A long-awaited ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court has arrived, and it could affect thousands of homeowners: the question of whether Hartz IV recipients own their own property is appropriate can also be assessed based on the number of residents.

The corresponding regulation does not violate the principle of equality, the court said on Thursday in Karlsruhe. The legislature does not have to take into account whether more people used to live in the apartment, such as children who have since moved out. Accordingly, the move of the children from the home for Hartz IV recipients can result in the loss of income or the house.

The Karlsruhe decision was preceded by a case that was heard at the social court in Aurich. It was about the case of a couple who live in a self-built house. The six children have since moved out. The plaintiff and her husband have lived there alone since spring 2013.

When the woman wanted to receive Hartz IV in 2018, the application was rejected. The reason: Her husband is the owner of a property and thus owns assets that exceed the tax exemption applicable to the plaintiff and her husband.

In particular, it does not represent a protective asset within the meaning of SGB II, as it is not of an appropriate size. According to the social court, the house has a living space of 143.69 square meters. Accordingly, a maximum of 90 square meters is considered appropriate for a two-person household.

The Social Court asked the Constitutional Court whether the corresponding regulation is constitutional – which the latter now affirmed.

The matter had already sparked discussions in advance. The social association VdK, for example, had expressed the hope that the judges in Karlsruhe would throw the rigid rules for owner-occupied housing overboard. “Many life situations simply do not do justice if the question of whether a living space is appropriate is assessed solely on the basis of how many people come to a certain number of square metres,” explained a spokesman.

The VdK made it clear that, for example, older people would have raised their children in the apartments or houses. “When the children then move out, it is often completely illusory to move into a smaller, affordable apartment, because there simply aren’t any,” it said. “In view of the tight housing market, those affected have no chance of downsizing and are therefore indirectly punished for having raised children.”

It is unclear how many people are affected. However, the social association knows, according to its own information from its legal advice, that most people who have to apply for basic security or Hartz IV are primarily afraid of having to leave their homes. “Since it is hardly possible to find affordable housing, the rigid specifications are completely unrealistic and also uneconomical.”

The decision of the federal government not to carry out an examination of housing costs and owner-occupied residential property during the corona pandemic was therefore correct from the point of view of the VdK. “These regulations should also be continued in the new citizen’s income.”

According to the plans of the traffic light coalition of SPD, Greens and FDP, the long-term unemployed should in future receive a “citizen’s allowance” instead of Hartz IV. In the first two reference years, the examination of the assets or the apartment should be omitted. Anyone who is caught by the citizens’ allowance should not have to worry about their savings and the living situation for the time being.