24 May RULES FOR TURING ON THE HEAT
Where Summer Goes Winter Follows.
I’m posting this just as BBQ season is arriving but you know, as summer follows winter so winter follows summer. This means at some point the nights will begin to get cooler, you’ll need to put away that summer duvet! So this means at some point you’ll have to think about turning on the heat. So the question is – As a landlord when are you obligated to turn on the heat, and if you’re a tenant at what point can you expect to have heating. Before I answer that question we need to talk about the types of heating found in German buildings. Unlike the US most Germans live in apartments and one of two types of heating. The first and in my opinion, the better (more on that in a moment) is Fernheizung or district heating and the second is Zentralheizung or central heating. Basically a furnace in the basement of the building.
Regardless of what type of heating is in the building, landlords and building owners have an obligation to ensure that a minimum temperature has been reached. This according to the Deutsche Mieterbund (DMB). So to avoid issues this September, here’s a quick introduction to your central heating rights. During the winter months, rented properties in Germany have what’s known as a ‘Heizperiode’ or “heating period”, which is usually from October 1st to April 30th. During the ‘Heizperiode’, the heating must be set so that the minimum emperature in the apartment reaches between 20-22C (68-72F) during the day and around 18C (66F) at night ((11 pm to 6 am).
What about the Spring or Fall?
According to the DMB, landlords have an obligation to keep the building warm. “The landlord must turn on the heating if the room temperature during the day drops below 18C (66F) and the cold weather is likely to hold for more than two days”, this according to Angelika Brautmeier, Managing Director for Mietverein Stuttgart. Secondly if the room temperature drops below 16C (60F) the landlord must turn the heating on immediately. This means, in the event of a cold snap, landlords are sometimes required to turn the heating on in September or possibly even earlier.
Now where the issue gets a bit sticky is if you are one of many owners in a building with central heating. Your tenant may ask you to turn on the heat but you won’t be able to. This means the tenant may have grounds to ask for a rent reduction, typically 20%. Now for landlords owning a single unit in a large building, this can be a tricky issue. As much as you want to you may not be able to turn on the heat. You’re obligation is to provide warm, however you choose to do that. The easiest was to do this is to lend the tenant an electric heater. That would certainly be much cheaper than having the rent reduced for a month or two. The tenant might complain about the extra costs but that is not your issue. They are already paying for heat.
One other issue that came up in one of our buildings was an older lady was complaining that the building temperature was set too low. 20C (68F) if memory serves me correct. She wanted the cap lifted on the central heating but the problem was that raising the temperature above that meant a big increase in everyone’s heating bill. So it was voted down.
Note that similar laws apply if the hot water supply does not reach a minimum temperature of around 40-50C in the kitchen and bathrooms of a rented property.
Fernheizung or Zentralheizung does it matter
In researching this I realized that there were two significant and important differences between the two. It is cost and control. On the latter point with Zentralheiung often the temperature is capped. If you like a really warm place you’re at the mercy you fellow owners.
The second and more important point is Fernheizung you pay only for what you use. I ran into this a unit I bought. I noticed that the reserve payments were higher than comparable buildings and it was because they need to replace the old oil burning boiler with a new high efficiency gas boiler. My tenant loved it, his heating costs dropped by a third while I had to help pay for it! Now I wouldn’t say yes or not based purely on the heating but it for sure would factor in to my decision.
As always I love to hear from my readers. Let me know in the comments below. Have you had issues with heating in your building, both as a landlord and as a tenant.
PS I’m Canadian and winter is for hockey – Go Leafs