Germany is considered a rich country, a country of the middle class. But the pandemic has also left its mark here. In 2021, 13.8 million people in this country were already considered poor. And the sharp rise in energy prices is exacerbating the situation dramatically. A journey through an unsettled republic. Part 3.

The Tenants’ Association is already warning that the sharp rise in energy prices “could mean nothing less than ruin for millions of tenants”. The federal government must “in the short term bring significant heating cost subsidies for people who can no longer pay for a heated apartment”. The SPD, in turn, sees landlords as having an obligation: they want to enforce a freeze on termination. This already existed at the beginning of the pandemic, when rent debts were temporarily no longer recognized as a reason for termination.

The tenants still had to pay, just not immediately.

“Without the help of friends, there would be no money for food for half the month,” Dominic Stanich, 37, Hartz IV recipient

Hassloch: Because his hand is broken, Dominic Stanich can no longer work as a gas and water fitter. He is raising his son Leon alone. Not an easy situation, especially since the two are also looking for an apartment. Playground and quarry pond: This is the program for the summer. In the supermarket, Stanich takes a close look at the high prices. Instead of fruit dwarfs only the cheap pudding is in it.

Especially those who have an index rental contract get into trouble. With them, the monthly amount due is linked to inflation. The landlord can adjust the amount accordingly every 15 months. As long as the price level was stable, this was not a problem. On the contrary. Such a contract even had advantages. For example in Munich. “In the past ten years we have had an index increase of 14 percent, i.e. 1.4 percent per year,” says Rudolf Stürzer from the Haus und Grund association. “Market rents in Munich have risen by 29 percent over the same period, i.e. by 2.9 percent annually.”

But now the tide has turned.

This year, landlords could ask for seven to eight percent more, says Beatrix Zurek, chairwoman of the Munich Tenants’ Association.

In the Bavarian capital alone, 240,000 people have signed an index lease. Just like Claudia Strucks. The 62-year-old brings a green folder to the interview, opens it and runs her finger over various numbers that she has circled with a highlighter. In 2015 she moved to Munich for professional reasons. Through contacts from her previous landlord, she found an apartment in Obersendling. She first had to google what an index rent was. And yet she signed, so glad she had found anything at all. At that time, inflation was stagnating at two percent. “In my first year in Munich, I had a rent increase of 2.54 euros,” she says. Since then it has increased, most recently the rent rose by 27 euros. But Strucks says: “It was clear to me that I wanted to stay in this apartment until I retired.”

Then what? Strucks is a pedagogical specialist in the cooperative all-day education at a primary school. Because she worked part-time for many years, she does not expect her pension to be too high. That’s why she actually wanted to save.

But that is difficult for her in view of the high inflation and rising rents. She currently pays 933.53 euros a month for her apartment – ​​two rooms, balcony, second floor. From autumn she expects a surcharge of 80 to 100 euros. “Many simply give up and submit. But that’s not my mentality,” she says. “I’ve always been a bit more combative.”

She is thinking about moving away from Munich as a pensioner. “I looked around a bit on the free market. In the size of my apartment you can get new apartments for a cold amount, as I now pay warm. It’s horrifying,” she says. Strucks could imagine moving to Bremerhaven. The city is one of those with the cheapest rents in Germany.

5074 euros: That’s how much a family of four could have to pay for energy in a year; Source: GdW

Dominic Stanich from Haßloch in Rhineland-Palatinate, on the other hand, would be happy if he had an apartment at all. The 37-year-old is a trained gas and water fitter, but had to give up his job. His hand is broken. Today he receives Hartz IV. Together with his son, whom he is raising alone, he temporarily lives with friends. He had been looking for an apartment for months. But without success. A single Hartz IV recipient? “Not everyone saw it that easily.”

Now that summer he is out and about with his son Leon, he spends whole days on the playground or at the quarry pond. They are actually only in their temporary accommodation to sleep. Stanich prefers not to mention his problems in front of Leon. “The main thing is that there is food on the table and that he likes it.”

Even if there is cheap pudding instead of the more expensive fruit dwarfs.