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I have been billed communal and gas charges by my old landlord a year after moving out of my flat in Belgium

Question

My name is Terese Lucas and I am a university UK student who used to live in a flat in Brussels. I am currently having legal problems with my old landlord there, she has asked me to pay additional charges for the flat I rented there and wanted some legal advice. 

CONTEXT:
For my year abroad I lived in Brussels from Sep 2018 to July 2019, where I had to pay a monthly fee of €50 for communal charges and €30 for heating and hot water - I was under the impression this fee was fixed. However I have received an email from this same landlord in April 2020 asking that I pay an additional €400 for these charges.

As a UK citizen I am confused as to why the charges have been asked for so late and was wondering why the communal charges are so high and variable when the concierge in the building was paid a fixed wage. The communal charges have been tallied from a company called 'office des propriétaires'.

If anyone could answer my questions and let me know if they think these charges are legitimate that would be much appreciated!

julieneville

Hi Terese,
the fees you paid would be 'provisions'
I would be very surprised if the communal charges had changed.
The heating charges are calculated after the 'office des proprietaires' has calculated your actual usage of heating and hot water, and this only happens once a year. When you left the flat in july 2019 the owner would have had the company in to read the meters, but the calculation is only done (normally in jan or feb). Due to the corona crisis the annual general meeting of the owners would only have taken place after 30th june (as meetings were not allowed between 13/3 - 30/6) where all accounts have to get approved by the owners and therefore you only got your final result now.
based on what you paid 30€ per month, it seems to be too little for hot water and heating for a year. i pay about 900€ yearly for the same two utilities.
I hope this helps.

Aug 2, 2020 09:06
kasseistamper

You are perfectly within your rights to ask for a breakdown of the figures but I agree with the first response that €360 is very low for hot water and heating for a year. Can you do a comparison with what you would expect to pay in UK? Whilst you will not be comparing like for like, you should at least be able to get some kind of idea.
'I was under the impression this fee was fixed'. Based on what? What did it say in your contract?
And the ' provision' system is absolutely standard. In my house I pay €80 a month with an annual adjustment after the meters are read. Far better than getting a bill for €1,000 once a year.

Aug 2, 2020 11:40
anon

1) Ask your landlord for a "décompte des charges" or an itemized invoice specifying exactly what is being charged.
2) A provision is the same in English and French, it's a provisional payment towards a future bill. What does it say in your rent contract?
3) The fact that you are a UK citizen has no relevance.

Also - just as a piece of internet advice, I would suggest that it isn't terribly sensible to write your full name on a public forum such as this.

Aug 2, 2020 19:29
kasseistamper

@anon
For the benefit of a simple soul like me, exactly what is the risk if I write my 'full name on a public forum such as this'?
For sure it is inadvisable to give an email or other contact details. At least you invite a hoard of junk mail. But a name?
What do you learn if I say that I am Joe Blow? I may (or may not) be called Joe Blow. I may (or may not) be male and, as this is a Belgian website, I may (or may not) be based in Belgium. And, as I use the name 'kasseistamper' on this site , I may (or may not) be based in the Flemish town where, a couple of centuries ago, it was seen as an insult.

Aug 3, 2020 10:02
R

Unfortunately the bill might be due and you can be hold accountable if you do not pay. it is also quite normal to have delayed bills since the figures from Jan 19 to Jul 19 were given to your landlord probably only in the end of second quarter 2020 by the syndic who manages the property. they do not provide early calculations if a tenant leaves before the 31.12.

However you are perfectly entitled by law to get copy of all the invoices so you can calculate if the latest bill from your landlord is correct.

Also VERY important I hope you have read the metres for the various utilities when you entered the premises and when you left (hot and cold water, heating, electricity, etc...) because only in this case you can calculate the pro-rata costs for 2018 and 2019 almost to the penny. Without these figures you can contest your landlord but it is also your duty to have the metres read.

Aug 4, 2020 11:28
R

Also you need to consider that small buildings with little running costs are definitely cheaper. Bigger buildings with elevators, communal gardens, concierge, staff to clean communal parts and bins are very expensive. However I am also sure the Office des Proprietaires did provide a detailed report with the costs for the tenant and the costs the the owner. This fall in quite distinctive categories and your landlord need to calculate your pro-rata for the period you were living in the apartment.

Aug 4, 2020 13:37