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Housing benefit in Germany: This is how you get a rent allowance from the state

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For people in Germany who just barely make ends meet with their earnings, there is help. The housing benefit in Germany which is a monthly allowance for rent or housing costs for owners is critical for helping with rent.

The eligibility for the housing benefit in Germany comes with maximum income limits and limits to the rents that can be counted. Depending on how high the rents are on site, one of seven rent levels applies per municipality. Find out below what the government allowance is and if you qualify for the help with rent for your apartment or house.

Housing benefit in Germany – A quick summary

Beneficiaries: Housing benefit is available to people who work but do not earn enough to support themselves entirely on their own. It cannot be combined with other social benefits such as Hartz IV.

Application: The application for housing benefit is available in paper form or online at the local housing benefit office. It usually takes three to six weeks to process.

Amount: The amount of the housing benefit depends on the income, the number of household members and the rent. Applicants have received an average of 150 euros per month in the past few years. On January 1, 2020, the housing benefit was increased after a long time.

Advice: The respective housing benefit office is responsible for advice. It also calculates the specific amount of the housing benefit.

housing benefit in germany

Housing benefit in Germany: How much is the rent allowance?

The housing benefit depends on several factors and is between 60 and 340 euros per month. The amount of the individual allowance depends on the one hand on the gross monthly rent (in the case of owners, the monthly charge) and on the other hand on the household income. How many people live in the household is also relevant. The housing benefit calculator of the Federal Ministry of the Interior at bmi.bund.de/Wohngeld, for example, helps with a calculation.

The housing benefit can also increase annually if, for example, the number of children living in the household increases or income decreases.

How and where do I apply for the housing benefit in Germany?

In order to receive housing benefit, an application is required; it is not paid out automatically. The forms are available from the local housing benefit authorities or, in some cases, online from the relevant offices. The application must also be renewed every year, because the grant is usually only granted for twelve months. There is also no retroactive money. It pays to apply in good time.

Who can apply for housing benefit in Germany?

Eligible are:

  • Tenants of an apartment or a room,
  • Sub-tenants of an apartment or a room,
  • Users of a cooperative or foundation apartment,
  • Persons with rent-like rights of use (e.g. rent-like permanent right of residence or real right of residence),
  • Home residents,
  • Owner of a property,
  • Owner of a cooperative or foundation apartment,
  • Leaseholder,
  • User of a property-like permanent right of residence, usufructuary right or right of housing.

How do I find out which rental level my place of residence belongs to?

Rents in Germany differ greatly from region to region. Therefore, there are seven different rent levels for calculating the housing benefit.

The rent level in level I is well below the national German average, level VII is significantly higher. A list from the Federal Ministry of the Interior indicates which rental level your own place of residence belongs to.

The Federal Statistical Office determines the rent level for municipalities with more than 10,000 inhabitants. Municipalities with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants are grouped together.

Depending on the rent level and the number of household members, there is a maximum limit up to which the monthly rent is included in the housing allowance calculation.

The rent is calculated as the net cold rent plus the costs for water, sewage and garbage as well as other ancillary costs such as stairwell lighting.

# of household membersRent level
 I.IIIIIIVVVIVII
1338381426478525575633
2409461516579636697767
3487549614689757830912
45686417168038849681,065
56497328189181,0101,1061,217
Additional amount for each additional household member to be taken into account778899111121139153

Are there any income limits and asset limits for housing benefit in Germany?

If you want to apply for housing benefit, you must not fall below a certain income limit. Because the housing benefit should be used expressly as a subsidy for living and not cover other living costs. In that case, social benefits would be more likely. The minimum income is the Hartz IV standard rate plus possible additional needs, for example for pregnant women, sick people or single parents as well as the respective warm rent. Sometimes 80 percent of this amount is accepted.

Households with excessively high incomes are also not entitled to housing benefit. The maximum limit depends on the rental level of the place of residence. The higher the rent level, the higher the income and the higher the creditable rent (see table below). The income to be credited is calculated specifically for the housing benefit application (see above) .

Assets are also taken into account: there is no entitlement if the assets of a single person exceed 60,000 euros; if there are several household members, an allowance of 30,000 euros per person is added. Assets include cash, account balances, savings, valuable collections, stocks, real estate and investments.

