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Is my landlord ripping me off?

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Hello,

 

I live in a small one room flat (35m²) on the center of Frankfurt for 5 months now. I don't speak German, and my landlord doesn't speak English. The contract is in German, and it is crap, a lot of ambiguity and is definitely not clear who should pay for what.

 

Since I can't communicate with my landlord, we had the real estate agent to explain the contract to me and all that. I have a verbal agreement with them that I would pay for electricity and telephone and pay 540 for the rent plus 160 as a flat rate for the rest (700 euros total).

 

Everything was fine until my landlord sends me an email asking for 40 euros per month that I'm in the flat, plus change the heating and water contract to my name.

 

I had a few people read the contract and see what is says and basically it says that I'll pay 160 euros flat rate for extra costs, but it doesn't specify what is included on this extra costs.

 

So some people pointed me to this link

 

 
Where the important part is:
 
"Hat sich der Vermieter für eine Betriebskostenpauschale entschieden, kann er natürlich nicht nach Gutdünken einen beliebigen Betrag festlegen. Im Mietvertrag muss ganz genau stehen, welche Nebenkostenarten durch die Pauschale abgedeckt werden sollen und welche gegebenenfalls gesondert abgerechnet werden. Andernfalls gehen Gerichte im Streitfall davon aus, dass mit der Pauschale alle zulässigen Nebenkosten abgegolten sind."
 
Which basically says that if the landlord choose a flat rate and doesn't specify what is included the court would consider that everything is.
 
I basically sent him an email explaining why I shouldn't pay and bla bla bla. And he just ignored me, and now the landlord entered in contact with the heating company sending my information and I received a confirmation letter to pass the contract to my name.
 
I'm concerned of a few things:
  1. I will pay for it, and then he will come back asking me to pay for more stuff.
  2. I will ignore the letter I received and then they will simple cut my heating.
  3. I would rather not change the place I'm living because I don't want the headache of registering my address, new contracts, change internet and all that.
  4. I though of getting an lawyer but I will probably spend more with it than just simple paying for the heating and water.
 
My questions is: Is 160 euros a fair price for extra costs that does NOT include electricity, water and heating or is the land lord ripping me off? Take in consideration that it is a small flat, but there are elevators, and a garden in the building I live.

 

I really appreciate any suggestion on how to solve this situation.

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The 160 EUR are normally not a final amount. You pay an approximation of what those expenses will be, then when the year finishes your landlord has to collect all bills and calculate what exactly you should have paid. If you paid more that you should you will get some money back, if you paid too little then you will have to pay whatever is missing. Those 160 EUR should be mentioned in your contract as Nebenkosten.

Renting in Germany is a bit different to what you are used to (you agree one price and you pay that price).

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6 minutes ago, Krieg said:

The 160 EUR are normally not a final amount. You pay an approximation of what those expenses will be, then when the year finishes your landlord has to collect all bills and calculate what exactly you should have paid. If you paid more that you should you will get some money back, if you paid too little then you will have to pay whatever is missing. Those 160 EUR should be mentioned in your contract as Nebenkosten.

Renting in Germany is a bit different to what you are used to (you agree one price and you pay that price).

 

First of all, thank you for your answer. I'm aware of how this works. And I don't have a problem with this. But that is not what the landlord is asking. He actually want me to continue paying 160 EUR every month, plus the whole cost for the heating (around 40 euros a month). He is basically saying that I'm paying 160 EUR for something else that is NOT electricity, heating, water or telephone. If the heating was included on those 160 EUR and I had to pay some extra in the end of the year that would be fine for me, but is not the case.

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Would you be willing to post the actual contract (marking out any personal information, of course)? If the contract specifies "Nebenkosten" this is different from "Pauschale" --and it may or may not specify exactly what is included. Heat, electricity, and water, as well as phone, internet or cable, are typically not included in Nebenkosten -- these are instead taxes, building insurance, and maintenance / snow clearing / garbage removal, among other things.

 

The real estate agent may not clearly have explained these to you, being unaware that things that would be considered part of the rent in other countries are not treated the same way here in Germany.

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How can we tell you if 160 EUR for Nebenkosten is fair? We have no idea about a gazillion things, like how much is the property tax and how it is split among all the residents in the building, how much is the water, electricity and heating in the common areas and how it is split among all residents, how much they pay for cleaning common areas, gardening, and a bunch of other things.

P.S., 40 EUR a month for water and heating is a bit cheap, so you are probably again misundertanding something.

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I'm a bit confused whether you have to now pay 200€ per month plus water plus heating plus electricity plus telephone (as you said in first post), or if it's 160€ plus these things (as in your last post). Either way I think that 160€ per month on a 35m^2 flat not including heating or water is extremely high. Anybody in the area in a similar size flat with elevators and garden have a reference figure?

