Heating cost billing – How to check the billing successfully

Disputes about the heating bill are the main reason why tenants and landlords end up in court. According to surveys by the German Tenants' Association, every second service charge statement is actually incorrect. Tenants are well advised if they know which items may appear on a heating cost statement and what the landlord is not allowed to account for. It is also helpful to know the deadlines for objections and the formalities that must be observed in the event of an excessive claim, in order to take action against an incorrect heating cost statement.

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Heating Costs Ordinance

What does the heating costs ordinance specify and what does it contain??

The legal basis for the heating cost settlement is laid down in the heating cost ordinance. As a result, heating costs must be distributed according to a specific settlement key in an apartment building. Both the key and the individual items must be apparent to the consumer. A flat rate for heating costs or an inclusive rent is not permitted. A mandatory consumption meter protects the tenant from the arbitrariness of the landlord and supports the responsible use of resources. As part of the operating costs settlement, the heating costs regulation is valid both in the classic tenancy relationship and in condominium owners' associations.

Checking the heating bill

Which costs must be listed in a heating cost statement?

The legislator has stipulated that a heating cost statement must list each item individually. The statement must also document the total amount and the individual consumption of an apartment. On the basis of the distribution key it becomes clear to the tenant how the individual items are apportioned to his home.

The cost items of the heating cost statement include fuel consumption, fuel delivery, work for operation, monitoring and maintenance of the heating system, as well as the maintenance performed. The cleaning and installation of the room in which the heating system is operated are also included in the heating costs. In addition to the electricity used to operate the system, the costs for measuring consumption, including any rental fees, are also allocated. A heating cost statement lists the costs for billing as well as the fee for the chimney sweep.

What data must also be listed?

In addition to the items listed above, the heating cost statement must contain the following items.

  • The settlement period: The period of the settlement must be specified precisely and be exactly twelve months, for example, from the 31st day of the month.01.2017 to 31.01.2018. If a tenant has moved in or out, the heating cost statement must list the rental period.
  • The person billing: In addition to the address of the billed building and the unit of use, the name of the person by whom the billing was carried out must be on the heating bill.
  • The distribution key: heating costs must be divided fairly among the tenants. For this purpose, a scale is determined, which is divided into a basic cost portion and a consumption cost portion. The ratio of living space to total building area applies to the basic cost share. It amounts to at least 30, but no more than 50 percent. This results in the consumption costs of at least 50 and at most 70 percent. If the building complies with the requirements of the Heat Insulation Ordinance, the distribution is in the hands of the landlord. If not, it is mandatory 30 percent basic costs and 70 percent consumption costs.
  • The actual consumption: Most tenants pay a monthly flat rate for heating costs. According to the Heating Costs Ordinance, only the actual consumption of fuels may be accounted for, which is why this item must not be missing.
  • The amount of the advance payment: advance payments made by a tenant over the billing period must be fully documented.
  • The total amount: The costs for the entire building must be listed.
  • The result of the settlement: It must be clear to the tenant whether there will be an additional payment or a refund of costs paid in advance.

Which costs may not be billed?

The following costs may not be settled:

  • The cost of repairs: While maintenance work on the heating system is a regular occurrence, the various repairs are usually one-offs. The costs may not be passed on to the tenants.
  • Financing of the system: If a landlord has financed the new heating system, these costs can be apportioned, but not in the context of the heating cost statement.
  • The insurance of the heating system: If an oil tank is insured, the costs for the premiums may be passed on to the tenants. These costs do not apply in the area of heating cost billing.

What are apportionable costs?

Apportionable costs are also called operating costs. What exactly is apportioned to the tenants is regulated in the rental agreement. According to § 2 no. According to Section 4a of the German Operating Costs Ordinance (BetrKV), a landlord may apportion to tenants the costs of operating, monitoring, maintaining and regularly inspecting the system, as well as having it adjusted by a specialist and cleaning the operating rooms. Repairs and maintenance measures such as the replacement of the burner or the emergency generator do not fall under it. Tenants can often not see from the heating bill whether the landlord has allocated repair costs. As a rule of thumb, it helps to take a close look at the item for maintenance costs. These must not account for more than five percent of the fuel costs. Cost fluctuations in this area compared to previous years are noticeable.

