Officials in Germany are obligated to respond in writing to every application or letter of objection to an official decision within a certain period of time. According to Prof. Wolf-Rüdiger Schenke from the University of Mannheim, “Pressure can be brought on the state”. If a state agency fails to act in a specific case, it is possible to sue the state for failure to act. die Untätigkeitsklage.
In what cases can you bring an action for failure to act in Germany?
Under German social welfare law, legal action for failure to act is possible in two cases:
- If the authority does not issue a decision within 6 months of the application. This applies to applications that require an administrative act in the sense of social law, e.g. applications for unemployment benefits (both ALG I and ALG II), pensions, etc.
- If the authority in question has not decided on an appeal within 3 months of the lodging of the appeal letter
The claim must be brought before a social welfare court (Sozialgericht). However, the Social Welfare Office may claim that there are compelling reasons as a result of which it has taken longer than prescribed by law to process the application. In this case the procedure is postponed for a period determined by the social welfare court. An important reason cannot be a lack of sufficient staff or a missing statement of reasons for an appeal against a decision of the social welfare office.
The situation is not much different in German administrative law. The German authorities have a period of 3 months to process applications in accordance with administrative law.
Who pays the costs of proceedings for inactivity of office in Germany?
The authority against which you file a claim for failure to act must in principle bear the costs of the case, including lawyers’ fees. Only the existence of an important reason for not taking a decision justifies that the authority has acted improperly. The authority must inform the applicant of the existence of a good reason. The applicant must also inform the authority of the urgency of the matter one month before the expiry of the deadline in question and of the possibility of bringing an action for failure to act if the deadline is not met. In this situation, it is necessary to ask the authority in question to give the reason for the delay (you will find a model text below).
With regard to the payment of costs, it should be noted that if the decision is not taken within the aforementioned time limit, the authority will regularly pay the costs of the claimant. If the authority did not have sufficient reason for the decision or did not inform the claimant about it, the claimant often has to bear the costs according to the theory of causation. In any case, we recommend that you contact an attorney and get their opinion! People with low income have the possibility to get free legal advice in Germany.
How do I call the authorities in Germany to act? A sample letter!
If you want to call an authority in Germany to act for you, you can use the following sample letter (delete as appropriate):
54321 Musterstadt Musterstadt, den 01.10.2020
Betreff: Max Mustermann, Musterstraße 1, 12345 Musterstadt
Erinnerung an die Bearbeitung meines Antrags/ Widerspruchs vom …………………..
File reference: …(write file reference)
Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,
ich habe am ….. einen Antrag auf … / Widerspruch gegen den Bescheid vom ….. eingelegt. Dieser wurde bis heute weder von Ihnen beschieden noch wurden mir etwaige wichtige Gründe mitgeteilt, welche die Bearbeitung verzögern.
Ich fordere Sie daher auf, mein Anliegen unverzüglich zu bearbeiten oder mir zumindest die zur Verzögerung führenden wesentlichen Gründe mitzuteilen.
Nach Ablauf der sich aus § 88 SGG ergebenden Fristen werde ich mich unverzüglich an einen Rechtsanwalt wenden und mit seiner Hilfe eine Untätigkeitsklage einreichen. Die Kosten dafür gehen zu Ihren Lasten.
Mit freundlichen Grüßen
Personal contact with the office in Germany
Frank Zitka, spokesman for the German Clerks’ Association, points out the staffing problems and the overload of work in many German offices “In many offices there is a lack of staff. It is enough for someone to fall ill for work to come to a standstill. Colleagues are sitting in front of huge piles of files. For this reason, he advises first contacting the office in question personally and trying to resolve the matter on the spot (preferably in writing with acknowledgement of receipt or by telephone). If that doesn’t work, a visit to a lawyer is not out of the question.
It is worth reading
If an official behaves inappropriately towards you or is incompetent in your eyes, you can complain about him/her to his/her superior: