Rental charges are, according to the German Tenants Association, the consulting topic number one in Germany. Reasons for this include the high error rate and the incomprehensibility of the statements. In the opinion of the local tenant associations, every second billing is wrong, incomplete or incomprehensible. However, an accurate check of the rent-side billing can save a lot of money and energy.
The statutory framework for ancillary rental costs is set by the Operating Costs Ordinance. It regulates which running costs landlords are allowed to settle and which not. The operating or ancillary rental costs are divided into “warm” and “cold” operating costs. The “warm” operating costs include costs related to heating or hot water. “Cold” operating costs are costs that have nothing to do with the heating of the apartment, but for example, for the waste disposal, street cleaning or exterior lighting due.
“Warm” rental costs
The “warm” operating costs are to be billed according to consumption. It is the responsibility of the landlord to ensure that the actual consumption is recorded accurately and that the necessary recording systems are read at least once a year. Who lives for rent and has its own electricity or gas meter, even has the ability to save energy and money through a low consumption and a regular electricity price comparison or gas price comparison.
However, if a lump-sum rent has been agreed with the landlord or if the costs of an electricity meter are divided among several tenants, the landlord must change the electricity supplier, as he is the contractual partner of the respective electricity provider. The landlord should be asked in the case that several residential parties together use a electricity or gas meter, to compare the suppliers and choose the cheapest offer.
“Cold” rental costs
According to the Operating Cost Ordinance, the “cold” operating costs include property tax, water supply and drainage, street cleaning and garbage disposal, property and liability insurance and cleaning of buildings. In addition, electricity costs for the lighting of communal areas such as stairs, basements or corridors, the costs of chimney cleaning and the cost of operating shared antennas or cable television are also part of the “cold” operating costs.
The German Tenants Association points out that landlords are committed to profitability. This means that the landlord is committed to economical and economical management, ie to keep the “cold” operating costs for the tenants as low as possible by comparing different offers. The landlord should regularly make a electricity price comparison in order to make his tenants pay no more than necessary for the electricity used, for example, to illuminate communal areas.
Cost distribution for heating and hot water
The heating costs ordinance is of particular importance for tenants’ everyday lives, as it regulates how the “warm” operating costs for heating and hot water are to be distributed to the tenants of the house depending on consumption. With heating and hot water costs are meant primarily the cost of the central heating or for the central hot water supply system. However, the landlord may also settle costs of independent commercial supply of heat or hot water, such as district heating.
According to the heating cost regulation, the heating costs include the costs of the consumed fuels and their delivery, the operating current, the operation, monitoring, testing and care of the system, the costs for measurements according to the Federal Immission Control Act and for the consumption recording.
Reduce fuel and operating costs
The fuel costs, ie the costs incurred by the landlord through the purchase of oil, gas, coal, etc., represent the largest share of the heating costs. In the billing of heating costs, only the fuels actually consumed in the billing period may be taken into account. For this reason, the starting and ending inventory must be determined for fuel oil. For gas, the value read off the main meter at the end of the billing period is decisive. Volume discounts, discounts or discounts must be taken into account in the heating billing. In order to reduce fuel costs incurred for heating, various offers should be compared before procurement. A regular price comparison can save hundreds of euros every year.
This also applies to the operating current, again, a power price comparison leads to annual savings. The operating costs include the electricity costs for the circulation pump, oil pump and control system. They must always be recorded by means of their own intermediate counter. If this is not available, the power consumption must be properly estimated or determined. The German Tenants’ Association points out that the cost of operating electricity should not exceed eight percent of the fuel costs. However, if they are above, this may indicate that inadmissible power for the house lighting or the elevator is charged here.
Consumption analysis informs about cost development
In billing periods from 2009, the landlord should provide his tenants with a consumption analysis, in which the development of heating and hot water costs of the last three years are presented. On the basis of the consumption analysis the tenants are to be moved to a more conscious and more economical use of energy. The costs for the consumption analysis can be transferred to the tenants.
In the heating bill, the fuel and heating costs must be listed separately with the respective individual invoice amounts. Non-reimbursable heating costs include leasing costs for burners, oil tanks or connecting pipes, rental costs for liquefied gas installations, heating care costs, oil tank insurance, consultancy by measuring service companies.
