Great freedom?: What costs new hires have to reckon with

Owning your first apartment is one of the most exciting changes in life.

Great freedom?: What costs new hires have to reckon with

Owning your first apartment is one of the most exciting changes in life. Despite all the anticipation, it is important to realistically assess the expected costs. What can be expected at the end of the day?

Two rooms for 580 euros rent per month? That seems feasible, even while studying and especially with a regular income in the account. But this first amount is just the beginning.

First of all it is important to know: When it comes to rent, a distinction is made between cold rent and warm rent. Tenants only pay the cold rent or basic rent for the fact that the apartment is let to them. But then there is still no electricity, and no water comes out of the tap. The rent including heating reflects the costs that the tenant actually expects. It results from the cold rent plus the so-called operating costs.

In apartment advertisements, the cold rent is typically mentioned prominently. However, this amount can increase significantly when operating costs are added. In the case of the pretty two-room apartment with 60 square meters, the basic rent of 580 euros can quickly add up to a further 230 euros for operating costs.

Which costs are included in the rent including heating depends on the individual provisions of the rental agreement, says Jutta Hartmann from the German Tenants' Association. The apportionable operating costs of an apartment include heating costs, water costs, waste water charges, property tax and the so-called other operating costs. They include, for example, street cleaning and garbage collection, building cleaning or garden maintenance. The landlord may pass on all these costs to the tenant.

Usually, the lease regulates that a monthly advance payment must be made for this, the so-called down payment. At the end of the year, the accumulated advance payments are offset against the actual consumption. If more was consumed than calculated in the advance payments, the ancillary cost statement results in an additional payment. In case of under consumption, the tenant gets money back.

"The utility bill can be difficult for laypersons to understand," says Hartmann. She encourages tenants to get advice from professionals if they have to pay a surprising amount of money.

There are also costs that should never be passed on to the tenant. This is regulated by the Operating Costs Ordinance. The landlord has to bear the maintenance costs himself - for example for the leaking window or the broken gutter. There is an exception for so-called small repairs, such as a leaking faucet. The cost of such repairs must be borne by the renter. Sometimes the boundaries are fluid.

This shows how much attention must be paid to details. "Take a good look at what was agreed," says Jutta Hartmann. "Maybe I make things myself and still pay for it?" If the tenant is responsible for cleaning the stairwell, for example, the cleaning of the house should not be billed in addition to the warm rent.

But rent including heating is not the end of the story. Additional costs may arise that are not billed by the landlord. These include electricity, broadcasting fees (GEZ), internet connection or subscriptions for streaming services. Landlords are not involved in all of these items, the contracts are made directly between the tenant and the respective contractual partner, says Matthias Wulff from the real estate group Vonovia.

That is why you should also pay attention to the details of the rental agreement here: If the rented apartment is heated with electricity or gas floor heating, high additional costs must be expected in addition to the warm rent. In such cases, the heating costs are not included in the warm rent. They are billed separately with the respective energy supplier.

If you don't understand all the subtleties right away, you can get support. At the Lower Saxony consumer advice center, for example, you can create an individual checklist online of everything you need to consider when looking for an apartment and moving. Various tenant protection associations also provide advice on a regional basis.

The general rule is: In view of the sharp rise in energy prices, advance payments for operating costs are likely to rise significantly in the coming months. Especially in popular cities like Berlin, Hamburg or Munich, it is important to think carefully: Can I really afford it?

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