Business | House and property: “Hardly anyone can afford that!”


Lerato Khumalo

The heat pump is set to replace gas heating next year. This will pose immense challenges for many homeowners, warns the president of Haus und Grund, Kai Warnecke.

If the traffic light government has its way, the practical ban on the installation of new gas and oil heating systems will come into force in 2024. Before that, however, the Building Energy Act (GEG) must be passed by the Bundestag, where the parliamentary groups can still change it.

It is not only the opposition that is criticising the draft law from Robert Habeck’s (Greens) Ministry of Economic Affairs. The FDP, as a coalition partner, also wants to soften the new rules for property owners. In an interview with t-online, Kai Warnecke, the president of the Haus und Grund property owners’ interest group, explains what he now expects from this parliamentary process.

t-online: The draft building energy law and especially the ban on new oil and gas heating systems are causing heated debate. You have also been very critical of this. What bothers you so much about making the building sector less emission-intensive?

Kai Warnecke: Of course, buildings should become more climate-friendly. But the federal government is trying to force it and is making a fundamental mistake that could prove very expensive for many homeowners.

What is this error?

Mr Habeck’s law stipulates that newly installed heating systems must be powered by 65 percent renewable energy from 2024. In practice, this amounts to a ban on the installation of new oil and gas heating systems. But that can only be the second step. First, municipal heat and energy planning must be carried out in order to create a basis for decision-making for property owners. This urgently needs to be linked together in the Bundestag.

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Kai H. Warnecke is the President of the Central Association of German House, Apartment and Property Owners. (Source: Uli Deck/Archive/dpa)

What do you fear will happen without such an adjustment?

Many owners simply lack the basis for the desired heat transition. If you don’t know what energy your building will be supplied with in the future, you cannot invest in a suitable heating system. In the worst case scenario, this could lead to some owners having to buy a new heating system twice within a few years – hardly anyone can afford that!

Why would someone replace their heater twice if it still works?

Well, if you are currently unsure whether you will be able to use electricity or district heating in the future, but need a new heating system, you may be making the wrong decision. In a few years, you will find that your area is not supplied with district heating. Because one thing is already clear: we will not be able to supply every building in Germany with all energy alternatives.

The Haus & Grund association represents the interests of property and land owners in Germany. It often acts as a representative of the interests of private landlords. Kai Warnecke has been president of the association since 2016.

Many homeowners are poorly informed about the supply situation. But does that alone mean that it needs to be regulated by law?

If only it were just the homeowners. Even the municipal utilities have no plan. When asked which places should be supplied with district heating, for example, many say that this decision could take another ten years. And that is only part of the problem.

What is still wrong with the draft law?

Many owners are concerned about the question of funding. So far there has only been a press release on the subject from ministers Habeck and Geywitz. However, such an announcement is not yet law. Many owners fear that they will not receive any support when converting their heating systems.

In your opinion, is there any reason for this concern?

The announcement on the Federal Ministry of Economics’ website states that no funding will be provided for the obligations of the Building Energy Act. Funding will only be provided in cases where the owner does more or invests earlier than he is required to under the law. However, this means that many are left with high costs that they could not have foreseen.

But aren’t there already funding programs for converting to more energy-efficient heating systems?

The government does not take the individual situation of the owners into account sufficiently. That is why we demand that there must be a personal support component and a hardship clause. Many properties do not require major investments or the owners’ money is sufficient. But for example, citizens in rural areas or many pensioners with an average pension of just over 1,000 euros a month do not have the money for the required investments.