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Check your heating and ancillary costs – it’s worth it!

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The arrival of a bill for heating and ancillary costs usually means a host of questions for tenants. We have the most important answers and can show you how to check the bill in six easy steps, identify errors, and avoid inadmissible additional demands.

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    Alexandra Pestalozzi

    Alexandra Pestalozzi is a real estate attorney. She points out stumbling blocks in rental legislation and gives useful tips toward solving conflicts in residential and commercial properties.

Why do I receive a statement of ancillary costs?

You receive a statement of ancillary costs because in your rental agreement various items are listed as ancillary costs which you are required to pay on top of your rent.

As a rule, a distinction is made between lump sum payments and payments on account. If lump sum amounts have been agreed, the ancillary costs are considered to have been paid, even if they are somewhat higher or lower in practice. With payment on account, you receive a credit with the annual statement if the actual heating and ancillary costs are less than the amount paid in advance. If the actual costs are higher than your payment on account, you will have to make a back payment.

My rental agreement mentions “operating costs”. What do these include?

Unclear terms such as “operating costs” are not permitted in a rental agreement; they must be specified in detail. A reference to general contractual conditions is also not permitted. For you as a tenant it must be clear which ancillary costs you will have to pay in addition to the rent.

When do I have to make ancillary cost back payments?

If the actual heating and ancillary costs exceed the total payments made on account, you normally have to make a back payment.

If your total payments on account exceed the actual costs, you will receive a refund from your landlord – or the corresponding amount will be credited to your next annual statement.

You won't receive a statement if your heating and ancillary costs are already included in your rent or if you settle these costs by way of a lump sum payment.

In general, it is advisable to agree a sufficiently high payment on account when drawing up the rental contract. In this way, you can avoid having to make substantial back payments.

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If something is unclear in terms of the ancillary cost statement, try talking to your landlord first: he or she will certainly let you see the receipts on which the statement is based. In this way, questions or misunderstandings can often be resolved directly and simply.

Alexandra Pestalozzi, legal expert in real estate law at AXA-ARAG

Checking the statement in six easy steps

If you receive a bill for heating and ancillary costs, it’s worth taking a close look at it. When checking your annual statement of heating and ancillary costs, take it step by step:

  1. Check whether the billed positions are explicitly listed in your rental contract as ancillary costs: You only have to pay those ancillary costs that are expressly agreed as such in the rental contract.
  2. Check the details for each position: You only have to pay the costs that arise through your usage. Repairs and maintenance work (replacement of the heating burner, repainting of the stairwell, etc.) do not count as ancillary costs and may not be passed on to tenants.
  3. Check the allocation formula: Heating and ancillary costs must be split across all the rental objects of a property according to a transparent allocation formula. The type of allocation formula is not specified by law; however, it may not be changed without a formal amendment to the rental contract.
  4. Check the arithmetic of the statement of heating and ancillary costs and compare your total payments on account with the numbers on the statement.
  5. Demand access to the documents if the details on your landlord's statement of ancillary costs are inadequate. This allows you to check the costs behind the individual positions. "General operating costs" must be broken down by the landlord on request. A note of caution: Expenses that may not be settled via ancillary costs are sometimes hidden in this position!
  6. Demand a corrected statement if you discover errors. In the event of a dispute, engage the support of an expert but only after you talk to your landlord.
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