Pros and cons: When service companies replace the caretaker

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Pros and cons: When service companies replace the caretaker
  • By deutschewhiskybrenner

Bochum (dpa/tmn) - Sweeping, mowing the lawn, replacing defective lamps, clearing snow: this is one of the classic tasks of a caretaker in apartment buildings. It is becoming increasingly rare for residents to do such work on the side in order to live cheaper or to earn extra income.

In many residential complexes, professional caretaker services have long been in operation. This outsourcing has advantages and disadvantages. The "costs for the caretaker" are largely borne by the tenants. Landlords may pass these on to tenants via the operating costs.

In principle, the position covers everything to do with cleanliness, security and order: house cleaning, gardening, winter service, monitoring of heating and lighting, control of escape and rescue routes.

Costs must be kept within limits

The expenses are subject to the principle of economic efficiency - regardless of whether the caretaker service is provided by the landlord's own or external service providers. So it is in the Civil Code (paragraph 556). The costs must therefore be kept within limits.

Landlords do not have to commit to the cheapest provider. Market prices are taken for granted. The operating cost index of the German Tenants' Association provides orientation.

Volker Rastätter, Managing Director of the Munich Tenants' Association, advises tenants to pay attention to the development of caretaker costs in the utility bill. If in doubt, tenants should seek legal advice to object to the billing.

Some landlords set up their own companies

Large housing companies such as Vonovia are now outsourcing caretaker activities to their own service companies. They take care of repair and maintenance work, keep green areas in good condition or pave.

At Vonovia, around 6,000 employees are responsible for more than 400,000 apartments nationwide. The housing company leaves the winter service and the maintenance of elevators and heating to external companies. The new organization has replaced the lone fighter janitors that were common in the past.

Advantages for tenants and landlords

The company also benefits from these structures: unlike in the past, Vonovia no longer has to coordinate hundreds of service providers, for example, explains CEO Rolf Buch. The quality has improved, which benefits the tenants. The company also wants to avoid the often lengthy search for craftsmen with its own in-house service companies.

Pros and Cons: When service companies use the Replacing the janitor

"We have access to well-trained craftsmen, which cannot be taken for granted in times when there is a shortage of skilled workers," says Buch. "Fair and, compared to others, stable prices" are also advantageous for the tenants, says Buch.

According to the observations of the Haus & Reason Germany often external service providers. "They always provide a replacement when a caretaker is absent due to vacation or illness. Because landlords book the service, not the person," explains Julia Wagner, a lawyer in the owners' association. This also benefits the tenants: they can expect the work to be done.

Disadvantages: Quality and costs are often the sticking points

Rastätter sums up his experience with outsourced janitorial services as follows: "Often tenant satisfaction decreases when janitorial services are outsourced. In many cases, it also becomes more expensive for the tenants."

Internal service providers of housing companies usually have to generate profits in order to transfer them to the parent company, complains Rastätter from the Munich Tenants' Association. Tenants often paid the price for this through higher ancillary costs.

It is also becoming more difficult for tenants to view the receipts in order to check their billing. "Some landlords do not want to disclose the documents because it is about the calculation of the caretaker costs. In our opinion, however, no profit should be made with ancillary costs," says Rastätter.

There is also some dispute about this in court - for example whether the profit margin may be deposited and the inspection of receipts, which is anchored in the German Civil Code (paragraph 259). A member of the Munich Tenants' Association is therefore suing his landlord. The Federal Court of Justice will make the final decision.

Info box: Which costs landlords are not allowed to pass on

Repair work cannot be passed on to the tenant. This includes, for example, replacing defective stairwell lamps or repairing broken front doors. "Repair is a landlord's job," explains Julia Wagner from the Haus & Reason Germany.

The operating costs must not include any expenses incurred for the purchase of equipment or for tasks such as handing over the apartment or keys that the caretaker takes over. The same applies to emergency service flat rates and standby rates, the Federal Court of Justice ruled (Az.: VIII ZR 62/19).

Wagner, who works as a lawyer at Haus & Reason Germany is working to differentiate caretaker duties and write down hours separately.

With a professional service, landlords should clarify in advance which services are billed and how and pay attention to a breakdown. This will later simplify the creation of the utility bill.