Table of maximum income limits

Number of household members to be taken into accountLimit for total monthly income ( in EUR)The same monthly gross income (without child support) with one earner in front of a flat-rate deduction of …% (in EUR)
10% | 20% | 30 %
Rent level I
19481,0531,1851,354
21,2951,4381,6181,849
31,5821,7581,9782,260
42,1092,3432,6363,013
52,4122,6793,0143,445
62,7423,0473,4273,917
72,9853,3173,7314,264
83,3303,7004,1624,757
Rent level II
19871,0971,2341,411
21,3501,5001,6871,928
31,6451,8282,0562,350
42,1762,4182,7213,109
52,4852,7613,1063,550
62,8163,1293,5204,023
73,0633,4033,8284,375
83,4163,7964,2714,881
Rent level III
11,0241,1381,2801,463
21,4011,5571,7522,002
31,7031,8922,1292,433
42,2372,4852,7963,195
52,5512,8353,1893,645
62,8823,2023,6024,117
73,1323,4803,9154,474
83,4943,8824,3674,991
Rent level IV
11,0611,1791,3261,516
21,4541,6151,8172,077
31,7621,9582,2032,518
42,2972,5522,8723,282
52,6182,9093,2733,741
62,9473,2753,6844,211
73,2003,5564,0004,572
83,5703,9674,4635,100
Rent level V
11,0921,2131,3651,560
21,4971,6631,8712,139
31 8112,0132,2642,588
42,3472,6082,9343,353
52,6732,9703,3423,819
63,0003,3343,7504,286
73,2553,6174,0694,650
83,6314,0354,5395,188
Rent level VI
11,1211,2451,4011,601
21,5381,7091,9232,198
31,8582,0652,3232,654
42,3932,6592,9913,419
52,7243,0263,4053,891
63,0523,3913,8154,360
73,3123,6804,1404,731
83,6974,1084,6215,282
Rent level VII 
11,1511,2791,4381,644
21,5811,7571,9772,259
31,9052,1172,3822,722
42,4402,7113,0503,485
52,7753,0843,4693,965
63,1023,4473,8774,431
73,3643,7384,2054,806
83,7564,1734,6955,366

Can university students and trainees / apprentices receive housing benefit in Germany?

housing benefit in germany

Separate regulations apply to students and trainees / apprentices. They only receive housing benefit if they are not entitled to financial aid in the form of student loans or vocational training allowances. 

  • If you are students who is not entitled to Bafög, you must first submit a Bafög application. Because the housing benefit office wants to see the rejection notice before processing the housing benefit application. 
  • if you are a student who is not entitled to Bafög benefits because his parents, life partner or himself earn too much does not receive housing benefit.

Students who can apply for housing benefit in Germany because they are not entitled to student loans

The following are also not entitled to student loans:

  • Students who are older than 30 years (master’s degree programs older than 35 years) and have therefore exceeded the Bafög age limit,
  • Students who have changed their subject after the 4th semester for no good reason,
  • Long-term students who have exceeded the maximum funding period,
  • Students on vacation semester,
  • Part-time students,
  • Students at non-state-recognized schools,
  • Students receiving a scholarship,
  • Students in a second degree that does not meet the Bafög criteria and
  • Students who have not provided the required performance certificates before the 5th semester.

Housing benefit in Germany: Exceptions for students who receive Bafög as a full loan

There is an exception for students who receive Bafög as a repayable full loan or as a graduation aid. You can apply for housing benefit. 

  • If you are a student and live in a shared apartment but not in a household with those who are eligible for Bafög, you can apply for the housing benefit for yourself – provided they are not eligible for Bafög. 
  • If you are a student entitled to Bafög and live with a partner and their child or with their parents, housing allowance can be applied for for the entire household. 
  • If a student who is not eligible for Bafög lives with his girlfriend who receives social benefits, he can still apply for housing benefit.

How to apply for housing benefit

housing benefit in germany

The application for housing benefit is available in paper form or online at the local housing benefit office. Processing takes an average of three to six weeks, sometimes longer. The housing benefit office also advises applicants and calculates the specific amount of housing benefit.

What documentation do I need to apply for housing benefit in Germany?

Tenants need the following documents for the application:

  • Certificate of earnings completed by the employer for the gross wages of the past twelve months (this also includes tax-free income),
  • The rental agreement,
  • proof of rent payments,
  • the registration certificate,
  • the identity card,
  • Proof of any social benefits and unemployment benefit I,
  • Proof of maintenance obligations,
  • Sublease agreements,
  • a negative housing benefit certificate for a second home.

Owners also need:

  • Proof of ownership (for example the purchase contract or an extract from the land register),
  • Proof of possible loans and the interest or repayment,
  • the decision on the home owner’s allowance,
  • the living space calculation, for example a building plan,
  • the house charge settlement,
  • the basic tax notice.

Students need:

  • Bafög notification,
  • Proof of maintenance,
  • Notification of the receipt of child benefit,
  • the certificate of enrollment.

Further documents for the application

The housing benefit office can request further documents and evidence. Depending on the family situation, this can be the tax assessment for income tax, evidence of assets and investment income, account statements, evidence of care allowance, ID card for severely disabled persons, evidence of income from renting and leasing, notification of student loans, notification of child benefit or parental allowance, notification of benefits from the employment office, notification of pension, school – or certificate of study, loan contracts with visible monthly charges, life insurance, home loan and savings contracts.

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Expaturm aims to help educate Expats in Germany on key issues that they will have to deal with while living in Germany by providing everything you need to know about Banking, Healthcare, Lifestyle, and Housing in Germany
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