In a Facebook post that swiftly went viral on Tuesday, the Dippoldiswalde Housing Cooperative in Saxony announced that it would be restricting tenants’ access to hot water at certain times of the day.
“The prices for gas and electricity continue to rise,” the co-op wrote. “As already announced at the members’ meeting, we now have to save for the winter.”
The notice included a list of times of day (including in the mornings and afternoons on weekdays) that no hot water would be available in their buildings. On Saturdays, tenants will only be able to take a warm shower in the late afternoon, the co-op said.
It also announced that heating would be switched off entirely until September.
Within hours, the post was being widely shared on social media channels, with one user describing it as “fathomless cheek” and another describing it as “crazy”.
Speaking to the Funke Media Group on Wednesday, Housing Minister Klara Geywitz (SPD) slammed the decision to manipulate the hot water supply as unlawful.
“Simply turning off the hot water temporarily is illegal,” she said.
The decision to limit tenants’ access to hot showers and heating also drew consternation from ministers in the Saxony state government and from tenants’ rights associations.
The Germans Tenants’ Association pointed out that issues with the hot water would entitle the tenants to a rent reduction.
Since July 1st, just under half of Dippoldiswalde’s 600 apartments have been affected by the new rules. These are the 300 flats that are heated primarily with gas, WDR reported.
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‘Life is expensive’
The security of Germany’s gas supply has been a growing issue in recent months as the country scrambles to save enough energy to tide it through winter.
Despite the efforts of the Economy Ministry to rapidly diversify the energy supply, Europe’s largest economy still receives around a third of its gas from Russia, which the government fears will put the country in a weak position when the cooler months roll around.
President Vladimir Putin has already reduced or cut off the gas supply to several EU nations in retaliation for its sanctions over the Ukraine war.
In Germany, gas deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline have been docked by 60 percent.
Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) has launched a campaign to encourage people to save energy voluntarily, for example by taking fewer showers in summer.
The German Network Agency has also called for legal minimum temperatures for tenants to be reduced in light of the current crisis.
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Defending the plans to restrict hot water in the Saxony properties, Dippoldiswalde housing co-op board member Falk Kühn-Meisegeier said the move was to ward off the price hikes for next year.
“It’s not a matter of bullying the tenants, but rather of adjusting to what we might otherwise not be able to pay next year,” Kühn-Meisegeier told WDR. “We want tenants to get through this crisis well. Life is expensive enough as it is.”
The co-op says it also wants to “generate electricity on our roofs” and pass it on to the members without a levy or charge.
“That would be a real relief,” the housing association said. “No one in Berlin or at the ‘E.on’s of this world’ wants that”.