The heating costs are part of the basic requirement for Hartz 4 beneficiaries. But energy costs are currently exploding. What does this mean for households.
Frankfurt – At the beginning of autumn, the temperatures in Germany are dropping significantly. That is why the heating is now being turned on again in German households. And this despite the energy crisis that arose in the course of the Ukraine conflict and the enormous rise in energy prices.
According to the nationwide heating index, in 2020 consumers spent between 475 and 965 euros a year to heat a 70 square meter apartment with central gas heating. That’s a lot of money, especially if those affected only receive a Hartz 4 standard rate of 449 euros per month. That is why the employment office covers the heating costs for recipients of this social benefit in addition to rent and ancillary costs. But that doesn’t always work without problems.
Assumption of heating costs for Hartz 4 recipients: A question of reasonable consumption
It is by no means the case that the job centers assume all of the heating costs for Hartz 4 recipients. Because how much is actually reimbursed is always a case-by-case decision. It is important that the affected households do not exceed the “reasonable” consumption.
A look at Paragraph 22 of Social Security Code II reveals the following wording: “Needs for accommodation and heating are recognized in the amount of the actual expenses, insofar as these are reasonable.” That sounds like all heating costs for Hartz 4 recipients are covered , but the problem lies in the word “reasonable” – because this is not defined more precisely. An indefinite legal concept. What is appropriate is debatable.
Assumption of heating costs for Hartz 4 recipients: housing cost gap widens further
Appropriate living space that can be used by Hartz 4 households has long been in short supply in German metropolitan areas. Because there are no apartments in this segment and those affected cannot simply move to a cheaper apartment, the beneficiaries often have to pay part of the heating costs out of their own pockets, i.e. from the standard rate.
According to the Federal Statistical Office, in 2020 there were around 450,000 people. Due to their residential location, they had to bear part of the housing costs themselves – on average that was 86 euros in 2020, as can be seen from the answer to a question from the Left Party in the Bundestag. Experts call this phenomenon the “housing cost gap”. This year, this amount is likely to be significantly higher due to the rise in energy costs and put many people in need despite the relief packages decided by the federal government.
Assumption of heating costs: employment offices do not simply let Hartz 4 recipients sit on the bills
Volker Gerloff, specialist lawyer for social law, explains to the Berliner Morgenpost what Hartz 4 beneficiaries have to consider when taking over the heating costs. First of all, however, he makes it clear that it always depends on the individual case how much the job center takes over. A benchmark that consumers can also use as a guide is the nationwide heating index, but municipalities can also conduct their own surveys that the employment office uses as a guide.
|Housing Cost Gap 2021|
|single||91 euros (in 2020 it was 86 euros)|
If landlords demand additional heating costs due to the increased heating costs, this can lead to problems: According to Gerloff, the office can then assume that the energy consumption is not appropriate and refuse to pay the costs. But Gerloff gives the all-clear at the same time: “The authorities must not simply cut the money and let the Hartz 4 recipient sit on his bills.”
Assumption of heating costs may be subject to conditions for service recipients
The job center covers the costs in almost all cases and a joint solution is usually found with the beneficiaries, explains Gerloff. However, the Office may require tenants to reduce their heating bills in the future. Then, as a rule, they have to reduce their heating costs in the following six months, otherwise the difference between the appropriate heating costs and the costs actually incurred in the end have to be paid by themselves.
However, if the job center does not want to bear the heating costs, Hartz 4 recipients still have one option: they can file an objection in which they explain why their heating costs are so high. But be careful: “The objection may be informal, but it must be signed by hand,” Gerloff makes clear. (con with epd)