How to check the settlement?

As soon as the heating bill arrives, the tenant should check it. Often there is no malicious intent, but a meter reading error in the billing. A good point of comparison is the consumption of the previous year. Anyone moving into an apartment should make a note of the meter reading and ask to see old bills. This enables the tenant to check whether the advance payments for ancillary costs have been set too low or too high. The tenants' association publishes the Betriebskostenspiegel, which records the average costs for heating and hot water in Germany. Regional differences are possible. If the heating bill is too significantly higher than the standard values, it is advisable to check with the landlord.

The most common errors in heating cost billing

Formal error
If the names of the landlord, tenant or the details of the billing company are missing, there is a formal problem with the heating cost statement. The settlement period must also be observed. It begins at the end of the settlement period and lasts exactly twelve months. After this period has expired, a landlord can no longer make any claims. It is not a problem if the heating costs are settled separately from the other ancillary costs, however, this must be agreed in the rental agreement.

Incorrect data
The size of the usage unit and the name of the users must be noted on the data sheet. In addition, there is the basic technical data, which shows which consumption recording devices are assigned to each tenant. The tenant must be able to mentally comprehend all information.

Incorrect user groups
In some buildings there are different measuring systems for heating heat. In some cases, landlords do not adhere to separating the user groups, although the heating cost ordinance requires it.

Inconsistencies in the meter reading values
Readings for heating cost billing are done on an annual basis and must be announced at least ten days in advance, preferably two weeks in advance. If there is a change of tenant, an interim reading must be taken.

Incorrect cost allocation
Landlords often pass on costs to the tenant that they are not allowed to include in the heating bill under the
on the heating bill.

Faulty cost accrual
Only the costs that were actually incurred during the billing period may appear on the heating cost statement.

No compliance with the standards
A heating bill may not cover more than twelve months, and the consumption portion may not exceed 70 percent. Deviations from this must be stipulated with a clause in the lease agreement. If the billing period ends, the reading must take place immediately.

Certain factors are not taken into account
If an apartment in the building is vacant, the heating costs incurred for it may not be allocated to the other tenants. If it is a new building, the construction drying out must be observed. Landlords resolve this issue by deducting a lump sum from the total costs.

a heating controller

Incorrect heating cost billing: The tenant's rights

Which formal deficiencies of the statement allow an objection?

A formal error occurs when the statement lacks a certain formal requirement.

These include, for example:

  • Incorrect billing period: A landlord may neither shorten nor extend the meter reading period. The legislator specifies twelve months as the settlement period.
  • Transmission error: all necessary items of the heating costs must be transmitted in writing.
  • No responsible party: The tenant must be able to see from the heating cost statement who prepared it. The person by whom the statement was prepared must have a power of representation from the landlord.
  • Missing apportionment scale: Tenants do not have to accept non-transparent apportionment scales. You can ask the landlord for a further explanation of how the costs are composed and how the total costs are allocated to your own consumption.
  • Distribution key: The distribution key must be named and explained to the tenant.
  • Advance payments: Advance payments made by the tenant must be named in the heating cost statement. If there is an additional payment or reimbursement of heating costs, the corresponding amounts must be stated.

Which deficiencies in the content allow an objection?

If there is an error in the content of the heating bill, it is often information about the tenant's consumption or unclear items in a particular cost item. The tenant is not always able to recognize such errors immediately. In the event of suspicion, a tenant may demand to inspect the landlord's receipts within one year. If this is not possible on the landlord's premises due to a disability of the tenant or a large physical distance, the tenant may request a copy of the receipts. According to a ruling of the Federal Court of Justice, a heating cost statement is incorrect in terms of content if it lists not only the costs for the fuel consumed during the billing period, but also those for the fuel refilled towards the end of the billing period (Federal Court of Justice; VIII ZR 260/11, ruling of 14.2.2012). If a landlord has not prepared a heating cost statement based on consumption, a tenant may reduce the costs attributable to him by 15 percent according to the heating cost ordinance. At the same time, the landlord may then demand a consumption-based heating bill for the next billing period.

