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Time for account settlement

If you are a tenant, you now probably expect the delivery of, or have already received, a summary account for lease-related services (utilities). Are you pleased with your large overpayment? Or are you shocked by the amount of your underpayment?

Tenants can be divided into two categories:

  • tenants of premises situated in residential buildings (such a shop in a residential house), or
  • tenants of office premises.

If you belong to the first group, your summary account is also governed by Act No. 67/2013 Sb., which will apply for the first time to summary accounts for utilities for 2014. Under the Act, summary accounts must be submitted by the landlord within four months of the end of the period. Among other things, the Act prescribes that advances paid for utilities may only be collected by the landlord to a reasonable extent (e.g. based on the data for the previous year). Therefore, in standard conditions, no major discrepancies should arise between the advances paid and the actual costs (of course, not considering items such as necessary unexpected repairs).

If you are a tenant in an office building, your summary account is governed in particular by a lease agreement.

Lease agreements are usually made for a long period of time and are often changed by amendments. A change of the company responsible for preparation of the summary account (which usually often involves facility management) is not exceptional. Chaos in contracts may result in amounts being charged that should not be charged under the lease agreement including all amendments. Therefore, particular attention should be paid to the summary account, which should involve just an obligatory check of essential elements on the invoice. A mere passive acceptance of the information on the invoice could lead to financial damage.

Tenants can request that landlords substantiate the amounts reported in the summary account and the method of common cost sharing. This procedure is recommended for several reasons:

  1. tenants can be assured that the amounts in the invoice can be substantiated and comply with the agreement;
  2. tenants clearly show that they care which services and utilities, and to what extent, are provided in the premises and that they keep an eye on the account for the services;
  3. any discrepancies discovered can result in a change in the summary account for a tenant’s mistakes identified in the summary account must be reported to the facility manager (e.g. that the billing does not comply with the contract and its amendments). If any mistake is identified, it is advisable to check whether it also occurred in previous years. In such a case, the limitation period is three years (while the date of delivery of the invoice to the tenant is decisive).

If your summary account shows a high underpayment, it can either be caused by a sharp increase in some costs (in that case, documents for the summary account should be requested), a mistake (e.g. the incorrect division of common costs among tenants), or advances that are set too low.

However, even discovering a very high overpayment is no cause for joy. This means that you have provided your landlord with interest-free credit throughout the year. You were not allowed to make more effective use of the money and will only be able to get back to it (in a more optimistic scenario) after the settlement.

Rent and rent-related services often constitute a major cost item. Therefore, it is advisable to keep track of such costs. This is not to interfere with the supplier-contractor relationship but to appeal to its correctness and to take an active approach.

We are ready to assist you with any questions you may have regarding the summary account.

 

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