If you’re relocating to Germany for the first time, or just moving to a new address, setting up home utilities like electricity, gas, water and internet will be one of the first things you need to do in your new home.
Utilities for renters & buyers in Germany
Whether or not you have to organise your own utilities depends on the type of housing you have chosen. Make sure to thoroughly read through your rental contract, so you are aware of what is and isn’t included in your rent.
Subletting & House-sharing (WGs)
If you are subletting a room or sharing a house, you will usually pay an all-inclusive rate. Utilities are handled by the landlord or lead tenant, and you don’t normally have a say as to which energy company you use or how much you pay.
If you rent a single-occupancy apartment, you will need to pay rent, additional costs (Nebenkosten - see below), and some utilities. Normally, one energy company provides for the whole building and is chosen by your landlord or the owner of the building. You will have to take care of your own internet and phone connections.
If you buy your own place, you will usually need to sort out all the utilities yourself, including electricity, gas, water, internet and phone.
Cold rent (Kaltmiete) vs warm rent (Warmmiete)
If you are searching for a room, apartment or house, you will regularly see the terms “cold rent” (Kaltmiete) and “warm rent” (Warmmiete) in property listings. Understanding the difference between these terms is key to working out how much your total rent will be:
- Cold rent, or basic rent, is a flat rate, based on size, number of rooms, furnishings and location.
- Warm rent is made up of the cold rent plus any additional costs or service charges (Nebenkosten).
Additional costs (Nebenkosten)
Nebenkosten are additional costs or services charges that are added to your basic rent to make the “warm rent”. They might be payments for utilities or the building’s upkeep and maintenance, including:
- Land tax (Grundsteuer)
- Water costs
- Refuse collection
- Garden maintenance
- Cleaning of halls, stairwells and communal areas
- Satellite TV antenna or broadband cables
- Communal laundry facilities
Anything not included in the Nebenkosten (note, for instance, that heating, internet and phone bills are rarely included), will have to be sorted out and paid for separately.
While your basic rent is generally static, your apartment’s service charges can fluctuate depending on prices and how much energy or water you use. The price quoted to you when you first move in is usually an estimate based upon the previous occupant’s usage.
Utilities statement (Nebenkostenabrechnung)
Once a year, following your meter reading, you will receive an annual statement (Nebenkostenabrechnung or Betriebskostenabrechnung) from your landlord or building owner. This will compare the amount you have been paying with your actual usage. As a result, you may need to pay more, or be entitled to a refund. Your Nebenkosten will then usually be adjusted for the following year to reflect your usage.
Energy (gas and electricity) providers in Germany
Although it was privatised in the late 1990s, the idea of re-nationalising the energy market is slowly gaining popularity in Germany. For the time being, however, you are free to choose your gas and electricity providers.
The water grid in Germany is public, meaning that who supplies your water is determined by where you live. There are hundreds of water supply companies in Germany.
German internet providers
Despite being known as the land of ingenuity and efficiency, internet speeds in Germany are among the slowest in Europe, with most users still having a DSL connection. Some internet providers in Germany, however, do offer high-speed, fibre optic connections, so it’s worth shopping around.
Most internet providers in Germany will give you an all-in-one package that includes a phone line. These are usually a better deal than paying separately. Learn more about getting a phone line in Germany.