Filing an objection – the most important steps

If there are formal or substantive errors in the heating bill, a tenant can reject it and ask for correction. Even if payment has already been made and the error is subsequently discovered, a correction can be requested within the twelve-month period. The landlord is also entitled to this period of time. If he lets this period pass, the tenant does not have to make any additional payment.

This is how an objection to an incorrect heating cost statement works:

  • Objections to the heating cost statement must be made in writing, preferably by registered mail.
  • The relevant disputed points must be listed individually.
  • The objection must be justified with wording such as "A one-time repair of the heating system may not be passed on to the tenants".
  • In the letter, the landlord must be asked for a statement.
  • Depending on the disputed item, inspection of the receipts can be requested.
  • If a payment has been made, the landlord should be informed that the additional payment was made subject to a claim for recovery.
  • If payment has not yet been made, it should be announced that the disputed portion will be withheld until it has been clarified.

If a landlord sends receipts, he may charge a maximum of 25 cents per copy for them. In the interest of all parties involved, an attempt should be made to find a mutually agreeable solution. If this is not possible, the tenant can ask for support from a tenants' association or, as a last resort, call in a lawyer.

What deadlines apply to the objection?

A tenant has twelve months to raise his objections to the heating bill. Many are afraid of violating their obligations under the rental agreement if they do not make an additional payment immediately, even though there are still disputed points to be clarified. In this case, a tenant plays it safe with the additional payment under reserve. Sometimes it happens that a landlord does not grant the requested inspection of the documents of the heating costs account or it is not possible for him due to illness. Paragraph 556 of the BGB states that in this case an objection can be filed even after the end of the time limit.

Finance your heating bill

How can the settlement be financed?

Tenants are often surprised by immense additional claims in the heating bill. There is not always enough money in the account to meet the landlord's demands immediately. In the event of an acute shortage, a Vexcash mini loan is recommended. The desired credit amount can be transferred to the account on the day of application via WebiIdent. Repayment of the loan amount is fast and flexible. The request for credit does not have a negative effect on the Schufa score. Those who have problems paying the rent deposit for the new apartment in addition to the old heating bill can resort to various alternatives.

With our small loan you can pay your heating bill quickly and safely.

The heating bill after moving out

If heating costs are billed according to consumption, the landlord must have them read when the tenant moves out. According to 9b of the heating costs ordinance, the landlord only has to carry out an interim reading, he is not obliged to carry out a partial billing. According to § 556 III S. 3 BGB accept a reference to the end of the billing period if the tenant moves out during the billing period.

The heating bill in the context of Hartz IV

Especially after a cold winter, many Hartz IV recipients are surprised by a demand for additional costs. If the heating bill is too high, the additional payment is made by the Jobcenter, provided that it is within a reasonable range. With the heating bill, the Jobcenter usually checks the values of comparable apartments. If the values are very high, it is assumed that the heating behavior is uneconomical and the additional payment is refused. Beneficiaries can then apply for a loan. If the heating bill is such that there is a credit balance, the corresponding amount is deducted from the usual payments for accommodation and heating in the following month.

Tips and specifics for tenants and landlords

Distinction between a heat cost allocator and a heat meter

A heat meter records the heat consumption in the unit kilowatt hours. The temperature difference of incoming and outgoing heating water can be used to determine how much was actually heated. A heat meter is not located on the radiator itself, but at the entrance of the pipes into the living area. They are expensive and rarely used. The heat meter does not measure energy consumption, but the ambient heat at the radiator. Multiplied by various conversion factors, a relative benchmark can be determined for all heating costs incurred in an apartment building. Heat cost allocators that use the evaporative principle are inexpensive and convenient to install. The results are partly very inaccurate. Electronic heat cost allocators are more expensive but more reliable. They are useful when they transmit data electronically. Meter readings are secured and the tenant does not have to worry about the meter reading date when moving out.