How to understand your annual utility bill in Germany and check for errors!


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At the end of the year, you will receive your annual utility bill. Do you understand it? Are there errors? How do you check for errors?

Hardly any letter scares tenants as much as the annual utility bill. In this, running costs such as hot water costs , heating costs or the costs of garden maintenance are allocated to the tenants on a pro rata basis.

Errors often creep into the landlord’s annual utility bill. Our guides help you to understand your utility bill and to discover errors.

1. Apportionable ancillary costs (Nebenkosten) – What do tenants have to pay?

Landlords have the right to recover from their tenants certain costs that they incur in owning and operating their property. Colloquially one speaks of ancillary costs – in fact, landlords are only allowed to pass on the so-called operating costs to their tenants. Nevertheless, cost items appear in many ancillary cost statements that are actually not allowed to be settled. Do you understand the following allocable and non-allocable costs?

  • Property tax
  • Operating costs of an elevator
  • Garbage disposal costs and street cleaning
  • Building cleaning, vermin control and garden maintenance
  • Administration costs, repair and maintenance costs
  • Laundry care costs, lighting costs and drainage costs
  • Insurance premiums
  • Heating, hot water and cold water
  • Chimney sweep costs
  • Community antenna and cable TV costs
  • Caretaker and other operating costs
annual utility bill

2. Errors in the utility bill

Your annual utility bill can have some errors when it comes to the ancillary costs: Around every second billing is incorrect or at least needs clarification! In order not to pay unnecessarily on top of that, tenants should therefore pay close attention to which items the landlord wants to settle with them and how. Can you spot any of the following common errors in form and content in service charges?

  • Late billing
  • Wrong billing cycle
  • Deviation from the rental agreement
  • Other operating costs
  • Incorrect allocation of heating costs
  • Error in the heating bill
  • Incomplete utility bill
  • Settlement of non-apportionable operating costs
  • One-time costs and full maintenance contracts for elevators
  • Profitability of billing
  • Own work by the landlord
  • Vacancy and condominiums
  • Commercial space and landlord does not bill
  • Incorrect billing

3. Deduct additional costs from the tax

If the utility bill turns out to be unexpectedly high, there is a ray of hope: tenants can recover certain ancillary costs from their taxes. If you have paid for household or tradespeople services, you can state this on your tax return and get cash back. Do you know which costs can be deducted and what needs to be considered?

  • Building cleaning
  • Clean windows
  • Garden maintenance
  • Winter service
  • Waste management (pre-sorting of rubbish)
  • Street cleaning
  • Caretaker
  • Pest Control
  • Maintenance work on electrical, gas or water installations, sewage disposal, pumps, heating systems, fire extinguishers, lightning rods, lifts, shared machines (e.g. washing machines, dryers), garbage chutes, CO2 warning devices (fire alarms)
  • Sweeping, maintenance and repair work of the chimney sweep (fireplace inspection, testing and measuring work are excluded)
  • Graffiti removal
  • Gutter cleaning
  • Exchange of consumption meters
  • Drain cleaning

4. Have the annual utility bill checked!

It is worthwhile for tenants to have the utility bill checked! What are the advantages of an exam? What are the deadlines? How do experts go about the exam? You should make sure you understand the answer to the following questions before accepting your annual utility bill.

  • Why should the utility bill be checked?
  • What is the utility bill and why does it have to be created?
  • Which costs may appear in the utility bill?
  • Which errors can occur in the service charge settlement?
  • What are the consequences of errors in service charge accounting?
  • How does a lawyer check an utility bill?

5. What are the additional costs in your annual utility bill?

Most tenants pay ancillary costs. Nevertheless, there is always a lack of clarity as to what the difference between ancillary costs and operating costs is and why tenants have to pay them in the first place. Do you know why your annual utility bill has additional costs?

  • Are they additional costs or operating costs?
  • How are the ancillary costs billed?
  • When do additional costs have to be paid?
  • Have you had the ancillary costs checked?

6. Service charge settlement deadlines

When settling ancillary costs, it is important that the statutory deadlines are adhered to. Are you aware of the deadlines for settling the ancillary costs? You should be aware of the following:

  • Billing period for service charges
  • Settlement period for service charge settlement
  • Objection period for ancillary costs settlement
  • Settlement of service charges Deadline for additional payment
  • Settlement of service charges Deadline for payment of the credit
  • Operating cost billing statute of limitations

7. Hot water, cold water and waste water in the annual utility bill

The water costs take a special position in the annual utility bill, because hot water and cold water have to be billed differently by the landlord. Can you read and understand the following:

  • Hot water costs in the utility bill
  • Cold water costs in the utility bill
  • Drainage costs in the utility bill
annual utility bill

8. Electricity costs in the utility bill?

As a tenants you usually get a bill directly from your electricity provider. Electricity costs can still appear in the utility bill. Do you know why they appeared on your annual utility bill?

