Glike electricity – everything becomes more expensive. The famous “Bareiss” in Baiersbronn is one of the first hotels to charge its guests a kind of fixed energy price. On the website of the five-star hotel it says: “Until 31 December 2022, we will charge an energy supplement of 9 euros per person per night from the age of 18. In the event of a serious increase in energy costs, we reserve the right to make adjustments.”
Should holiday apartment guests also expect price increases or even additional requirements? We have spoken to Wolfgang Pagl, Director Vacation Rentals at FeWo-direkt, a leading internet portal for arranging holiday homes and apartments.
WORLD: Have the prices of holiday apartments already increased due to the exploding additional costs?
Wolfgang Pagl: In general, price adjustments due to external factors such as increased energy costs are not unusual. As a portal, FeWo-direkt has no influence on the pricing, it is entirely up to the lessor’s discretion, and they can of course – like some hotel owners at the moment – pass on their higher energy costs to the guests. It has certainly already happened in individual cases, but as a brokerage portal we do not yet see a general trend.
WORLD: Could holiday apartment guests who only start their holiday in a few weeks or months have additional claims due to the possibly even higher energy costs?
Page: No, it’s unlikely. Because according to previous case law, the risks of price calculation, including energy prices that are too low, lie with the host. If a specific electricity price or a specific additional cost rate is specified in the rental agreement, it is not normally possible to subsequently increase it after ordering or after the holiday.
However, hosts could try to charge a higher price from the vacationer as a gesture of goodwill. However, in order to avoid negative reviews, the German Holiday Home Association recommends not increasing the price of existing contracts if the guest does not voluntarily agree to this.
WORLD: And if the rental agreement says that price adjustments could be necessary at any time due to skyrocketing energy costs and inflation – would it be possible to make additional demands after booking or after the holiday?
Page: Such formulations in the subjunctive are not sufficiently specific and are therefore unlikely to be enforceable in a legal dispute.
WORLD: To look at the problem from the other side – can frugal guests demand from the landlord that the additional expenses are invoiced according to consumption and not as a fixed rate, as has been the case until now?
Page: If you want an individual solution, you can ask the host before booking. As the rental contract is concluded exclusively between the host and the guest, individual agreements are basically possible. However, the rental agreement should also specify how much a kilowatt hour of electricity and a cubic meter of water cost. At present, many hosts in this country still charge extra costs such as electricity or heating as a fixed rate, which is paid in advance along with the rental price.
WORLD: What do you think is better, a flat rate or individual billing?
Page: The fixed rate is probably the best option for both the guest and the landlord. For the guest, because fixed rates apply to the entire property and not per inhabitant. Families, for example, whose teenagers like to shower twice a day and are used to cozy room temperatures are probably better off with a fixed bill at the moment.
WORLD: But why should fixed rates also be better for the landlord?
Page: Because settlement based on consumption always entails a lot of extra work. This starts with obtaining the measured values, separate settlement for electricity and gas, printing additional bills and possibly reminders as well as payment control – an effort that should not be underestimated and is often higher than the expected additional income.
In addition, there is the marketing aspect, because if the final bill is too high, it can affect customer satisfaction and give the landlord – albeit wrongly – bad ratings. Or to put it another way: Satisfied guests and good reviews are more important than accurate billed gas and electricity costs.
WORLD: That hosts are therefore left with the energy costs cannot be a solution.
Page: Of course not, so landlords should motivate their guests to behave in an environmentally friendly way. The German holiday association recommends enriching the guest documents in the apartment with information and perhaps also including playful elements such as family challenges to save on energy costs. This means that holidaymakers who stay within a previously defined spending limit could, for example, receive a treat in the form of a voucher as a thank you.
WORLD: Even so, a number of landlords will not be able to avoid price increases. There are hotel owners who already demand extra energy charges of between three and nine euros per person per night from their guests. Converted to the additional cost fixed rates for holiday apartments – what percentage increase would be appropriate?
