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Basically I finished up my rental contract in Finland and my landlord told me the water consumption was very high and that I need to pay an extraordinary payment of over €1500 for the course of a year. The landlord wishes to use my €1000 deposit to cover some of this bill as well as ask me for another payment to cover the rest. I understood from my contract that the water payment was paid wholly in advance through advance payments but the landlord says this is just the preliminary payment and the full amount is paid for at the end.

I looked into my rental contract again and there is the single statement made regarding the water:

‘The tenant make own electricity contract, and pays water consumption according to usage (advance payment 21 €/month.)’

It does say ‘according to usage’ which implies I might indeed be responsible for such a payment at the end of the year. However, I believe this is a matter of interpretation and when signing the agreement I understood the statement to mean that any payment I make for a water consumption is the act of using water which confers an advance payment of 21 euros per month for the following reasons:

A) why pay an advance payment for water only to pay more later? If I had used less water in the end than this payment of €21 each month made to the landlord covers, does it mean the landlord just profits from this advance payment for the water or returns the excess to me? There’s no mention of such a scenario in the contract. B) no mention of the cost of hot water or cold water anywhere in the contract (the word water appears only once in the whole contract). For electricity consumption from the national electricity suppliers/distributors I always knew the prices in advance. C) no mention of when a final water payment would be due (end of month or end of year) and when such a payment is expected to be paid. D) no mention of how to get in touch with water company in contract to check the meter reading. If this had been clear, I would have had it checked once a month and certainly not let it pile up to an extraordinary amount of over €1500 over the course of a year. E) the €21 advance payment is in the same ballpark as my current fare of advance payment for water which is a fixed fare, confirmed by my landlord in my new rental agreement.

I have asked the water company to check for a leak, check that the amount is recorded for a year only and for only my apartment in the building. They said all things checked out.

So, basically what I would like to ask the community is what do you think about my points A)-D) in response to why I should not be responsible for the bill?

2 Answers 2

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A) why pay an advance payment for water only to pay more later

This is, apparently standard. The amount that you prepay (vesimaksu) is established by the water company and that information is encoded in the rental contract. This is the water company's estimate of "likely" monthly usage, and "pay more later" is one way of paying the actual amount. If you use less water, you would be owed money.

The water company has made publicly available means of addressing surprises, so you are expected to know that your usage might be substantially above predicted, and the burden is on you to take appropriate action. However, if the meter for your unit is in a locked room that you cannot access, the landlord could have prevented you from remediating your water usage. If you didn't bother to check your water usage that is your responsibility, and if the landlord refused to allow you to read your meter or was non-responsive to requests, you could try shifting some of the blame to him. Still, the contract clearly says "pays water consumption according to usage". Note my assumption that this is a single main meter for the building with sub-meters for each apartment. If there is only one meter and the landlord just passes on charges from the water company, the water company has been more than clear about charges. Unless they failed to make the billing system known to the public, which is possible.

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  • Thanks very much for your reply, I appreciate it. I understand the situation in Finland is that more properties are now tending towards 'pay by consumption' rather than fixed fare. I just spoke to my current landlord and he doubly confirmed I will get unlimited water for €28 advance payment per month. This is what I had assumed in my last rental contract but obviously I was wrong. I guess the companies would charge some in advance because they hope to not want to bill people substantially at the end of the year? Thanks!
    – Christian
    Feb 15 at 17:09
  • @Christian REasons why companies bill as they do are out of scope for Law.SE
    – Trish
    Feb 15 at 18:01
  • That's sort of true (not in scope), except that it seems to relate to a government edict. The pertinent question would be, "What happened to flat rate?", so one could ask "What law was passed that had this consequence?".
    – user6726
    Feb 15 at 21:46
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why I should not be responsible for the bill?

Because, unless legislation in Finland provides otherwise, the landlord's conduct prevented you from timely addressing any and all issues about consumption . The landlord inexplicably deprived you from the rights that the water supplier owes to a consumer in regard to billing & consumption information.

The landlord's year-long failure to timely notify you about the matter makes it reasonable for you to presume month after month that everything is fine. Since a landlord never waits till the end of the lease to inform the tenant that he has fallen behind on rent payments, there is no reason to expect a different approach in regard to utilities which --judging from the contractual frequency of advance payments-- are billed monthly.

Accordingly, your description favors your legal position. But your other questions warrant some clarifications, which is why I am addressing them.

why pay an advance payment for water only to pay more later?

Because the clause is clear in that payment depends on the level of water consumption. The requirement to pay 21 €/month in advance only specifies the timing of a preliminary payment.

The interpretation that payment based on consumption is set to 21 €/month would entitle the landlord (except for legislation that might prohibit it) to cut the supply of water as soon as your consumption reaches certain level.

If I had used less water in the end than this payment of €21 each month made to the landlord covers, does it mean the landlord just profits from this advance payment for the water or returns the excess to me?

No extra profit. The landlord would have to give you a refund or apply it to the next month's advance payment. Otherwise the landlord would be in violation of the clause about "pay[ing] water consumption according to usage".

no mention of the cost of hot water or cold water anywhere in the contract

Heat for water might be factored in a separate utility (gas or electricity). Your post does not otherwise specify whether the final charge of 1500€ is itemized in terms of hot and cold water.

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  • Thanks for your reply! I appreciate it too. The 1500€ was divided into hot and cold, around 1100€ for hot and 400€ for cold. In the end I (apparently) had used 88m3 hot water and 84m3 for cold. The fact these differ by 4m3 is surprising to me as I only used the cold water for cooking and drinking really.
    – Christian
    Feb 15 at 17:17
  • nothin in the contract excerpts makes the landlord need to tell the renter. As such, there is no obligation.
    – Trish
    Feb 15 at 17:58
  • @Trish "nothin in the contract excerpts makes the landlord need to tell the renter." And I never said or suggested that the landlord breached the contract. But absent any provision in that regard, the landlord had an equitable obligation to timely update the tenant instead of remaining silent the whole year while the "bills" accumulate. After all, apparently the one who got the monthly water statements was the landlord, not the tenant. Feb 15 at 19:06
  • @IñakiViggers Does the landlord even get a monthly statement? I dispute that based on customs: in Germany, we get yearly statements using the average last year statement as the basis for the monthly price and a credit or payment obligation at the end of that year.
    – Trish
    Feb 15 at 20:08
  • @Trish "Does the landlord even get a monthly statement?" The OP can ascertain that. Not every country in the EU does what you describe. Feb 15 at 20:19

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