On Thursday, the Bundestag decided on emergency aid worth billions for gas and district heating customers. It is intended as a bridging measure until the gas price brake takes effect. This should take effect from March, but the federal government is considering bringing it forward to February. Economic State Secretary Michael Kellner (Greens) spoke of an important signal to ensure the affordability of gas prices. On the other hand, the CDU politician Mark Helfrich criticized: “Why easy when it can be complicated?” Hardly anyone still sees through, especially how the reimbursement amount is calculated.

The Federal Council is to give the go-ahead for emergency aid next Monday in a special session. The federal government expects costs of nine billion euros. SPD faction deputy Matthias Miersch said that the relief would have to be taxed for very large incomes. “This is how we ensure a socially just balance.” According to the draft law, those who have to pay the solidarity surcharge have to pay tax on the deduction.

How the down payment works

In concrete terms, so-called final consumers of pipeline-bound natural gas and heat customers are to be exempted from the December down payment. This applies, for example, to the sole owner of a single house who has a direct gas supply contract with a supplier, but also to small and medium-sized companies. The relief amount should be credited.

The calculation basis is relatively complicated. The reimbursement amount is determined by multiplying one-twelfth of the consumption as estimated by the utility in September by the kilowatt-hour price valid in December. According to calculations by the comparison portal Verivox, the December savings for a family in a terraced house with an annual consumption of 20,000 kilowatt hours are expected to be around 300 euros.

The offsetting happens automatically, according to a letter from Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) to the members of the SPD parliamentary group. In most cases, the emergency aid corresponds to the amount of relief from the planned gas price brake for around three months. An example is given: A family of four paid a monthly advance payment of 100 euros for gas consumption directly with the supplier for an old contract. The significant price increase was often already made this year, so that in December 275 euros would have to be paid as a new advance payment. If this higher new advance payment is now completely waived for one month, the family will be relieved by 275 euros in December.

The federal government reimburses the suppliers directly for the costs. However, the municipal utility association VKU criticized that there was no guarantee that the municipal utility would receive the state reimbursement in time for December 1st. However, the municipal utilities are not the “scheduler” of the federal government, according to general manager Ingbert Liebing. He further criticized an “unfair imbalance” at the expense of the energy suppliers. Because the draft law obliges the suppliers not to collect or reimburse the December deduction.

What it looks like for tenants

Tenants often do not have a direct contractual relationship with the utility, but the landlords are mostly customers of public utilities. Instead, tenants pay monthly prepayments to their landlords. The heating costs are then finally calculated by the landlord with the utility bill based on the actual consumption – price increases this year will therefore only be billed to tenants in the coming year by way of an additional payment. Most landlords will soon increase the prepayments, according to Scholz’s letter. Nevertheless, there could be considerable additional payments in the heating bill next year. Therefore, the landlords should pass on the emergency aid for the 2023 utility bill to the tenants, so the additional payment will be lower.

In addition, special regulations are planned. According to the Scholz letter, some tenants had already received a significant increase in their advance payments from the landlord this year. For them it applies that they could reduce the advance payment by the increase in December. “Here the tenant has to take action directly and reduce the advance payment.” The rest of the relief from the emergency aid will benefit them through the service charge bill next year.

The German Tenants’ Association described the emergency aid as extremely important. “Tenants benefit from this far too late and are disadvantaged by the law,” said the President of the Tenants’ Association, Lukas Siebenkotten, the German Press Agency. “Most tenants are supplied with natural gas and district heating, the December 2022 relief will only take effect here in the course of 2023 as part of the tenants’ utility bills.” The regulations are also much too complicated and hardly transparent, especially for tenants.

The draft law states that tenants are to be informed in December of the extent of their landlord’s relief from natural gas or heat supply costs.

According to the Scholz letter, if tenants have moved and signed a new lease with higher ancillary cost advance payments, the following should apply: You can withhold 25 percent of the advance payment for December. In the case of communities of apartment owners, the relief should be passed on to the apartment owners as part of the annual statement.

According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, if customers have changed suppliers, the following should apply: The new supplier takes over the consumption forecast of the previous supplier, who supplied this gas connection for the previous tenant or owner. This forecast can be used to calculate the relief based on the previous gas customer for this apartment.