Household bills

HOUSEHOLD BILLS – GENERAL INFORMATION
When considering the purchase of a Spanish property it can often be useful to have an idea of the potential ‘running costs’ For this reason, The Spanish Connection has prepared the following guide based on the apartment below:-
Permanent residence.
3 bedrooms , 2 bathrooms .
100 m2 of internal space and 40 m2 of terrace
Located in La Manga del Mar Menor, Murcia .
This apartment has A/C and under floor heating throughout the property
Luxury development with tennis course, 2 swimming pools and spacious landscaped areas.
NB: This is to be used only as a GUIDE and is base on the expenses being no higher than the ones quoted. By quoting the maximums we can ensure you that there aren’t any expenses which you haven’t accounted for!

Electricity Bills
Water Bills
Community Fees
Gas

Electricity Bills
Iberdrola is the electricity provider in the area of La Manga Strip (www.iberdrola.es) They also provided a broadband internet service via the same network.
Power supply
The electricity supply in most of Spain is 220 volts AC with a frequency of 50 hertz (cycles) However, some areas still they have a 110-volt supply and it’s even possible to find dual voltage 110 and 220-volt systems in the same house or the same room! All new buildings have a 220-volt supply and the authorities have mounted a campaign to encourage homeowners with 110-volt systems to switch to 220 volts. Note that most appliances, e.g. televisions made for 240 volts, will function with a power supply of 220 volts. Spain is committed to introducing the international standard (adopted in 1983) of 230 volts AC by the end of 2003.
Tariffs
Electricity is generally cheap in Spain and the cost has remained stable since 1995, although in 2003 prices were set to rise for the first time in eight years by 1.5 percent. The actual charges will depend on your local electricity company.
The tariff depends on your power rating (potencia), which for domestic users with a power rating of up to 15KW is 2.0 (above 15KW it’s 3.0). This tariff is used to calculate your bi-monthly standing charge. For example, if your power rating is 3.3KW this is multiplied by the tariff of 2.0 and then multiplied by the standing charge rate per KW. The standing charge is payable irrespective of whether you use any electricity during the billing period.
The actual consumption is charged per KW. To save on electricity costs, you can switch to night tariff (tarifa nocturna , 2.0N) and run high-consumption appliances overnight, e.g. storage heaters, water heater, dishwasher and washing machine, which can be operated by a timer.
If you use a lot of water, it’s better to have a large water heater (e.g. 150 litres) and heat water overnight. If you use electricity for your heating, you can install night-storage heaters that run on the cheaper night tariff.
Monthly average cost: € 85
Electricity bills
Electricity is billed every two months, usually after meters have been read. It’s advisable to pay your utility bills by direct debit (transferencia) from a Spanish bank account. If you own a holiday home in Spain, you can have your bills sent to an address abroad. Bills should then be paid automatically on presentation to your bank, although some banks cannot be relied on 100 per cent. Both the electricity company and your bank should notify you when they’ve sent or paid a bill.
Alternatively, you can pay bills at a post office, local banks (listed on the bill) or at the electricity company’s office (in cash).
Water Bills
In the area of La Manga del Mar Menor the cost of water is included in the community fee charges (see point no. 3).
Outside La Manga Strip:
The cost of water varies considerably from an average of around EUR 1 per cubic metre (m3) on the mainland to between EUR 2 and EUR 3 per m3 in the Canaries and some parts of the Balearics, where drinking water is often provided by desalination plants and is very expensive.
In some areas, tariffs start with a low basic charge of say EUR 0.50 per cubic metre (e.g. for the first 15m3 a month), but becomes prohibitively expensive above this consumption. Many municipalities levy a standing charge, which is usually for a minimum amount of water per quarter or month, e.g. 45m3 a quarter or 15m3 a month, whether any water is used or not (which hits non-residents hardest).
To reduce your water costs, you can buy a ‘water saver’ that mixes air with water, thus reducing the amount of water used. The cost of fitting an apartment with water savers is only around EUR 40, which can reportedly be recouped in six months through lower water bills. Water savers can be purchased from El Corte Inglés and Hipercor stores, hypermarkets and DIY stores.
Water bills
Bills are generally sent out quarterly. If you don’t pay your bill your water supply can be cut off, although this doesn’t usually happen until customers are around a year in arrears. However, many thousands of people have their water supply cut off each year for non-payment. If your supply is cut, you must pay a reconnection fee, e.g. EUR 40, plus any outstanding bills. Note that IVA is levied at 7 percent on water bills.
Community Fees
Whether you buy an apartment, townhouse or a detached villa, the property Hill have a participation share assigned to it, the `cuota´, which determines the amount of the yearly fees for community expenses. There fees can be expected to rise with the general cost of living. In the area of La Manga Strip, this fee includes the water bill of your apartment which is a good advantage. The payment period of this cost depends of the rules of each community.
For the apartment of our example the community fee is about € 80 per month.
Gas
Mains gas is available only in major cities in Spain, although with the recent piping of gas from North Africa (Algeria and Libya) it may soon be more widely available.
When moving into a property with mains gas, you must contact the local gas company to have the gas switched on, the meter read and to sign a supply contract.
As with electricity, you’re billed every two months and bills include VAT (IVA) at 16 percent. Like all utility bills, gas bills can be paid by direct debit (transferencia) from a Spanish bank account.
In rural areas, bottled gas is used and costs less than half that of mains gas in most northern European countries.
Many people use as many gas appliances as possible, including cooking, hot-water and heating. You can have a combined gas hot-water and heating system (providing background heat) installed, which is relatively inexpensive to install and cheap to run.
In most areas of Spain, gas bottles (bombonas) are delivered to homes by Repsol Butano (the company responsible for distributing gas bottles), for which a contract is required. You must pay a deposit of around EUR 25 and an exchange 12.5kg bottle costs around EUR 8.50 (the price fluctuates frequently) delivered to your home or less when purchased from a depot. A contract is drawn up only after a safety inspection has been made of the property where the gas appliance is to be used.
In some areas you must exchange your bottles at a local supplier. Bear in mind that gas bottles are very heavy and have a habit of running out at the most inconvenient times, so keep a spare bottle handy and make sure you know how to change them (get the previous owner or a neighbour to show you).
A bottle used just for cooking can last an average family up to three months. If a gas boiler is installed outside, e.g. on a balcony, it must be protected from the wind, otherwise you will continually be re-lighting the pilot light.
You must have your gas appliances serviced and inspected at least every five years. If you have a contract with Repsol Butano, they will do this for you or it will be done by your local authorised distributor. Some distributors will try to sell you a package which includes third party insurance and free parts should they be required, although it isn’t necessary to have this insurance and is a waste of money. Beware of ‘bogus’ Repsol Butano representatives calling unannounced to inspect gas appliances. They may represent legitimate companies, but their charges are extortionate and they will give you a large bill for changing tubing and regulators (which usually don’t need changing at all), and demand payment in cash on the spot. If you wish you can let them make an inspection and give you an estimate (presupuesto) for any work that needs doing, but don’t let them do any work or pay any money before checking with your local Repsol Butano distributor.
Incidentally, plastic tubes have an expiry date printed on them and you can buy them from a hardware store (ferretería) and change them yourself.