  • The actual cost of electricity in the home
  • Electricity costs in the utility bill

9. Gutter cleaning as ancillary costs?

Whether the costs for gutter cleaning are allowed to appear in the utility bill depends on a decisive factor. Do you know when you as the tenant and when the landlord has to pay the costs?

  • Gutter cleaning – regular or one-off measure?
  • Gutter cleaning costs as other operating costs
  • How often should the rain gutters be cleaned?

10. House cleaning as additional costs

The landlord must ensure that the house is clean. Depending on who he hires with cleaning, different costs are incurred, which he can get back from the tenants with the annual utility bill.

  • Why did house cleaning appear in the utility bill
  • Did the tenants take care of house cleaning?
  • Was a cleaning company hired?
  • Was the house cleaning done by the caretaker?
  • Did the landlord cleando the cleaning himself?

11. Elevator costs in the utility bill

if you live in an apartment, having an elevator is a plus. However, comfort costs! This is particularly evident in the annual utility bill, in which the costs for the elevator are often expensive.

  • Which elevator costs are ancillary costs?
  • What are the additional costs for the elevator?
  • Do tenants have to pay elevator costs on the ground floor?

12. Garden maintenance costs

However, it does not bloom and green on its own in very few gardens. In large apartment buildings, landlords usually commission craftsmen to take care of the garden. The landlord can collect the costs of garden maintenance from the tenants with the annual utility bill.

  • What are the additional costs of garden maintenance?
  • How high are additional costs for garden maintenance?
  • What are the exceptions to the garden maintenance costs?
  • Additional costs for garden maintenance in the tax return

13. Cable connection and community antenna

If the landlord has the house connected to the broadband cable network or if he installs a communal antenna, he can pass on the costs incurred by operating the communal television connection to the tenants as incidental costs.

  • What additional costs for the television connection can the landlord pass on?
  • Which allocation key for cable connection and community antenna
  • Do tenants without a television also have to pay?
  • Alternatives to cable connection and communal antenna

14. Settlement of heating costs

Nobody wants to freeze in winter. However, heating has its price: heating costs are the front runner among ancillary costs. Which rules apply to the billing of heating costs?

  • Heating bills and types of heating
  • Requirements for heating billing
  • Consumption-based billing of heating costs
  • Consumption-based billing of hot water costs
  • Error in the heating bill
annual utility bill

15. Insurance costs in the utility bill

A large number of different types of insurance can be taken out for everything to do with home and apartment: Liability, household contents, legal protection, residential building insurance and insurance against natural hazards are just a few of them. Do you know which insurance costs the landlord can recover from the tenants by means of ancillary costs settlement?

  • Which insurance costs can be passed on to tenants?
  • What insurance costs does the landlord have to bear?
  • Which insurance do tenants have to take out themselves?

16. Other additional costs

In the Operating Costs Ordinance, it is pretty clear which costs the landlord can recover from the tenants with the utility bill. Only under the point “Other ancillary costs” does the regulation remain vague.

  • Other ancillary costs: what is in the law?
  • What are the other ancillary costs?
  • Which costs cannot be passed on as other ancillary costs?

17. Calculate additional costs with the operating cost table

Many tenants wonder whether their ancillary costs are too high. In order to be able to better estimate the amount of your own ancillary costs, it is worth taking a look at the operating cost table.

  • What is an operating cost table?
  • How can you calculate additional costs using the operating cost table?

18. Objection to the utility bill

Tenants do not have to accept incorrect utility billing. In the event of errors or unjustified claims, tenants have the right to object to the billing.

  • Why object to the utility bill?
  • Consequences of objecting to the utility bill
  • When to object to the utility bill?
  • How to object to the utility bill?

19. Operating Costs Ordinance

The Operating Costs Ordinance regulates which ancillary costs the landlord can reclaim from his tenants by means of ancillary costs settlement.

What is the Ordinance on Operating Costs?
Operating costs ordinance and utility bill

20. Distribution key and service charge settlement

The so-called distribution key plays a decisive role in the proportional allocation of the ancillary costs. A large part of the ancillary costs is not apportioned based on consumption, but rather distributed to the tenants using a distribution key.

  • Consumption-dependent and consumption-independent billing of ancillary costs
  • Definition of distribution keys and possible distribution keys
  • Distribution key for vacancies and businesses
  • Distribution key in the service charge settlement

21. What are utilities and why you are likely to overpay

Not infrequently, the utility bill for tenants is like a second rent. But about every second utility bill is wrong, which is why tenants pay an average of €300 too much. Do you pay too much?

  • What are normal range utilities?
Expaturm aims to help educate Expats in Germany on key issues that they will have to deal with while living in Germany by providing everything you need to know about Banking, Healthcare, Lifestyle, and Housing in Germany



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