Published on: 15 January 2020
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All you need to know about service charges
Having a place to stay is good. Having everything you need to live there is better! When you rent a home, you also have to pay for water, electricity, gas, as well as for maintenance of the common parts of the building: these expenses are called service charges.
What are service charges?
Expenses related to everyday house in the dwelling
When you rent an apartment, you pay the landlord a sum in exchange for the roof and walls that house us. This amount is called the rent. But in order to live there, the dwelling must meet the tenant's needs. It must be able to heat, feed and wash itself, but also have access to electricity, decent common areas, etc. This is why an additional amount is added to the monthly rent: the fixed rental charges.
Rental charges may also include a variable part. It corresponds to one-off repairs. These must remain reasonable and often relate to natural wear and tear of the equipment. The change of a pipe joint can be included in the charges for example, but never a complete change of plumbing!
What services do service charges pay for?
As with many things in a rental, there is no absolute truth and there are always particular situations that can be an exception. This is also the case for charges, the nature of which can often vary. But overall, however, we still find the same type of expenses for rental charges. Here are a few of them :
- Water (cold water, hot water, collective heating of private homes but also common areas)
- Individual heating systems
- The maintenance of the interior and exterior common areas of the building housing the dwelling
- Maintenance of common outdoor areas (green spaces, parking spaces, surroundings close to the building, etc.)
- The overall hygiene of the building (interior and exterior)
- Building equipment (ventilation, elevator, etc.)
- Taxes (household waste tax in particular)
Paying rental charges: rules and amount
Charges must appear clearly in your lease agreement
Charges are paid in addition to the rent. They must therefore appear separately from the rent, in the form of a "rent + charges" breakdown. This information must be included in the lease agreement.
In addition to the amount, the nature of these charges may also be specified in the lease. This is especially the case for fixed charges: water, electricity, heating, Internet for example.
The amount of expenses depends on several factors
It is difficult to give an accurate estimate of the charges you will pay. They depend on many parameters: the condition of the dwelling, its surface area, the number of equipment it contains, the state of the building, etc.
On average, the amount of the charges is 47€ per square meter and per year for a fully equipped accommodation. Concretely, for a studio of 20m², this amounts to 78€/month for the charges. Of course, this average hides a lot of disparities. It should be taken as an order of magnitude and put into perspective according to the accommodation you live in and the building in general.
It is also important to note that the amount paid for the charges can vary according to the method of payment.
How to pay service charges?
Provision for charges
You must wonder how payment of service charges is conducted. There are a few different scenarios for that:
Either you pay them directly to an institution (such as electricity or water providers), and your landlord occasionally asks you to repay the charges that he personally received, such as the tax on domestic waste collection. When he sends you request for payment of charges in dribs and drabs, he should also send you evidence he received and paid the charge himself.
Or you pay him a provision for charges: an advance anticipating charges the lessor will receive. You pay a little part of this advance every month, in addition to the rent. Once a year, adjustment of charges occur: if the landlord paid less charges than what you paid throughout the year, he owes you money. Reversely, you owe him money if he’s paid more than the provision you paid over the year.
If (and only if) you’re flat sharing or in a furnished apartment, you can also pay your landlord a fixed monthly fee. Just like the provision for charges, it’s an estimation of the service charges you’ll be accountable for, except there is no adjustment. Which means you won’t be able to reclaim the difference if your landlord paid less charges than what was covered by your monthly payment for charges. This goes for your landlord too: he can’t retrieve charges if he paid more than what your monthly fee provided for. Double or quits!
Paying a fixed fee is the most practical solution as there’s nothing to adjust later on. You just have to be careful that the fee isn’t excessive compared to actual charges. Tax on domestic waste collection should also be included in the forfeit, your landlord can’t reclaim it separately.
Paying a fixed monthly fee
This second method of payment of charges only concerns furnished rentals and shared flats.
The principle is the same as for the provision on charges: the lessor estimates the amount of charges that he should a priori pay and you pay him this amount. The difference is on the regularization. It's simple: for the lump sum on charges, there is none! In other words, if you have paid more charges than you owe (no more repairs due to wear and tear, low electricity consumption, etc.), he won't owe you anything. Conversely, if he underestimated the amount of the charges and you paid less than you should have, you won't have to pay him the difference. It's double or nothing!
It's also a way to save yourself the step of regularization, and especially the disputes and administrative burdens that come with it. This is why the fixed price on charges remains the most common option for the payment of rental charges.
It can happen that the tenant pays the fixed charges (water, electricity, internet, etc.) directly to the supplier concerned. As regards variable charges (such as one-off repairs), the lessor usually makes the lessee pay in instalments by sending him/her proof of expenditure.
This is also a way to save yourself the administrative procedures, but your budget will be less stable than a flat-rate payment on charges.
How can Studapart help you with the payment of service charges?
A resource centre in case of doubt
If, after this article on service charges, there are still some grey areas for you, that's okay. We advise you to consult our resource centre! It is a mine of information for the tenant who is not always comfortable with certain notions. If you want to know more about electricity or internet in your rental for example, don't hesitate to have a look at the articles dealing with these subjects!
Exchanges with the lessor are facilitated
Studapart acts as an intermediary between you and your renter. Our multilingual experts are available 6 days a week to answer the slightest of your questions, on the payment of charges for example. Do you feel like you are paying too many charges? Contact us and we will see with your landlord.
Our community of 36,000 landlords trusts our platform. Disputes don’t happen that much! But in the event of a dispute regarding charges, Studapart will do everything in its power to find a solution quickly between you and your landlord.