Published January 11, 2011
Heating fuel, water and electricity are more expensive in Germany than stateside. Rent and utilities are paid in local currency, the Euro, which means costs vary based on the US dollar to Euro daily exchange rate. Each German community runs their own utility companies so you will have to contact your landlord or the Housing Office to be directed to the appropriate office.
German utilities usually bill differently than stateside utilities. You may pay every other month or even quarterly. In addition, bills will not fluctuate from month to month: you pay a flat amount each billing cycle.
When you first move in, this flat rate is based on the usage of the prior tenant. After you have been in the quarters for a year, the rate is adjusted based on your average usage. At this time, if you haven't paid enough for the year, you receive a year-end settlement bill. These can be quite large, so if your utility bills are not equal to your utility allowance, you are strongly encouraged to save the difference and not get caught off guard at the end of the year.
You will not pay most bills at the utility company; you pay them through your bank or at a German post office (Deutsche Post). Consider attending the Family Support Center's "German Bills Made Easy" class to get a better understanding of your bills.
Also, unlike the United States, there are additional services and costs associated with renting a home in Germany. Some of the items are: Snow removal, chimney sweep, sewage disposal, stairwell cleaning and stairwell and basement lighting.
If you live in a house that uses heating oil, the oil is usually paid in a lump sum when the tank is filled. You should have money from your utility allowance set aside for this cost as well. You should check with the landlord to determine if they will fill the oil tank prior to your move in or at least determine the tank's current level. You will be required to refill the tank to the agreed upon level when you terminate your quarters. Your landlord or the current tenant should be able to provide you with an estimate cost to fill the tank.
Oil is usually cheaper during the summer months so plan to fill your tank during that time. Also, you may be able to negotiate a cheaper price if you and your neighbors buy in bulk and have it delivered at the same time. Don't forget to check prices at several companies including AAFES prior to purchasing your heating oil.
Utility costs vary due to size and age of your home, number of occupants and personal habits. Average monthly costs are listed below.
Electricity Euro 100
Gas (Heat) Euro 200
Oil (Heat) Euro 200
Water Euro 40 per person
You should take advantage of the Value-added Tax (VAT) program in order to avoid the 19% local German tax.
Utility Tax Avoidance Plan (UTAP)
UTAP is a walk-in service that helps you reduce utility costs by providing tax relief for 19 percent electricity, 19 percent gas and seven percent water. A $77.00 administrative fee is charged upon registration. The sponsor must register or provide a power of attorney. If you move after you've registered, you must update your account. Go through the Value Added Tax (VAT) office on base (located in Bldg. 2118).
Please call for an appointment, and be sure to bring a copy of your contract and a copy of your orders with you. Call the VAT office for more information at DSN 480-5309.