22 hours ago
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
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?