In view of rising energy costs, the federal government has decided on a rule that can save tenants a three-digit amount in heating costs every year: from January 1, landlords will pay part of the CO2 price for natural gas and heating oil. Landlords should now take a close look to ensure that their landlord bills correctly.

So that the many German rental apartments also make their contribution to climate protection, the federal government wants to give landlords an incentive to refurbish by letting them share in the CO2 price of their tenants. The new law staggers the distribution of the CO2 price between tenants and landlords depending on the CO2 consumption of the apartment or house per square meter. In particularly poorly insulated properties, the landlord bears most of the costs. In well-insulated apartments, the tenant wears it. In this way, the main obligation to save CO2 ends up with those who can make the greatest contribution. At least in theory.

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In practice, tenants have to make sure that their landlord calculates the CO2 price correctly and does not pass on too much to them: this can amount to hundreds of euros a year.

According to the new law, landlords calculate the specific CO2 emissions of a building in kilograms of carbon dioxide per square meter of living space as part of the annual heating bill. The energy suppliers must provide the necessary information on CO2 consumption in their invoices. The landlord knows the living space of the house. The remainder is a simple division. The result specifies who bears which part of the costs.

Above a CO2 emission of 52 kilograms per square meter and year, landlords will in future pay 90 percent of the CO2 price. Below a CO2 emission of twelve kilograms per square meter and year, tenants continue to pay the full fee. According to the federal government, the latter corresponds to the particularly energy-saving Efficiency House 55 (EH 55) standard.

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The Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband (VZBV) criticizes that it is difficult to explain how the federal government calculated these values. Whether all EH-55 houses actually emit less than twelve kilograms of CO2 per square meter and year is completely open, as is the basis for the other gradations.

For tenants, this means that they can hardly predict how much CO2 their house will cause per square meter. If you live in an EH 40, it is impossible to deduce whether you have to pay 30, 40 or 70 percent of the CO2 price or any other value. Exceptions for listed buildings and the five percent flat rate that is deducted from the landlord’s CO2 cost share when using their own gas stoves further complicate the forecast. The first bill that arrives is therefore a grab bag for many tenants.

As figures from the VZBV show, tenants should remain cautious rather than optimistic when estimating their savings. According to the currently planned phased model, most tenants will continue to pay more than half of the CO2 price, predicts the VZBV. Even in a gas-heated apartment building in the second lowest energy efficiency class G, tenants still pay 50 percent of the CO2 costs. The hope that the landlord will soon take over 90 percent of the CO2 price is probably fulfilled for at least the German tenants.

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Anyone who has moved and cannot predict how high the CO2 price is for their apartment can use an estimate from Check24 for orientation. According to the online comparison portal, a family with an annual consumption of 20,000 kilowatt hours and an oil heating system in a well-insulated house still has to reckon with annual costs of around 189 euros. If the same family lives in a house with poor insulation, the costs melt down to nine euros. A saving of 180 euros. In the same example, gas heating ranges from 128 to six euros. Tenants can use these values ​​to calculate rough guide values ​​for their calculations.

The regulation applies to all billing periods beginning on or after January 1, 2023. Most landlords can therefore hope for the support of their landlords for the first time with the settlement for 2023, which they will receive in 2024. For 2022, the landlord’s share does not yet apply.

The federal government has postponed the increase in the CO2 price originally planned for January 1, 2023 from currently 30 euros to 35 euros by one year. According to Check24, a model household with gas heating and 20,000 kilowatt hours of consumption in the most climate-friendly house saves 21.40 euros, a similar household with oil heating saves 31.51 euros.

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However, the cost of carbon dioxide will increase in the following years by a multiple of the increase that has now been postponed. By 2025, the price per tonne of CO2 will gradually climb to 45 euros, and in 2026 it will be auctioned for between 55 and 65 euros. In a few years, households will therefore be paying more than twice what current forecasts predict.

Tenants who are now saving energy in view of the rise in heating costs should be careful: if you use less heating oil or natural gas, you also reduce the CO2 consumption of your house per square meter, which determines the distribution of the CO2 price. In the worst case, the house slips into a better energy category and the tenant has to pay a higher share of the carbon dioxide tax. According to the new law, saving energy can paradoxically drive up costs elsewhere.

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Saving energy is usually worthwhile for tenants because of the immensely increased heating costs. Consumer advocates, experts and the Federal Council are also calling for this effect to be banned from the law by the classification of the house also taking its energy certificate into account. The federal government wants to examine this. So it is quite possible that the legislator will make improvements at this point until tenants have the first bills on the table.

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As the German Tenants’ Association reported when asked, tenants must raise objections to the settlement of the CO2 price by the end of the twelfth month at the latest after they have received the statement. To do this, they are allowed to inspect the receipts from the landlord, have the relevant documents shown to them and photograph individual receipts for later verification. Tenants can contact their local Tenants Association for help with reviewing and filing objections.

Tenants whose landlords only own a few apartments should take a particularly close look at their bills. The FDP recently wanted to postpone the CO2 price law because it fears an effort that small landlords can hardly manage. You have to familiarize yourself with the law and accounting. Some may make mistakes without bad intentions.

If tenants want to pay less CO2 tax, they have two options: they reduce their consumption – which involves the risk of an upgrade – or they persuade their landlord to make the apartment more energy-efficient.

For the latter option, they are only partly dependent on the goodwill of the landlord. Tenants can heat up their heaters cheaply and without CO2 costs via solar systems on the roof. If the landlord leases the roof area to you, he also earns. A win-win for everyone if they can agree.

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The German Tenants’ Association is critical of the distribution of the CO2 price on request. For tenants it is “a small step forward”. However, it remains “prone to errors, non-transparent and by no means comprehensive due to numerous exceptions for landlords”. Tenants who supply themselves with heat had to make complicated calculations. “We therefore fear that a significant proportion of self-heating tenants will not assert their claims against the landlord at all because of the complexity.”