What have priority

Rent and fuel bills should have top priority! Paying rent is more important that paying off debts (however much pressure the collection agency may be putting on you)!
Rent arrears threaten your existence because in the final event you face compulsory eviction and homelessness! It is in your own interests to make sure that rent and fuel bills are paid regularly.

When could I be faced with immediate termination of tenancy because of rent arrears?

Your landlord can terminate your contract overnight as soon as the total arrears are equivalent to two months' rent plus ancillary costs (German: "Warmmiete"). The tenancy agreement may even be terminated immediately if in two successive months the total arrears are equivalent to more than one month's "Warmmiete".

Does the immediate termination of the tenancy agreement have to be in a specific form?

The tenancy agreement must be terminated in writing. The letter of termination must be sent to all tenants, and the reason for the termination must be stated (e.g. immediate termination of the tenancy agreement due to rent arrears totalling....). Immediate termination ends the tenancy agreement immediately unless a period of grace was granted in the letter of termination.

How can you prevent the landlord from terminating the tenancy?

If you can no longer pay your rent punctually, you should inform your landlord immediately. Explain to him why you cannot pay your rent at the moment. Many landlords will show understanding and allow you a payment respite if they can see that payments will be made in future.
If your rent arrears have reached the "critical limit" of two months' rent (or more than one month's rent in two successive months, then the landlord loses his right to terminate the tenancy if you pay the entire arrears before receiving written notice of termination.

What can you do if your tenancy has been terminated and an eviction order has been applied for?

If your landlord has applied to the court for an eviction order, you may be ordered to vacate the premises and become homeless. You should apply immediately to the social services department (e.g. the housing protection office (Wohnungssicherungsstelle)) in your town or rural district.
Apply for a loan to cover rent arrears (Übernahme der Mietschulden als Darlehen). The legal basis for this is Book XII, § 34 of the German Social Code.
The department will check whether you will be able to pay the rent yourself in future and also whether the rent amount is acceptable (if you receive social benefits).

What can you do if the eviction order has been issued?

If you need time to look for new accommodation, you should apply to the court for a reasonable vacation period. Vacation periods (generally an initial 3 months) may be extended if you apply in good time (2 weeks before the period expires). The compulsory eviction by the bailiff (Gerichtsvollzieher) using a transport company and locksmith should be avoided since the costs (which the landlord has to put up in advance) are very high. Many landlords will still be willing to negotiate even at this stage and allow you to move out voluntarily. If your situation has improved (e.g. new job) some landlords may be prepared to stop the compulsory eviction and give you a second chance. Even at this stage the social services department may still assume old rent arrears so that there is nothing standing in the way of a new tenancy agreement.

Protect your fuel supply despite arrears

When can the supply be cut off?
If you are in arrears with payments, your fuel supply company (EVU) cannot simply cut off the supply overnight. The following prerequisites must be fulfilled:
Reminder: Your supplier must have sent you a payment reminder.
Threat of disconnection: The supplier must threaten you with disconnection (no set form). (Usually done together with the reminder, which is allowed.)
Period of 4 weeks' grace: You are given a period of grace of 4 weeks from receipt of the threat of disconnection.
Notification of the disconnection: You must be notified again at least 3 working days in advance that the supply is going to be cut off.
You must owe at least 100 euros(for electricity).

How can I prevent the threatened disconnection?

a) Agree an extension of the payment period or payment in instalments!
If you can see that you will not be able to pay the regular instalments or the outstanding amount billed in the annual statement punctually, you should tell your supplier immediately and explain the reasons for your temporary payment difficulties. Many suppliers will show understanding and agree to the outstanding amount being paid in instalments. However, the arrears from the previous year must be paid at the latest before the next annual statement is sent.

b) Explain the hardship that would result if your fuel supply was cut off!
The supply cannot be cut off if the disadvantages would be particularly severe in relation to your arrears. In principle, suppliers should take the consequences into account automatically, but nevertheless you should inform them of the foreseeable disadvantages immediately.
c) Submit evidence to prove that you will be able to meet payments in future!
Suppliers are not allowed to cut off the supply if you, the customer, can convincingly prove that you can settle all the arrears. You should go directly to the social services office in your town or district and apply for a loan to cover fuel debts. The legal basis for this is Book XII, § 34 of the German Social Code which is intended to protect people against the loss of their homes. The disconnection of the fuel supply is recognised as a comparable emergency situation.
The department will check whether the situation is really an emergency (e.g. small child, no heating in winter) and why you are in arrears.

When must the supply be reconnected?

The fuel supply must be reconnected immediately the arrears are settled. However, you will have to pay a disconnection and reconnection fee. Your supplier may also demand a deposit (German: Kaution). Alternatively, it is possible they may suggest a prepaid solution, for example a prepayment meter.

Is a change of supplier the answer?

If you cannot pay your arrears and if the authorities refuse to assume the fuel debts for you, one solution could be to change the supplier. The new supplier must reconnect you to the grid. However, some suppliers refuse to conclude contracts with persons with a poor credit record (in Germany: negative SCHUFA report). It may also be more than one calendar month before fuel is supplied on the basis of your new account.