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"Satisfied guests are more important than more money for gas and electricity"

Gas, electricity – everything is getting more expensive.

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"Satisfied guests are more important than more money for gas and electricity"

Gas, electricity – everything is getting more expensive. The renowned "Bareiss" in Baiersbronn is one of the first hotels to charge their guests a kind of energy flat rate. The website of the five-star hotel states: “Until December 31, 2022, we will charge an energy surcharge of 9 euros per person and night, from the age of 18. In the event of a serious increase in energy costs, we reserve the right to make adjustments.”

Do holiday apartment guests also have to expect price increases or even additional demands? We spoke to Wolfgang Pagl, Director Vacation Rentals at FeWo-direkt, a leading Internet portal for the brokerage of holiday homes and apartments.

WORLD: Have the prices for holiday apartments already increased because of the exploding additional costs?

Wolfgang Pagl: In general, price adjustments due to external factors such as increased energy costs are nothing unusual. As a portal, FeWo-direkt has no influence on the pricing, it is entirely at the discretion of the landlord, and they can of course - just like some hoteliers at the moment - pass on their higher energy costs to the guests. This 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 are only starting their vacation in a few weeks or months have additional claims due to the possibly even higher energy costs?

Pagl: No, that'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 flat rate is specified in the rental agreement, it is usually not possible to subsequently increase it after booking or after the holiday.

However, hosts could try to charge the holiday guest a higher price as a gesture of goodwill. In order to avoid negative reviews, however, the German Holiday Home Association recommends not increasing the price of existing contracts if the guest does not want to voluntarily agree to it.

WORLD: And if the rental agreement says that price adjustments could be necessary at any time due to skyrocketing energy costs and inflation - would additional demands be possible after the booking or after the holiday?

Pagl: Such formulations in the subjunctive are not sufficiently specific and therefore probably not enforceable in a legal dispute.

Every winter, ski lift operators hope that it snows a lot and that snow cannons are used as little as possible. This season, however, there is a lot at stake because of the high electricity prices.

Source: WORLD | Peter Haentjes

WORLD: To look at the problem from the other side - can frugal guests demand from the landlord that the additional costs are billed based on consumption and not with a flat rate, as has been customary up to now?

Pagl: If you want an individual solution, you can ask the host before booking. Since the rental contract is concluded solely between the host and the guest, individual agreements are generally possible. However, the rental agreement should also specify exactly how much one kilowatt hour of electricity and one cubic meter of water costs. At present, many hosts in this country still charge ancillary costs such as electricity or heating as a flat rate, which is paid in advance together with the rental price.

WORLD: What do you think is better, a flat rate or individual billing?

Pagl: The flat rate is probably the better option for both the guest and the landlord. For the guest, because flat rates apply to the entire property and not per capita. Families, for example, whose teenagers like to shower twice a day and are used to cozy room temperatures, are probably better off with a flat-rate bill at the moment.

WORLD: But why should lump sums also be better for the landlord?

Pagl: Because billing based on consumption always involves a lot of extra work. This begins with obtaining the measured values, separate billing for electricity and gas, writing additional bills and, if necessary, 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, this can affect customer satisfaction and bring the landlord - albeit wrongly - bad ratings. Or to put it another way: satisfied guests and good ratings are more important than precisely billed gas and electricity cost increases.

WORLD: The fact that hosts are therefore left with the energy costs cannot be a solution.

Pagl: Of course not, which is why landlords should motivate their guests to behave in an environmentally friendly manner. The German Holiday Home Association recommends enriching the guest documents in the apartment with information and perhaps also incorporating playful elements such as family challenges to save on energy costs. This means that vacationers who remain within a previously defined consumption limit could, for example, receive a goodie in the form of a voucher as a thank you.

WORLD: Nevertheless, a number of landlords will not be able to avoid price increases. There are hoteliers who are already demanding additional energy charges of between three and nine euros per person and night from their guests. Converted to the ancillary costs flat rates for holiday apartments - what percentage increase would be appropriate?

Pagl: We as a portal cannot and do not want to make any recommendations and refer again to the German Holiday Home Association, which currently considers a surcharge of ten percent on the rental price to be justified, depending on the equipment and condition of the property. The association believes that this is a price increase that is also acceptable for guests and is far below what other overnight segments are calling for.

WORLD: With other overnight segments, the association certainly means the hotel industry. Can you confirm this assessment, are holiday apartments per se cheaper than hotels?

Pagl: That can't be said across the board, but the fact is that hotels are passing on rising energy costs per capita and night, while vacation rental landlords generally increase the ancillary costs flat rate - 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 that 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 shower, heat and cook as much as they want in the holiday apartment without restrictions?

Pagl: In principle yes, unless the landlord has formulated clear usage rules in the rental agreement or in his house rules. But that is the exception, German landlords of holiday properties are very reluctant to put specific requirements on energy saving, at least so far.

WORLD: Are landlords actually obliged by law to guarantee a minimum room temperature?

Pagl: Yes, in Germany, hosts must enable their guests to heat up the holiday accommodation to a prescribed minimum temperature during the heating period from October 1st to April 30th.

WORLD: How high is this minimum temperature?

Pagl: 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 day. At night, the minimum temperature is 18 degrees Celsius.

WORLD: And what applies outside of the heating period?

Pagl: Outside the heating period, the host has to switch on the heating system if it is so cold that the inside 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 regulations on the minimum room temperature. But you can be sure that the vast majority of hosts act in the interests of customer satisfaction and do not let their guests freeze.

WORLD: Back to the holiday costs – you don’t have to be a prophet to assume that overnight accommodation prices will continue to rise, be it in a hotel or in a holiday apartment. Do you agree?

Pagl: 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. This may also explain the increased interest in holiday home stays for 2023; bookings for the coming year were already received in June of 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 request price increases up to 20 days before the start of the trip and only by a maximum of eight percent. If the deadline or amount or both are not met, the package traveler can cancel free of charge. What are the regulations when renting holiday apartments?

Pagl: A subsequent price adjustment that 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; Accordingly, the guidelines differ from holiday home to holiday home.

On the FeWo-direkt portal, however, holidaymakers have the option of only having holiday accommodations displayed during the search that can be canceled free of charge up to 14 days before check-in. All you have to do is activate the "Free cancellation" filter.

In view of exploding electricity and gas prices, more and more hotels are introducing an energy flat rate. The question of the legitimacy of such extra charges does not arise as long as the hotels disclose the additional costs transparently and, above all, in good time - i.e. before the booking is made.

If you book individually via a hotel portal or directly with the accommodation, you must be informed about the extra costs depending on the type of reservation via the website, by e-mail or by phone. If he has decided on the hotel online, the energy surcharge must be included in the total in the booking mask. If the final price was agreed by telephone, it should definitely be confirmed in writing by e-mail or letter.

In principle, the total tariff 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's tax or bed tax do not count towards the room price and may be collected directly on site. Tinga Horny

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