New Regulations on Broadcasting Contribution Fees
To make dealing with the new broadcasting fee a bit easier, we have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions:
1. How is the new contribution fee obligation regulated?
With the entry into force of the revised Broadcasting Law on the 1st of January 2013, the recent broadcasting fees will be replaced by a broadcasting contribution – therefore the name of the “Fee Withdrawal Center” (GEZ) will be changed into the „ARD ZDF German Radio Contribution Fee Service“.
Each household will pay one basic flat rate for all devices. Each residence will then pay 17.50 € monthly, regardless of which devices the residence has or uses, and whether or not any devices are even present in their residence. This corresponds with the recent maximum rate – which means for those, who have already registered a television device, basically nothing changes. With this, also all possible types of usage are covered, even the usage of such in a vehicle.
The contribution fee is to be paid for three months at a time.
2. Who has to pay?
Persons owing the contribution are the home owner/s, meaning every person, who is of legal age, and who actually lives there. Since demarcation difficulties are „pre-programmed“, each tenant, and every person, who is registered in the residence, counts as the home owners. If there are – such as in a shared-living residence/ shared apartment – more than one home owner, then all tenants are jointly and severally liable. This means, that each of the owners of the residence can be used to pay the contribution fee and must pay one amount completely and for everyone; amongst themselves, the owners are then obliged to compensate for their own part of the fee. From the opposite perspective, this means: The more contribution-paying (= not exempted) tenants in a shared-living residence, the lower the sum will be, that each of them have to pay proportionately. In this matter, the fact that each tenant has their own tenancy agreement does not play a role.
3. What is a „residence“?
Basically, in this sense, every self-contained housing unit counts as a residence, if it is
• used for living or sleeping and
• can be accessed through its own entrance, directly from a staircase, a lobby or anteroom or from outside – and not through another living room.
4. How do dorm rooms in student dormitories count as „residences”?
Single apartments, double apartments and the so-called residential groups (analogous to the shared apartments) are each allowed to be considered a residence. In the so called „dormitory buildings“, which have a shared kitchen and/or bathroom for everyone on that floor, it is quite probable, however, that there will be a problem with finding respective borders. Here, there will be individual case decisions to be made, as a result of the actualities of the situation, and in case of any doubt, the jurisdiction will have to be consulted: In rooms with shared bathrooms/ kitchens and non-closeable entrances to the floor (including the possible entrance for third-persons, such as tenants on other floors), every room in the corridor could be counted as a residence subject to paying the contribution fee. In a living space, which has a closeable door to the level which restricts the access thereof, to only tenants of that living space, such a living space could be considered as one residence (as a large shared residence). The tenants should of course try to claim their respective floor as a residence.
5. How can I be exempted from the contribution fee?
Diverse recipients of social benefits can, upon application, be exempted from the contribution fee obligation. Counted amongst these recipients are those recipients of BAföG, who no longer live with their parents. The application for exemption is to be submitted in written form to the respective regional broadcasting corporation; as of November, the according application forms are readily available in cities and communities, as well as on the internet. The application must include the original copy of the current version of their BAföG-assessment, or a certified copy. Whoever lives in a shared living residence, must furthermore disclose the names of their roommates as well.
By the way: Whoever does not receive BAföG-assistance, because his income exceeds the respective limit by less than 17,50 €, can apply for an exemption from the contribution fee as a special hardship case: In this case, the notice of rejection for BAföG assistance must be submitted. The following counts for couples, who share a residence, for example in a double apartment: The BAföG-exemption rule also applies to the spouse, or registered life partner, otherwise the partner will be asked to pay the ARD ZDF German Radio Broadcasting Contribution fee.
6. How are the contributors in shared-living residences chosen?
The tenants of a shared living residence, who are obligated to pay the fee, are so-called joint debtors. This means, that the broadcasting contribution fee can be demanded only once – randomly and completely – from each tenant. This person is then entitled to collect their portion of the fee from them. It can turn out to be more complicated, if individual roommates are exempted from the obligation to pay – for example as a recipient of BAföG-assistance; they cannot be requested to pay. Example Situation: In a shared living residence which consists of four adult students, one of the students is a BAföG-recipient. One of the shared residence tenants is requested by the ARD ZDF German Radio Broadcasting Contribution Service to be the fee contributor and pay 17,50 €/per month. He/She can then fairly request 5,83 € (17,50 € / 3) from the other two shared residence tenants who are obligated to pay the fee, and the BAföG-recipient is kept out of the picture, because he is exempted from paying the fee.
7. Can shared-living residences select the fee contributor themselves?
No. The essence of the joint and several debtor liability is that the creditor – here, the according regional radio broadcasting corporation – can decide who they want to choose as the person responsible for paying the fee. In this way, the „trick“ cannot be pulled off, where the tenants of a shared living residence simply choose a „BAföG-recipient“ to be the responsible fee contributor, who would then be exempted from paying the fee, since they are excused from the obligation to pay.
8. Can the landlord choose to take over the radio contribution fee and proportionately include the fee amount in the cost of rent and operation costs that they charge the tenants?
No! This is legally impossible for the landlord due to rental law. Regardless of this fact, this distribution would also not change anything, because the joint and several debtor liability relation still stands and the broadcasting corporation can therefore choose any of the home-owning tenants to be the responsible fee contributor.
9. How do the broadcasting corporations come to access tenants’ data?
These corporations gain access to such data from the registration offices, because these offices submit data for the existing and initial registration of all adult persons to the according regional broadcasting corporation. Included in such data, amongst other things, are: one’s name, birthdate, marital status, one’s current and last address as well as the date they moved in. Furthermore, the home owners themselves have the obligation to report and disclose their information to the according regional broadcasting corporation (see Question 11 for more information). Although a broadcasting corporation can also demand information about the tenants from their landlord, they are only allowed to do so, if they can prove that they do not have another option to determine who the homeowner of a residence is.
10. What happens, if I already was paying the contribution fee?
It is assumed that everyone, who was currently paying the broadcasting contribution fee, will also continue to pay such in the future. The conversion into the broadcasting contribution fee will, therefore, proceed automatically, as long as no other details are made. In the cases, where there are more than one contributor within a shared living group (= 1 x Obligation to Pay Contribution Fee), you should not rely on the ARD ZDF German Radio Broadcasting Contribution Service to contact you and correct this. Instead, you must presumably take it upon yourself to do so.
11. Which obligation to provide information do I have as a tenant?
Every occupant is required to register for themselves at the according regional broadcasting corporation and inform them of any changes in their data. This is, however, not the case in shared apartments, if one of the roommates is registered and pays the contribution fee. Moreover, the according regional broadcasting corporation can request each debtor for further information about his/her data.
12. Can I „duck” or avoid paying the fee, and what happens if I do not pay?
With the household reception fee, it is very difficult for people to avoid paying the fee. Before one was able to avoid paying the fee relatively easy, because the GEZ had to prove that devices subject to charges were present. Now, one has to prove that it is impossible for them to receive broadcasting service reception – if one cannot prove this then the fee will be deducted, unless one is exempted. Attention! Those who deliberately or negligently avoid paying the fee can be considered as committing an administrative offence and could be ordered to pay a fine as punishment.
13. Can the broadcasting company demand access to apartments?
No, they were not allowed to demand access in the past and also will not be able to do so in the future. Entering an apartment is also not necessary anymore, since the fee is due independent of the amount of devices in the apartment as well as the fact whether any such devices are at all present.
14. Where can I obtain further information?
Further Information can be found on the internet, for example under : www.rundfunkbeitrag.de; there you will also find the registration form for the exemption from the broadcasting contribution fee.