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Nebenkosten: how do they actually work? (Frankfurt)

Hello everyone!
I have decided, as part of my new year's resolutions, to find a better flat in Frankfurt than the one I am currently living in now:-) (talking about aiming high, I know!)
Well, there's one thing about renting flats in Germany I still can't quite get my head around on, which is how 'nebenkosten' really work. Adverts for flats state 'cold rent' , and 'nebenkosten' or utility bills on top. I've come across several ones asking for as much as €200/month for 'nebenkosten'. I find it a bit odd that one single person would consume this much on water, electricity and heating per month but again, I'm new to Germany, so I've no clue about rates here. I was told that in the end of each year, the landlord/landlady will do sort of a rebate, and if the tenant has used less, then he or she gets a refund on the difference. so far so good, but..what if a tenant is only in the flat for let's say, 6 or 8 months? Is that sorted in the last day of tenancy or basically "bye bye refund" ? :-)

My personal experience in the UK and Portugal, was that 9 times out of 10, tenants are required to set an customer account with energy providers of their choosing and utility bills then come in the post (or via email these days) in the tenant's name at the end of each month. However, as far as I've understood (or haven't..), the landlord is always responsible for paying the bills, hence charging a fixed rate, or 'nebenkosten'.

Anyway, to sum up, if any of you could shed some light on this topic, as if I was a 5-year old, explaining how this works, I'd really appreaciate it. It would help me a great deal in looking for a place and calculate my budget.

Thanks and do not despair. The weekend is near... ;-)

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