“Apart from the rent, what bills do I have to pay, and why can’t I get them all included in the rental price?”
By Andrei Sado, Director, Elite Residential Rental Department, Penny Lane Realty
This issue is one the most important things discussed by tenants and landlords during the process of signing a rental agreement. It is not a corner stone of rental agreement, but very often if not properly discussed, can lead to feuds and difficult arguments during the rental term. Utilities in Russia include: water, gas, electricity, telephone bill, satellite TV and Internet connection. During the negotiation of the rental contract, parties can agree to any possible options, but most commonly water and gas are included in the rental price for an apartment. Electricity is quite often not included, and the decision to include it is considered in a way a bonus from the landlord. However parties may agree to a certain limit on the amount of the bill, and if this limit is passed, the tenant pays the difference. This limit is calculated and depends on the size of the apartment; usually a 2-3 bedroom apartment uses 200-300 kilowatts of electricity a month, which may cost between 200-300 rubles per kW. Landlords are happy to assist clients in providing figures for average use of electricity in the apartment.
Regarding telephone bills, everything is much easier. Local calls are all included in the rental price, but international and inter-city calls are paid extra by tenants. Internet and Satellite TV are not included, because their use depends on the traffic and the channels chosen. Landlords usually pay those services themselves but provide bills for reimbursement. Most clients have no problems with this arrangement.
It is really important to mention all of your concerns to your real estate agent and he or she will gladly discuss them with the landlord. Do not put off mentioning these topics; discuss them before signing your lease, and your experience of living in Moscow will be much more pleasant.
By Michael Bartley, General Manager, Four Squares
One of the most frequent questions from first-time expat renters is about what is included in the rent and what they have to pay for themselves, or more precisely, where they have to pay themselves. Their office colleagues will have regaled them with tales of how they queue up monthly in their local Sberbank branch for days on end, fill in forms in Russian and submit the exact sum right to the last kopeck (because Sberbank cashiers never give change), just to pay a 61 rouble telephone bill. As a new expat you are gullible for anything.
In the vast majority of rental contracts the following items should be included in the rent.
Municipal charges (жилищные услуги), which are charged on a per-head basis and cover the cost of such things as maintenance and renovation of the building, the entrance and the stairwells. This bill is issued monthly.
Utilities charges – heating, gas and water supply. These charges come in the same bill as the municipal charges.
Fixed monthly fee for telephone connection.
The rent does not usually cover the following items;
The cost of long-distance and international calls.
Internet monthly traffic.
Satellite TV monthly tariff.
So, can I get any or all of the bills included in the rent?
Electricity is always worth haggling over. The landlord will usually argue that he cannot foretell how much electricity you are going to use, especially if you have a habit of leaving the air-conditioning on whilst you are at work. Tell him that you agree to an electricity cap – the landlord should pay up to an x amount of kWs and you pay above that. The benchmark norm for electricity usage is 300 kW for a 2-room apartment, 400 kW for a 3-room apartment, 500 kW for a 4-room apartment.
International telephone calls; ask him to switch off the use of international calls, in which case he will probably agree to pay for local phone calls. You can make all your long-distance and international calls using a telephone card or Skype. You will save money too.
Internet monthly traffic; there are many cable providers who bundle internet and satellite TV into one package. This makes the internet cheaper than using a stand-alone provider. A lot depends on if your building is connected to a fibre-optic network. You can get a basic Internet/satellite TV package for 600 rubles, which your landlord may agree to cover if you smile nicely.
Satellite TV – if you ask for the Sports, Movies and Adult package the landlord will likely tell you to take a running jump, but if you ask for the basic package and bundle it with the Internet he may agree to pay it.
You can inform the landlord that you are willing to pay more rent if he or she agrees to pay the bills for you, but talk with your realtor beforehand so that you know what the extra costs are, that way you will negotiate a fair rate.
If you do have to pay bills yourself, most expats get their cleaner to visit Sberbank on their behalf – just leave the bill and the money on the coffee table and she will pay it. If you don’t have a cleaner you could ask a kind neighbor (yes, they do exist in Moscow) or colleague to pay yours the next time they are paying their own bills. A box of chocolates on special holidays and birthdays should do the trick!