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Broadcasting Contribution Fees

As of January 1, 2013, a broadcasting contribution fee ("TV licence") replaces the former broadcasting charge. For each home, a fixed flat rate of € 17.50 per month has to be paid. Some special rules apply to students sharing a flat or a house. Everyone receiving BAföG and not living with their parents is eligible for an exemption from the new broadcasting fee.

We have put together and answered some FAQs—especially from a student’s point of view—for you on this page.  

1. What are the regulations for the broadcasting contribution fee?

With the amended German Broadcasting Act, coming into effect on January 1, 2013, the broadcasting contribution fee has replaced the former broadcasting charge. The "Gebühreneinzugszentrale" (GEZ = central broadcasting charges collecting agency) also has been renamed: "ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice" (Contribution Collection Service for Public Broadcasting ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio).

As of January 2013, there is a fixed flat rate per home for all receiving devices. Each household in one home (i.e., a flat or a single house) has to pay € 17.50 per month, regardless of the number or type of devices available or used. Devices are TV and radio sets as well as PCs and mobile devices (i.e., phones) with Internet access. This flat rate includes all types of usage, including usage in cars, and it has to be paid quarterly.

2. Who has to pay?

For each home, the contribution fee has to be paid only once, regardless of how many people live there! This is regardless of the fact of who has a head lease or whether each flatmate/housemate has a lease contract of his/her own or not.

This means that one adult flatmate/housemate must register and pay the broadcasting contribution fee for the home they share. The flatmates/housemates are free to choose who should register and pay. All other flatmates/housemates who before had to pay the broadcasting fee or the former broadcasting charge can now sign off. To do this, send a letter to the "Beitragsservice von ARD, ZDF und Deutschlandradio", 50656 Köln, specifying your name and your former subscriber number as well as the name and—if available—subscriber number of the current or future contributor.

The flatmate/housemate paying the fee for all is entitled to collect from the other flatmates/housemates liable for contribution their share of the mutual fee, of course. Things get more complicated if one or more flatmates/housemates is exempted from the fee, e.g., because they are BAföG recipients.

Example: Four adult students share a flat. One of them receives BAföG. The BAföG recipient does not have to pay a share as he/she is exempted from the contribution fee (refer to page Exemption from Broadcasting Contribution Fees). The other three flatmates are mutually liable for the contribution fee. One flatmate pays the household contribution fee of € 17.50 per month for the entire flat. He/she can then ask both of the other two flatmates liable for contribution for their € 5.83 share of the fee (€ 17.50/3).

If all flatmates meet the requirements for exemption, the entire flat may be exempted. In this case, it does not matter who registers the flat with the "Beitragsservice" and then hands in the exemption application.

If you are the only flatmate who is not exempted, you’ve got "bad luck": You have to pay the entire broadcasting contribution fee for the flat by yourself.

All tenants of a shared flat or house will have "joint and several liability" for the contribution fee. This means that if the designated contributor does not pay, the "Beitragsservice" (Contribution Collection Service) is allowed to put a claim for the outstanding contribution fee upon one or all of the other flatmates/housemates liable for contribution!

The nationality of the tenants does not matter. There are no special rules for any international students, neither for students receiving scholarships nor for students in exchange programs (e.g., Erasmus).

The broadcasting contribution fee also has to be paid for homes that are registered as secondary residences. This is because the contribution fee is not paid per person, but per home.

3. What constitutes a "home"?

In general, within the framework of the Broadcasting Act, every separate room or set of rooms constitute a "home" that

  • is used or can be used for living and sleeping purposes, and
  • can be entered through a separated entrance directly attached to a staircase, an entrance hall or room, or from the outside—i.e., by not going through another living space.

