Tuesday, April 13, 2010

German utilities

As expected, Germany and how some things are done in this country are different than in the States. Utilities is one that I am learning the differences the hard way.

Here, rather than going to the water department or the gas company to set up service, you pay your landlord a set amount each month. At the end of the year, the meters are read. If you paid too much, you get money back; too little, you pay more. We pay a high amount, but I figured, "Hey, we'll get it back" and pay it each month. I didn't figure on my landlord. Apparently, he likes to hold on to every cent until it's pried out of his fingers, even if it doesn't belong to him.

Our lease states that we are to receive the paperwork detailing our usage immediately after the meters are read. It took us 6 months and 3 phone calls to finally get it. Then it was wrong. Out of almost 1900 euros for 9 months of utilities, he claimed we only got back about 250. That doesn't even include electricity. We pay that separately ourselves. Because I pushed for the paperwork, he sent it to all the residents in the building and he stated they owed money. Lots of it. One owed 750 euro and the other 1000. Again, very wrong.

German landlords can also add things in to the utilities that Americans normally don't. For instance, I have to pay more for heat than I actually use, based on the square meters of my apartment. He can add his property tax in there (well, except for us since it wasn't specified in our lease) and did I mention his daughter lives in a small apartment in the basement? Based on all of our bills combined, she's not paying a cent.

So we went to the tenant association and talked to the lawyer yesterday. She said the landlord was clever, but our paperwork was wrong. Yeah, I got that part, but she showed me where it was wrong. So, she's writing a letter on behalf of all of us. I have to say, I'm very pleased with the lawyer and she brought up issues I hadn't even thought about. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. If he can't produce certain papers and receipts she's asking for, we'll get back about 750 euro and the others will either get money back or owe a lot less. I don't think he expected us to all get together to discuss things. Silly man.

Hubby finds out in a month or two if his contract will be renewed. Regardless, we're moving. If we stay longer, we'll find another place, hopefully with an honest landlord. If it doesn't get renewed, we'll move back to the States and I'll keep my attorney to make sure this doesn't happen again.

Have you ever had problems with a landlord? Were you able to resolve it?


Bart said...

I am a landlord and all that nonsense that is supposed to protect the tenants rights just complicates things and lets the cheaters cheat. I charge $xxx/mo. Tenant pays utilities (except water & sewer) I figure the W&S and Taxes as part of my expenses and charge rent accordingly. A prospective tenant doesn't like the price? We bargain or he goes elsewhere.

Simple and effective.

Carly Carson said...

750 euros is a lot of money. Good luck with your case!

GPS said...

What a hassle! I hope it all works out.

Rachel Lynne said...

What a mess! On top of that, you're in a foreign country. I'm glad you got a lawyer. we rented from a 'prominent' citizen in a small town that screwed us royally. The house had an inground pool that they hadn't used in two years. They said because they were out of town too much but she slipped one day and said a pipe was broke. I told my husband but he didn't listen (typical man) and we spent about two thousand dollars to find the problem. To fix it meant pulling up concrete and it was pool season so my husband told the landlord he could rig a temporary fix until the end of the season so we could use it. She said that was fine, we swam all that summer. next swim season rolled around and they still hadn't fixed the problem so we went to use the temp. fix again. Only it wouldn't work. We were moving anyway so no big deal except she comes waddling down to say if we didn't open the pool it'd ruin the liner adn she was going to pay someone to put the chemicals in adn open it. We said have at it. She did and like we thought, without the pipe to move the water around the pool couldn't be opened. She spent a ton of money and even flooded the pool house when the temp pipe broke. Not my problem cause I told her ... then when we moved she kept about 900.00 of our security dep. said we'd broke the pool! I was so mad ... my husband wouldn't sue or make a fuss so I spread it around through a gossipy friend just what crappy people they were. It was all over their church! Lesson to learn? Pay back is a b*itch :)

Mary Ricksen said...

Don't you just love Karma? It always comes back when you do something wrong.
And for the church people to know it would be mortifying!
Good for you!!!

Riley Quinn said...

Bart - I wished it worked that way here. So much easier for us.

Thanks Carly and Gale. I'm sure it will work out and I'm moving soon (hopefully) so will only have to deal with this man one more time over it.

Rachel, how awful. At least you were able to get some satisfaction, even if you did have to pay for her problem.

Anonymous said...

That's ridiculous. Good luck! We were really lucky not to have to deal with a landlord when my husband and I lived over there. We lived in a small village away from the military post, but in military housing. It was pretty nice. Our house plan is hard to explain, but we actually had six floors in our townhouse! Talk about a heck of a lot of steps (a nightmare as far as doing laundry was concerned!) Still, there are so many things I miss about Germany. Especially the delicious food and all the travel opportunities. Good luck on the landlord situation! T.Russell

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