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Germany

German Welfare Pays for Beach-front Apartment

It’s no wonder the country’s social welfare system needs reform. A recent case shows just how generous the state is when it pays for a beach-front flat in Miami for a man claiming an allergy against Germany.

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Florida's sun and beach -- at the cost of Germany's welfare system.

Admittedly, he’s been dealt a hard hand by fate. First his wife divorced him and then he lost his job. For more than 10 years he’s been living off welfare in Hanover. Then Germany got to be too much for him; maybe it was the bad weather, maybe it was the depressed economy, no one really knows. But a psychiatrist diagnosed him with a Germany-allergy and said life here was taking its toll on the 64-year-old. So he upped and moved to Miami, where he could see the sunnier side of things from the comfort of a beach-front apartment.

Life in Florida is expensive, however, and the welfare recipient couldn’t afford the apartment on the Gold Coast. But that didn’t stop him from moving in, after all, Germany has an extensive social benefits program for helping people in need. And now he has an $875 apartment completely paid for by the state.

What seems unbelievable to anyone outside Germany, let alone the Germans themselves, is actually true. The man with the Germany-allergy had discovered a clause in the federal social welfare law guaranteeing the payment of benefits, and in the case of special hardships even to Germans living overseas.

Court rules in favor of Miami flat

At first it looked as if the early pensioner would not get very far with his request for the state-sponsored apartment. The state social office rejected the man’s claim, saying it was "unreasonable" for the state of Lower Saxony (where the man resided before moving to Florida) to be required to pay the full cost of the rent. But the man was not satisfied with the answer and took the case to court.

At the Administrative Court in Hanover a judge put the matter to rest after researching the real estate market in Miami via the Internet. He concluded there were considerably cheaper apartments to be had and rejected the man’s request on the basis that "a beach view is not necessary."

The persistent beach lover, however, pushed for an appeal, claiming his inability to live in Germany constituted a "hardship" and thus the state had to support him in the full amount needed. He succeeded. On Friday the Higher Administrative Court in Lower Saxony ruled in favor of the petitioner and required the state social office to cover the full costs of the man’s overseas apartment, $875 (€779). It conceded that the apartment was "unreasonably" expensive, but the plaintiff needed to be given at least six months time to find a cheaper apartment, and this could only be done in Miami.

Joachim Niepel, spokesman for the state social office in Lower Saxony, told reporters his office had hoped for a different outcome and that "such a high rent was in its eyes unreasonable."

The clause in the federal social welfare law allowing for Germans to receive welfare overseas was originally introduced for Jewish emigrants, for whom a return to Germany was not possible, the director of the state social office in Lower Saxony, Peter Schwenklenks, explained to reporters. During the 1980s the clause was tightened up, and since then only in rare instances have welfare benefits been paid to people residing outside Germany.

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