In 2023, too, households will have to reckon with higher ancillary costs. In the case of rental apartments, owners are now pushing for higher advance payments, which has the effect of a rent increase. FOCUS Online says what is allowed and what is not.

The ancillary costs are skyrocketing due to the sharp rise in energy costs. This was already reflected at the end of 2022. Many rental households had to make hefty back payments.

On top of that! Especially in autumn 2023, when the utility bill for 2022 ends up in the mailbox, those affected have to expect even higher bills. The background is that heating has become particularly expensive this winter. Single and family households should expect an additional payment in the three-digit range, consumer advocates warn.

Lukas Siebenkotten, President of the German Tenants’ Association, fears that tenants will soon have to pay “a lot more” in view of the high inflation rate, mainly due to the rise in electricity and gas prices.

In fact, FOCUS online keeps getting messages from desperate readers who are now supposed to pay more rent because the landlord has increased the advance payment for ancillary costs. But are owners actually allowed to do this?

Basically yes, if landlords have previously submitted a statement for consumption year 2021 and this has resulted in substantial additional payments. In this case, landlords can increase the advance payments for the consumption year 2022.

However, this procedure provides a lot of material for discussion between tenants and landlords, as tenants’ associations explain unanimously on request. In order to be able to pay oil, gas and district heating bills, the first landlords are pushing for higher monthly advance payments, according to the German Tenants’ Association. “The desire for higher discounts is being increasingly expressed to tenants,” was the basic tenor.

“The landlord can increase the sum of the monthly advance payments if the tenant is threatened with a hefty back payment due to the increased heating costs,” explains Volker Rastätter from the Munich Tenants’ Association.

This increases the rent including heating, because this is made up of the fixed rent and the advance payments. The landlord bases the amount of the advance payment on the current prices and consumption. It is not clear in advance whether the tenant heats a lot or uses a lot of water.

The Haus und Grund owners’ association registered in its consultations that landlords were concerned about the high costs: “In our associations, too, there are more and more inquiries about rising energy prices – for example about the question of when advance payments can be adjusted.”

The extent to which higher advance payments have already been agreed is unclear. “The request is at least increasingly being made to the tenants,” explained tenants’ association spokeswoman Jutta Hartmann. So far there is no knowledge of major conflicts.

Hartmann emphasized: “Landlords are not entitled to demand higher advance payments during the year. The landlord is only entitled to the payment of increased advance payments for ancillary costs after the statement has been submitted.

The landlord must therefore justify the increase in the advance payment for additional costs – with current consumption bills. If he cannot do this, he may not increase the advance payments.

The basic rule is: Landlords must always justify the increase in writing to the tenant households. Those affected then have two months to check whether the amount requested is really legal. Utility bills from previous years can help. In addition, many invoices are incorrect. The tenants’ association, tenants’ associations in your area or lawyers can help.

Overall, high inflation is actually driving up rents.

All apartments with an index rent would now be directly affected. The amount is based on consumer prices, emphasizes Raststätter. If the last increase was at least a year ago, it could now be more expensive for tenants.

Apartments that are linked to the locally applicable rent index would also be indirectly affected. “In Munich, for example, there will be a new rent index in spring 2023. Inflation could lead to an additional increase here. That cannot be ruled out,” says rental expert Raststätter.

With a graduated rent, the increase is firmly anchored in the contract. An additional price increase that can be traced back to the current wave of inflation is not permitted.

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