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I have finished my rental contract in Germany, and have done so at the end of last month - October 2016.

My notice period is 3 months, therefore the end of contract is at January 2017.

So far so good.

I then received a letter back from the landlord saying the following to me:

Wir bestätigen den Eingang des oben genannten Schreibens sowie das Mietvertragsende zum 31.01.2017.

Bitte vereinbaren Sie rechtzeitig vor Vertragsende einen Übergabetermin mit unserem Büro. Wir empfehlen eine frühzeitige Übergabe, damit eventuelle Mängel noch behoben werden können, ohne dass Nutzungsausfall anfällt.

Wir weisen darauf hin, dass die Nebenkostenabrechnungen stets gegen Ende des Jahres, welches auf das Abrechnungsjahr folgt, erstellt werden, da normalerweise erst zu diesem Zeitpunkt die Heizkostenabrechnung vorliegt. Wir bitten insoweit also um etwas Geduld.

Abschließend benotigen wir für die Kautionsabrechnung sowie für die folgenden Nebenkostenabrechnung Ihre neue Anschrift sowie (falls sich diese ändert) Ihre Telefonnummer, unter der Sie tagsüber erreichbar sind, auch um ggf. Termine mit Nachmietinteressenten zu vereinbaren. Eine Kundennummer Ihres Energieversorgers zur Stromummeldung wäre hilfreich.

Wir bedanken uns bereits jetzt fur das angenehme Mietverhaltnis.

I have two questions:

What is the last month I have to pay the rental? January or December?

And what does this mean?

Wir weisen darauf hin, dass die Nebenkostenabrechnungen stets gegen Ende des Jahres, welches auf das Abrechnungsjahr folgt, erstellt werden, da normalerweise erst zu diesem Zeitpunkt die Heizkostenabrechnung vorliegt. Wir bitten insoweit also um etwas Geduld.

Does it mean I have to pay the entire year of 2017 regarding the heating costs? Is this legal?

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    The last sentence does not mean that you have to pay the costs for the following year. It means that the exact costs will only be known at the end of the year after you left. – Gala Nov 23 '16 at 23:21
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    If you gave 3 month notice at the end of October, you are still required to pay rent for November, December, and January. The actual tenancy will end 31 January. – mkennedy Nov 24 '16 at 0:47
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The first sentence of the letter you received says:

We [hereby] confirm […] that the rental contract will terminate on 31st January 2017.

Since your contract will end at the end of January and since rents are typically paid in advance in Germany, you will have to pay your rent for January, too. Depending on the exact modalities this will typically be some shortly after New Year’s.

Your second quotation is slightly more extensive. Here is an approximate translation:

We hereby notify you that calculating the additional costs will always occur towards the end of the year following the year they are being calculated for. This is due to the timeframe after which we receive the heating invoices. Therefore, we kindly ask for your patience.

It does not mean you have to pay Nebenkosten for the entire year 2017. That would indeed be illegal. However, you are a tenant of the flat for the month of January 2017 and you do have to pay these fees (heating, water, potentially cable TV, etc. etc.) for that month of January. As always, they will collect the money (or require you to wire it) corresponding to one month of rent plus a flat advance fee on the additionals. As in any year, you will receive a full breakdown of the additional fees, how much you have to pay, how much the flat fee covered and how much is missing or too much. Since heating factors into these fees and since they do not receive the breakdown for heating of 2017 until well into 2018, they cannot provide you with any breakdown until late 2018. They are asking for your patience.

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