4. Are student accommodation units a "home"?

  • Single apartments count as "one home", no matter if they have a bath or kitchen of their own: As a rule, each apartment tenant has to pay € 17,50 per month (exception: exempted BAföG recipients).
  • Double apartments as well as small shared apartments will usually be accepted as "one home". For these, the "one home––one fee" rule applies: one adult person must be registered for the apartment and pay € 17,50 per month, no matter how many people live there.
  • Single rooms in shared hall communities with common kitchen/sanitary rooms and with a separate floor entrance are usually each classified as "one home" liable for individual contribution fees by the "Beitragsservice". The Hamburg Administrative Court has recently shared this view in a first judgment made in this topic area (which is not yet legally binding). In the end, the individual circumstances may decide... As a rule of thumb: If the rooms in student accommodation are designed like a private home or a shared flat/house, then just one contribution fee needs to be paid.
    We recommend to try to get your floor unit registered as one home and have one tenant pay the fee.

5. What does "joint and several liability" mean?

All residents of a home or a shared flat or house are "co-debtors" and thus jointly and severally liable to pay the contribution fee. The broadcasting contribution fee has to be paid completely in one amount. "Joint and several liability" means that the "Beitragsservice" may pick any flatmate or housemate and make her/him responsible for payment. Whoever has been "passed the buck" has to pay and may then ask the other flatmates or housemates for their share. At worst, however, he/she has to run after the money and may not receive it back.

Things get more complicated if one or more flatmate/housemate is exempted from the fee, e.g., because they are BAföG recipients. They cannot be held liable then and don’t have to pay a share. The other flatmates/housemates are then jointly and severally liable for the contribution fee of € 17.50.

6. How can I be exempted from paying the contribution fee? 

If you receive social benefits you can apply to be exempted from paying broadcasting contribution fees, in particular if you receive BAföG and do not live with your parents. For more information, please visit our page Exemption from Broadcasting Contribution Fees.

People with severe disabilities only have to pay one third of the contribution fee (€ 5.83) if their Severe Disability Pass contains the "RF" classification. As before, deaf-blind people are fully exempted.

7. Can the landlord or the landlady pay the broadcasting contribution fee for the entire house and have the tenants share the costs as part of the rent or the operating costs?

No! Rental law does not allow this. And it would not help, because all tenants of the shared flat still have a "joint and several liability" and the "Beitragsservice" (Contribution Collection Service) can pick any of the flatmates liable for contribution fees and hold him/her liable for the money owed. 

8. How does the "Beitragsservice" (Contribution Collection Service) get tenants’ data?

The residents' registration offices transmit the data of all adult persons to the "Beitragsservice" for the purpose of collection and inventory of possible contributors' data. Data transmitted include name, date of birth, family status, current and last previous address as well as the date of moving in.

In addition, it is compulsory for everyone living in a home to inform and notify the "Beitragsservice" (also refer to FAQ no. 9). Landlords/ladies are obliged to provide information about tenants to the "Beitragsservice" in case the "Beitragsservice" can prove that it has no other way to ascertain the person(s) living in a specific home.

9. As a tenant, am I obliged to provide information?

Everyone living in a home is obliged to register with the "Beitragsservice" and notify it of any changes in their data; for people living in a shared flat or house, this is only necessary once.

In addition, every contributor is obliged to provide the "Beitragsservice" with extensive information upon request.

10. Can I sign off because I do not own a TV set?

No. For one thing, the contribution fee is valid for all kind of receiving devices, i.e. also radio sets, car stereos, PCs and mobile devices with Internet access, etc. For another thing, it also applies if you do no own any receiving devices. The contribution fee is demanded solely for the possibility to be able to receive public TV or radio programmes.

11. Can I "dodge" paying—and what happens if I do not pay?

Because the contribution fee is based on households = homes, no one can "dodge" paying. You would have to prove that you don't even have the possibility to receive any broadcasting under any circumstances. Because you usually cannot prove that, you have to pay unless you have been exempted.

A deliberated or grossly negligent failure to pay is an administrative offence and can be penalised with an administrative fine!

12. Where can I receive further information?

For more information, please visit www.rundfunkbeitrag.de (in German).

If you have any further questions, please contact the Social Advice Centre at the Studentenwerk. We will be happy to help you.

 

Contact

Studentenwerk Hannover
Student Accommodation Dept.

Jägerstraße 5
30167 Hannover

Phone +49 511 76-88 048
Phone +49 511 76-88 029
Phone +49 511 76-88 972
Fax +49 511 76-88 949

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