Page: As a portal, we cannot and do not want to make recommendations and refer again to the German holiday association, which currently considers a ten percent surcharge on the rental price to be justified, depending on the property’s equipment and condition. The association believes that this is a price increase which is also acceptable for guests and is far below what other accommodation segments are asking for.
WORLD: By other accommodation segments, the association definitely means the hotel industry. Can you confirm this assessment, are holiday apartments themselves cheaper than hotels?
Page: It cannot be said in general terms, but the fact is that the hotels pass on increasing energy costs per inhabitant and night, while landlords of holiday homes generally increase the associated costs permanently – and this applies to the entire property. If a family of four pays ten percent more per night, i.e. 88 euros instead of 80 euros, then it is a price increase of two euros per person and night.
WORLD: Which brings us back to the example of the family with the teenagers – can the four of them bath, heat and cook as much as they want in the cottage without restrictions?
Page: Basically yes, unless the landlord has formulated clear rules of use in the tenancy agreement or in his house rules. But it is the exception, German landlords of holiday homes are very reluctant to make specific demands for energy savings, at least for now.
WORLD: Are landlords actually required by law to guarantee a minimum room temperature?
Page: Yes, in Germany hosts must allow their guests to heat the holiday home to a prescribed minimum temperature during the heating period from 1 October to 30 April.
WORLD: What is this minimum temperature?
Page: According to the German tenants’ association, the heating system must be set so that between 20 and 22 degrees Celsius can be reached during the daytime. At night, the minimum temperature is 18 degrees Celsius.
WORLD: And what applies outside the dismissal period?
Page: Outside the heating period, the host must switch on the heating system if it is so cold that the indoor temperature falls below 18 degrees Celsius for a long time. But we are only talking about holiday homes in Germany here, because not all countries have rules on minimum room temperature. But you can be sure that the vast majority of hosts act in the interest of customer satisfaction and do not let their guests freeze.
WORLD: Let’s get back to holiday costs – you don’t need to be a prophet to assume that accommodation prices will continue to rise, whether in a hotel or in a holiday apartment. Do you agree?
Page: Yes, and not just me. According to a recent survey on winter holidays commissioned by FeWo-direkt, many German holidaymakers expect prices to continue to rise. It may also explain the increased interest in holiday homes for 2023; bookings for the coming year were already received in June this year.
Due to the high demand for vacation rentals, many families want to make sure they can vacation in their dream vacation home next year. And the prices certainly also play a role, because experience has shown that the holiday homes with the best price-performance ratio are always booked up the fastest.
WORLD: For package tours, the tour operator can demand price increases up to 20 days before the start of the trip and only by a maximum of eight percent. If the deadline or the amount or both are not met, the package traveler can cancel the order free of charge. What are the rules for renting holiday apartments?
Page: A subsequent price adjustment, which was not previously recorded in detail in the rental agreement, is, as I said, very difficult to enforce. The cancellation conditions are determined by the hosts; The guidelines therefore differ from holiday home to holiday home.
On the FeWo-direkt portal, however, holiday guests only have the option of displaying holiday homes during the search, which can be canceled free of charge up to 14 days before check-in. All you have to do is activate the “Free cancellation” filter.
→ This applies to hotels:
In light of exploding electricity and gas prices, more and more hotels are introducing a fixed energy price. The question of the legality of such extra charges does not arise as long as the hotels disclose the extra costs transparently and above all in good time – i.e. before the reservation is made.
If you book individually via a hotel portal or directly with the accommodation, you must be informed of the additional costs depending on the booking type via the website, via e-mail or by telephone. If he has decided on the hotel online, the energy supplement must be included in the total in the booking form. If the final price has been agreed by telephone, it must be confirmed in writing by e-mail or letter.
In principle, the total rate that was specified at the time of booking always applies. If the energy surcharge only appears on the bill later when paying, the customer does not have to pay the additional costs. However, there are exceptions: Municipal taxes such as visitor tax or bed tax are not included in the room price and can be collected directly on site. Tinga horny