Whether you’re going to be renting a furnished or unfurnished apartment in Germany, you’re going to be paying for utilities. 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). In that case, 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.
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!
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 Check24.de 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.
Secondly, you need to check the actual price per kWh. that dictates how much you pay for your usage. This price can either be fixed or dynamic, so you can also save yourself some money by taking advantage of a low in pricing by fixing it at the right time.
Here are some useful stats and terminology to help you with through the buzz of finding a new provider.
The average electricity price for Germans in 2019 was 40.43 cents per kWh. This is relatively pricey, because the country is in the middle of an Energiewende, an energy transition towards renewable sources of energy.
The average power consumption for you is as follows:
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 stove and to heat their home. Gas can be measured in both kWh or volume (m3). 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 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 at all. Water is also metered, and you can expect to pay around €1.60 per 1m³ (1000 litres). So, depending on how often you flush and how long your showers are, you’ll spend around 300m³ per person per year, meaning around €30 euros a month in water if you’re on your own and you enjoy long showers.