Whether you’re going to be renting a furnished or unfurnished apartment, you’re going to be paying for utilities in Germany.
So let’s take a look at the various utilities you may run into, as well as take a look at how to set up your own if you have to! Let’s flip on the lights on this topic.
In many cases, renting as an expat means renting a furnished apartment for an all-inclusive price. This is also the case if you happen to rent as a part of a flatshare (WG). The utilities are often paid by the landlord or the main tenant and you pay a monthly contribution to this, based on an estimate.
That means you don’t really have an overview of the exact expenses. The utilities are usually labelled as Nebenkosten, but these can include other costs, such as taxes or cleaning fees, so make sure you check your contract to make sure there is a proper breakdown of everything included on top of the basic rent (Kaltmiete).
For the sake of this article, we’ll define the utilities as anything you pay for depending on your usages of it, such as electricity, gas and water.
In 2023 the German government is introducing price ceilings for electricity and gas due to rising energy costs. From March, German households will be able to take advantage of price caps on their energy costs equal to 80% of their consumption in 2022. The consumption for January and February will be calculated retrospectively.
So, if you’re always paying the same amount, it might be a good idea to ask your landlord for an overview of the expenses to avoid paying too much. This so-called Betriebskostenabrechnung is an accurate overview of exactly how much water, gas and electricity you’ve consumed and the landlord has to share this information with you. At the same time, this could also mean that you use more than what is included in your monthly contribution, but landlords will usually let you know on their own if this is the case.
At the same time, a landlord needs to let you know that you’ve paid too little within a reasonable timeframe. Don’t simply pay the landlord if he suddenly claims you’ve paid too little over the past 4-5 years, right as you’re about to leave. It’s a question of being sharp and knowing your rights! At the same time, if you end up having a difficult landlord, it might not be worth taking on a confrontation if the difference is a relatively insignificant amount. Nobody wants to go to court over €100.
In some cases, you only pay the landlord a Kaltmiete (literally cold rent), or your apartment is completely unfurnished, which means that you need to arrange for any of the utilities that you want to make use of yourself. This means that you need to look for an electricity provider, a water provider and, if your new home still needs it, a gas provider. Additionally, you’ll be free to select an internet provider as well!
The average electricity price for Germans in 2022 was €0.49 cents per kWh. This is relatively pricey, as the country is in the middle of an energy transition towards renewable sources of energy (Energiewende). Besides, the energy crisis in Europe is also leading to a sharp rise in prices.
Thanks to the price ceiling introduced by the German government, electricity consumers will pay €0.40 per kWh in 2023. The monthly discount you will receive is calculated based on your consumption from the previous year. So, in 2023 you will pay €0.40 per kWh for 80% of what you consumed in 2022, and the rest of the electricity you consume during the year will be charged at €0.50 per kWh.
For example, let’s say your household consumed 3,500 kWh of electricity in 2022. If you consume the same amount in 2023, you’ll pay €0.40 per kWh for the first 2,800 kWh and pay €0.50 per kWh for the remaining 700 kWh.
In general, the average power consumption in Germany is as follows:
So, depending on the size of your household, you can add around 1,500 kWh per additional member.
The overall prices will vary between electricity suppliers but you can use a calculator to estimate how much you’ll pay in 2023.
If you’re able to select an electricity provider yourself, you might be able to save yourself some money! These days, selecting a new power provider is an easy process that usually takes place online. You can use a website such as Verifox and Check24 to compare electricity providers based on your home’s address.
The major advantage of selecting your own provider is that most providers offer juicy cashback or discounts (Sofortbonus) if you switch providers. In this way, it makes sense to check for a new provider every year, as the bonuses almost always mean you save money.
Another way to save money on electricity bills is to monitor electricity prices. When it’s low enough, you can get a fixed rate contract and avoid the volatile prices that come with a dynamic rate contract.
Here’re some useful stats and terminology to help you find a new provider.
The same principle stands for your gas provider! Though, in some cases, you can get an additional discount by purchasing electricity and gas from the same supplier. For many people, natural gas is used to cook on their stoves and to heat their homes. Gas can be measured in both kWh or volume (m3).
In 2023, the price of gas for German households will be €0.12 per kWh. Your gas provider forecasts how much you will consume in 2023 based on your annual consumption in 2022. The discount is applied to 80% of the forecasted amount and for the rest, you pay your normal tariff. You can calculate approximately how much you’ll pay but your gas provider determines the final amount.
If you rely on central heating, your gas price starts at €0.095 per kWh and the discount is based on your consumption in 2022.
So here’s the average gas consumption you can expect, based on the size of your new home in Germany:
Your water provider is based on where you live, so you don’t have as much of a choice as you do with power and electricity. That said, the tap water quality in Germany is of superior quality and drinking from the tap is no issue. Water is also metered and you can expect to pay around €2 per 1m³ (1000 litres) for drinking water. Depending on the city you live in you will pay:
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