Heat meter and heat cost allocator
According to the heating cost ordinance, the landlord is required to provide a consumption-based billing of heating and hot water costs. By installing detection systems in the tenants’ apartments or rooms, consumption can be determined. Usually, heat meters and heat cost allocators are used.
Heat meters: legal for custody and expensive
Heat meters measure the temperature of the heating water when entering and leaving the apartment and thus determine the heat output in kilowatt hours. Heat meters have to be calibrated and have to be re-calibrated every five years, which means that the old heat meter will be replaced by a new one. They are relatively expensive and are therefore rarely used. This raises above all the question of the profitability of the measuring instrument.
Heat cost allocator as auxiliary measuring method
Heat cost allocators are mounted directly on the radiator. Like the heat meters, they do not measure the amount of heat consumed, but merely indicate a ratio value. After the annual reading of all heat cost allocators in the house, one knows the total number of all consumption values. If one then divides the heating costs incurred in the house by the total number of consumption values, one learns what costs a unit. This value is then multiplied by the units read in the apartments. Thus, heat cost allocators are auxiliary measuring methods.
Heat cost allocators must be matched to the respective radiator. Depending on the heat output and the heat transfer between radiator and heat cost allocator, a weighting factor is determined. However, since there are many different radiators, this is a very complicated process. For the tenants, however, collection with heat cost allocators is even more complicated, as there are both heat cost allocators with product scale and with unit scale. For the product scale, the weighting factor has already been taken into account; for the unit scale, the coordination with the weighting factor will only take place with the billing. In the heating bill, a conversion factor is then displayed for each device.
Capture systems are mandatory
Each landlord is obliged to equip the apartments with a detection system and thermostatic valves. Thermostatic valves are designed to help save energy, as they keep the room temperature constant at the once set temperature and independently adjust the heating capacity to fluctuating outdoor temperatures. As the tenant ultimately pays the costs of the collection systems, the landlord must always observe the principle of cost-effectiveness in his decision for one or the other system.
Consumption-based heating billing saves costs
According to the German Tenants’ Association, the costs are distributed more fairly in comparison to other billing modalities by means of a consumption-based heating billing. However, the association also points out that the consumption-based billing by heat cost allocators, which should actually contribute to the fact that energy and money saved, are uneconomic, if the resulting costs for the tenants are higher than the potential savings.
Experts assume that since the introduction of the heating cost regulation by a consumption statement 15 per cent of the fuel costs can be saved. However, if the running costs for a new collection system are above this 15 percent limit, this violates the economic efficiency requirement. The new heating cost ordinance assumes that corresponding investments must be expected within ten years.
Heating and operating costs of the tenants’ association
The heating costs mirror
The heating cost index is created separately according to the types of energy (heating oil, natural gas, district heating) and assigns the values of the building to a category. In total, four categories are represented in the heating costs index: “Favorable”, for buildings that rank among the 10 percent with the lowest heating energy consumption, “funds” for houses with potential for improvement, but without any need for action, “increased consumption” for buildings whose energy consumption is significantly reduced “too high consumption” for houses in need of immediate action.
The operating cost level
The operating cost statement published by the German Tenants’ Association since 2004 has the goal of creating transparency in the cost items and enabling comparison with others. In addition, the operating cost level should provide clues to check the utility bill according to cost-effectiveness and point out possible savings.
What are the most common errors in utility billing?
Consumption-based billing does not take surface into account
The costs are charged more than 70 percent according to consumption. The heating cost ordinance stipulates, however, that a maximum of 70 percent of the costs are based on consumption and at least 30 percent on the area.
Flat rate billing due to missing hot water meter
The total cost of water heating is sometimes set at a flat rate of 18 percent. However, this is only permitted in exceptional cases if it is not possible for technical reasons to install a central hot water meter. However, according to consumer advocates, this almost never happens.
Incorrect division into user groups
If there are different systems for consumption recording (heat meters, heat cost allocators) or if there are different types of use in the building (offices and apartments), the total costs are generally allocated to the different groups with the help of heat meters. This division is often incomprehensible or incorrect.
Pure division by area
The heating cost ordinance basically requires consumption-based billing. This requires the equipment with detection devices. A division of costs to 100 percent based on the proportion of flats in the apartments is only permitted in exceptional cases if there are two residential units in the building, one of which is occupied by the homeowner – for example a detached house with a separate apartment.
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