Housing benefit in Germany: Real rent subsidy for low earners in 2022

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Housing benefit with a minimum income is a perspective for everyone who would like to own their own apartment despite having little financial means. 

Is there a housing benefit for training? Is housing benefit granted despite BAföG? Is it possible to receive housing benefits as a student and where do I apply for housing benefits? Important questions answered here.

Housing benefit

What do you have to understand by housing benefit?

Housing benefit is a state support . It can be granted as a rent subsidy if you have a low income. Housing benefit depends on the total income of your household and the amount of rent to be paid. The competent authority takes the following criteria into account in the calculation:

  • Number of people occupying the dwelling
  • Amount of total income of persons living in household
  • Amount of eligible rent
  • City rent index

If you want to apply for minimum income housing benefit, you need various documents for the housing benefit office:

  • Employers’ earnings statements
  • School certificates
  • BAföG or BAB decisions (for housing benefit despite BAföG)
  • Proof of capital gains from savings deposits
  • Identity card

After all documents have been submitted, the housing benefit office will check whether you meet all the requirements, grant housing benefit or refuse approval. A refusal regarding the housing allowance for the first shared apartment must be justified.

Housing benefit for pupils, trainees and students

There are separate housing benefit regulations for pupils, trainees and students. In general, the legal principle applies that students, pupils and trainees who are entitled to BAföG or BAB (vocational training allowance) cannot apply for housing benefit. 

The reason for this regulation is that the rent subsidy is already included in these services. They are only entitled to housing benefit if they are not entitled to BAföG or BAB. In this case, the office will request notification of the corresponding rejection.

Who counts as a household member for the purposes of housing benefit?

Students, pupils or trainees who are entitled to BAföG or BAB in principle cannot receive housing benefit. But there are exceptions: 

  • Anyone who receives BAföG as a bank loan can apply for housing benefit, since they do not receive the benefit as a classic subsidy, but have to repay the money later.
  • Anyone who is entitled to BAföG and who lives with children and/or other family members or a partner may be entitled to housing benefit. Prerequisite: there is at least one person living in the household who is not entitled to BAföG, vocational training allowance or training money.
  • If a household member is excluded from housing benefit due to BAföG, you can still apply for housing benefit. In this case, however, the share of the rental costs will be deducted from your salary.
  • Do you live in a shared apartment with other students, trainees or other people who are not related? In this case, since January 1, 2009, it is irrelevant whether you work together or not. Since everyone runs their own household, everyone submits a separate application for themselves. However, this only has a chance of success if a claim to housing benefit is considered.
  • The same rule applies if one of you is the main tenant and the others have subleases. If, on the other hand, there is only one tenant in the apartment and there are no sub-tenancy agreements, only this tenant is the tenant and may be entitled to apply for housing benefit.
Housing benefit

Anyone who is not part of the household when it comes to housing benefit with minimum income

If you want to apply for minimum income housing benefit, you need to be aware of who is part of your household and who is not part of it for the purposes of the grant. People who receive Hartz-4 or social benefits or who have been granted transitional benefits or basic security do not pay as members of your household.

These persons are not taken into account when calculating the amount. However, the housing benefit office will proportionally deduct the number of household members not to be taken into account with regard to the maximum amount for the rent.

What counts towards total income in terms of housing benefit?

When applying for minimum income housing benefit, you will repeatedly come across the term total income. This means:

  • All income within the meaning of the EStG (Income Tax Act)
  • 50 percent of BAföG (does not apply to student BAföG)
  • Alimony payments

The child benefit to which you are entitled is not considered income in the sense of housing benefit and is not taken into account.

Housing benefit

The Minimum Income

Since housing benefit is only intended as a rent subsidy and not for subsistence, you must be able to prove that you have a minimum income. Not only the number of household members and the amount of the rent play a role in determining the housing allowance. The income of all household members is also relevant, provided they are not excluded from housing benefit. 

If you live alone or in a flat share, only your own income is taken into account. The standard rate for this is 446 euros (from January 1st, 2021), for a pair it is 389 euros. Child support is included in many minimum income agencies, but not in the calculation of actual needs. You have to ask your housing benefit office about this. The following formula gives the minimum income: 

Minimum income = standard rate + warm rent (including heating costs) 

The income limit

The income to be taken into account is assigned to different allowances (in %) depending on the type. Then the number of household members to be taken into account as well as the rent level are included. 

Since the costs for living space vary significantly depending on the city or municipality, there are maximum amounts for the total monthly income, which are structured according to rent levels I (cheapest rent level) to VI (most expensive rent level) in accordance with the housing benefit tables. Due to the enormous complexity, only the following average values ​​are referred to here for orientation: 

1-person household:           EUR 961 (Rental Level I) or EUR 1,128 (Rental Level VI)

2-person household:          1,314 euros (rent level I) or 1,550 euros (rent level VI) 

Conclusion: Housing allowance with minimum income – Have your housing allowance calculated

When it comes to housing benefit, you first have to clarify whether you are even entitled to apply for it. The responsible housing benefit office can provide you with such information, to which you may also have to submit your application. 

The calculation of minimum income housing benefit is extremely complex. Therefore, it makes sense if you first have a quick online calculation carried out using a housing benefit calculator on the Internet. For example, you can use the following websites: wohngeldrechner.nrw.de or biallo.de/Wohngeldrechner

In addition to an online calculation, you should also go to the local housing benefit office and have your housing benefit calculated. This is also possible without a valid rental agreement. It is only important that you know the amount of the expected rent and the additional costs. If you then know approximately how much housing benefit you can expect based on the minimum income, you can better plan moving into your first apartment .

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