Browsing through housing listings, you’ll come across two types of rent prices in Germany: warm rent (Warmmiete) and basic rent (Kaltmiete). And upon second thought, it even stands to reason: Warm rent in Germany includes the Nebenkosten (service charges), so you're literally "in the warm".
So what are the services cost exactly? And which operating costs can be passed on to the tenant by the landlord? To soothe your house-hunting with a feel for the rent prices in Germany, we will dive into the service charges you have to expect. In this way, you won't lose track of all the costs!
First things first, let's clear up the confusion: what are Nebenkosten (service charges) anyway? And are the service charges included in the rent? To put it simply, service charges are all the costs incurred by the owner in owning and managing the property.
And that explains why you keep coming across two different rent prices in Germany when hunting for a place to live:
basic rent (Kaltmiete): The net rent you pay for the "cold rooms". In other words: The rent without heating costs and other additional expenses.
warm rent (Warmmiete): The "inclusive rent", i.e. the rent including heating costs and running costs.
To give you a better idea of the rent prices in Germany, we will delve deeper into the additional costs of the warm rent.
Some service charges fall on the shoulders of the landlord or owner and are not allowed to charge you for them:
There are also operating costs that the landlord doesn't have to (but can!) bear on his shoulders and therefore can charge you for the allocatable operating costs (Nebenkosten).
Therefore, rent prices in Germany can include these additional costs:
The landlord can also pass on other operating costs to the tenant, such as removing graffiti, as long as they are specified in the rental agreement.
Your landlord can't simply hand over operating costs to the tenant out of the blue. It goes without saying that landlords have to include in the tenancy agreement all additional costs that you, as the tenant, are expected to pay and which therefore constitute the warm rent, i.e. the final rent in Germany.
So if there is no corresponding clause in the tenancy agreement that obliges the tenant to bear the operating costs of the flat, the landlord has to pay these himself according to tenancy law.
What's more, German law sets out in detail which operating costs may be passed on to tenants - and which may not. You can find an overview of the Operating Costs Ordinance (Betriebskostenverordnung).
Now, let's round up the fuzz: how deep do I have to dig into my pockets to pay for the operating costs?
According to the Tenants' Association (2017), tenants pay an average of 2.16 euros per square metre per month for operating costs. However, there are significant regional and local price differences, especially in property tax, water/sanitation or waste disposal, but also in heating and hot water costs.
So if you have an 80 square metre flat, you will have to pay 2,697.60 Euros for the 2017 accounting year if all types of running costs are incurred.”
These are all types of operating costs at a glance (per square metre/month):
Upon the end of the year, your landlord has twelve months to send you a statement of utility costs, detailing all costs. With a bit of luck, you might even get some money back!
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