When I think that I was paying 250€ per month for 105m^2 including water and heating, this doesn't seem to add up - although my place had neither an elevator nor a garden.

 

If I was the OP I would ask for an itemized breakdown of the fixed costs before agreeing to pay anything extra to what was originally agreed. I would also deduct the estimated water and heating costs automatically from the agreed monthly 160€ payment as and when these contracts are transferred to my name.

 

I don't necessarily think that the landlord is trying one on, but I absolutely would not agree to additional payments without seeing justification for why these additional payments are necessary.

 

Once electricity, water, heating and telephone are taken out of the equation, all other costs should be known to the landlord in advance and there is no more guess work (cleaner has a fixed contract, insurance is a fixed amount for the year). If the landlord cannot show you the breakdown of these other costs to justify 160€ (or 200€) per month, then they're trying one on.

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53 minutes ago, fraufruit said:

Join your local Mietverein. They will help you with this.

I will look into it, thank you.

 

40 minutes ago, techgirl said:

Would you be willing to post the actual contract (marking out any personal information, of course)? If the contract specifies "Nebenkosten" this is different from "Pauschale" --and it may or may not specify exactly what is included. Heat, electricity, and water, as well as phone, internet or cable, are typically not included in Nebenkosten -- these are instead taxes, building insurance, and maintenance / snow clearing / garbage removal, among other things.

 

The real estate agent may not clearly have explained these to you, being unaware that things that would be considered part of the rent in other countries are not treated the same way here in Germany.

I had people that saw the contract already and they looked for those things you mentioned and I'm convinced that I'm in the right in this situation. I really shouldn't pay for the heating if we take this situation to court.

 

35 minutes ago, Krieg said:

How can we tell you if 160 EUR for Nebenkosten is fair? We have no idea about a gazillion things, like how much is the property tax and how it is split among all the residents in the building, how much is the water, electricity and heating in the common areas and how it is split among all residents, how much they pay for cleaning common areas, gardening, and a bunch of other things.

P.S., 40 EUR a month for water and heating is a bit cheap, so you are probably again misundertanding something.

I don't know any of that either, I tried to give as much information as I could to see if someone in a similar place could tell me if the price is fair.

 

17 minutes ago, toBnruG said:

I'm a bit confused whether you have to now pay 200€ per month plus water plus heating plus electricity plus telephone (as you said in first post), or if it's 160€ plus these things (as in your last post). Either way I think that 160€ per month on a 35m^2 flat not including heating or water is extremely high. Anybody in the area in a similar size flat with elevators and garden have a reference figure?

When I think that I was paying 250€ per month for 105m^2 including water and heating, this doesn't seem to add up - although my place had neither an elevator nor a garden.

 

If I was the OP I would ask for an itemized breakdown of the fixed costs before agreeing to pay anything extra to what was originally agreed. I would also deduct the estimated water and heating costs automatically from the agreed monthly 160€ payment as and when these contracts are transferred to my name.

 

I don't necessarily think that the landlord is trying one on, but I absolutely would not agree to additional payments without seeing justification for why these additional payments are necessary.

 

Once electricity, water, heating and telephone are taken out of the equation, all other costs should be known to the landlord in advance and there is no more guess work (cleaner has a fixed contract, insurance is a fixed amount for the year). If the landlord cannot show you the breakdown of these other costs to justify 160€ (or 200€) per month, then they're trying one on.

 

Thank you a lot for your answer this is kinda what I'm looking for. Well, basically at first I was paying 160 euros thinking that the heating and water was included, now he's saying that I need to pay for that too and send him 40 euros per month that I've been in the flat. So I'm assuming that it is going to cost me around 40 euros a month to pay for heating and water. So basically I will have to keep paying 160 EUR per month, plus heating, water, electricity and phone.

 

I'm also thinking the same thing. That 160 EUR is really expensive if none of that is included. I specifically asked him for this itemized breakdown in the email and he just ignored me.

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As long as those payments are Nebenkosten your landlord has to explain every expense at the end of the year.

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If you had the Nebenkosten written into the original rental agreement then I would suggest you write to the landlord to inform them that you are reducing your payments by 40€ per month to compensate for the additional heating / water payments you have to make due to transferal of the heating / water bills.

 

However, since you don't have the amount written anywhere and everything is verbal, I can only refer to this:

1 hour ago, fraufruit said:

Join your local Mietverein. They will help you with this.

 

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If I understood correctly the Mietverein will not go to court for me. But will they talk with my landlord to try to solve this situation? I tried to contact them and they told me that I need to pay for the membership first.

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They will tell you who is in the right and what to do about it and, yes, you have to become a member to use them. It is very cheap and you will probably need them in future with such a landlord.

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The Mietverein will not talk directly to the landlord but they will communicate in written. And yes, they will go with you to court if you have the plan that includes it.

Once your landlord knows you are in the Mietverein he/she will think twice before taking you for a ride.

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