inhabitants is assigned to a specific rent level according to its rent level. Municipalities with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants are combined into districts.

Since January 1, 2020, there have been seven instead of six rent levels. At rent level III, the rents in a community roughly correspond to the national average. Rent levels I and II are below the national average and rent levels IV to VII are above the national average. The rent level to which the municipality or district belongs can be seen on the list of rent levels. A list of rental levels by country can be found on the website of the Federal Ministry of the Interior.

Where can I check in advance whether and to what extent I am entitled to housing benefit?

The Federal Ministry for Housing, Urban Development, among others, provides a housing benefit calculator here. However, only the responsible housing benefit authority can make a binding calculation of the subsidy actually granted.

Can you give an example calculation?

Yes. The Federal Ministry of Housing, Urban Development and Building names one for a household member to be considered:

Single pensioner

Income: draws a pension, pays contributions to statutory health and nursing care insurance, does not pay taxes on income Place of residence: Municipality of rent level I (Jüterbog, Stadt) Monthly gross pension EUR 860.00 Flat-rate income-related expenses minus EUR 8.50 EUR 851.50 Flat-rate deduction (10 percent ) minus 85.15 euros Monthly total income 766.35 euros Monthly gross rent to be paid 335.00 euros Maximum amount 347.00 euros Rent to be taken into account 335.00 euros Housing benefit 115.00 euros

How many people receive housing benefit in this country?

According to the federal government, the group of recipients of housing benefit was increased by 30,000 to 640,000 households from 2021 to 2022.

Something else?

Yes. The federal government is planning a housing benefit reform. In this way, the circle of beneficiaries is to be significantly expanded to 2 million housing benefit households. In addition, from January 1, 2023, a so-called climate component and a flat rate for heating costs are to become a permanent part of the new housing benefit.

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