Federal Supreme Court ruling: Service charge settlement

A tenant refuses to pay additional charges. The landlord had not listed in his statement which areas had been calculated and how. The settlement of the individual operating costs items was based on different total areas. The settlements did not contain an explanation of which parts of buildings or “house entrances” the respective total areas were composed of. Both the local and the regional court considered the operating accounts to be formally invalid.
The dispute ended up before the Federal Supreme Court.

The Federal Court of Justice was concerned with the question of when a statement of account satisfies the formal requirements.

The highest judges are of the opinion that the lessor’s accounts are not invalid for formal reasons. According to their case law, a statement of operating costs satisfies the formal requirements if it contains an orderly summary of income and expenditure.
For example, in the case of buildings with several residential units, the following minimum information must be included in the statement:

  • a summary of the total costs
  • Indication and explanation of the distribution keys used
  • Calculation of the tenant’s share
  • Deduction of advance payments made

An explanation of the applied distribution standard, i.e. the apportionment key, is only required – according to the judges in Karlsruhe – if this is necessary for understanding the settlement. The distribution criterion “area” was understandable in itself and therefore did not need to be explained further.
These formal requirements were met by the landlord’s operating cost accounts.
Federal Court of Justice (BGH, judgment of 29 January 2020, VIII ZR 244/18)