A How-to On Renting A Property In Germany

How to rent in Germany: rules, terminology and peculiarities of German rental practices.

Renting a property in Germany is an easy and safe option, and more than half of the country’s population live in rented accommodations. It’s no surprise that many newly arrived expats also choose to rent.

Renting in Germany is very transparent. Rental prices in many cities including Berlin are tightly controlled and landlords cannot increase them by more than 20% over three years.

You will find that unlimited rental contracts are quite common and if you are given notice, you can still demand continuation.

This is what you need to know if you want to rent a property in Germany.

How much does it cost to rent a property in Germany?

On average, you will find that rent in Germany is affordable, and there are a lot of options when it comes to choosing a place to rent.

The price, however, depends on where you are planning to live. The majority of the available accommodations are apartments. If you are after a house, this would be more expensive and more difficult to find.

Places like Munich, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Berlin, Cologne and Hamburg are not cheap and come with hefty rental costs per square metre. However, out of all the major German cities, Berlin is the most affordable.

Where to look for rentals in Germany

There are some very good resources to give you a better idea of what your options are: 

Immobilienscout24  – this website offers you a number of search filters you can use to find your ideal flat or house. A word of warning though: the prices and location might not be 100% accurate so it’s important to double check. 

Immobilien-Fragebogen  – this website allows you to create a form that you fill out with all the information about the flat you are looking for. The website will email you about available flats that match your criteria. 

VisitGermany  – besides a lot of useful general information about Germany, this website also offers flat and house search facilities. 

Be aware that a lot of flats in Germany will be in blocks of flats. These blocks are often managed by a tenant’s association. The association has rules which the tenants must abide by.

Some of these rules include the number of people living in the apartment, and whether pets are allowed or not. Read the description carefully to understand whether the place is right for you.

Deciphering property descriptions and rental contatcs’ terminology

2 Zimmer Wohnung – a 2-room apartment in Germany means there are 2 rooms: a living room and a bedroom, not two bedrooms.

EBK for Einbauküche (built-in kitchen) or mit Küche means the apartment comes with a fitted kitchen. You will be surprised, but as a rule, an unfurnished flat comes with an empty kitchen: no oven, refrigerator or cabinets. If you don’t want to buy all these things yourself, look for EBK in the description.

Miete – rent.

Kaltmiete — cold rent, which is your monthly rent without heating bills.

Warmmiete — warm rent which is your monthly rent plus heating.

Nebenkosten — additional bills for maintaining communal areas.

Gesamtmiete — total monthly rent which includes everything.

Staffelmiete – stepped rent or a gradual rent increase that your rental contract might specify.

Kaution — security deposit, typically two-three times the cold rent.

Rental prices and your income

In Germany rental market is a serious business. The good thing about it is that renters’ rights are protected, the downside is that applying for rent is a bit like applying for a loan, you need to prove you can afford it.

As a rule, your after-tax income should be at least three times higher than the cold rent and you need to be able to prove it with your bank statements.

The required documents

  • The completed application form – you can get it from your property agent.
  • Copies of your photo ID and any visa or residence permit you need.
  • Proof of income (Einkommensnachweis) – a salary slip or your bank statement of the last three months.
  • A certificate from your previous landlord stating you have no outstanding rent due (Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung) if you have any.
  • A credit report (Schufa).

A Schufa Dilemma And How To Solve It

You cannot get a Schufa without a German address. And it’s very difficult to find a rental place without a Schufa. It’s a common problem many new arrivals face in Germany.

This is what you can do to try to solve the problem:

  1. Find a German guarantor who will sign a legal documant agreeing to pay your rent if you are unable to pay it, for any sort of reason.
  2. Try to go for a furnished apartment for a start. Furnished apartments are often rented out as holiday accomodations to tourists, so the landlord will be used to foreignes not having any Schufa at all. You will pay more, but you will be building your Schufa score.

Living in a rental accommodation in Germany

Your rental contract will most certainly come with an extended list of Hausordnung (house rules).

Make sure you know and understand them. The Hausordnung will often include rules such as when you can make noise and when you have to keep the volume down.

If you damage the place, you might have to pay your landlord for the damage, unless of course, a pipe broke or something similar. In that case, make sure to inform the landlord ASAP or you might become responsible for some of the damage after all.

Inform the landlord if you are not home for an extended period of time also for this reason.

If you leave the place without giving proper notice (as in moving out, not going on a holiday) you might be responsible for the Miete until a new tenant moves in.

Registering your address

Regardless of whether you rent or buy a property in Germany, registering your address at the local city office (called “Bürgerbüro“) is required by law even if you plan to stay in a hotel for the entire duration of your stay.

In practice, registering your address will make things easier when you need to contact your local authorities (e.g. waterworks, rubbish disposal, proof of address, etc).

You will need to show up in person and bring your passport. 

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Samantha Segat
Samantha Segat is a professional writer and an expat who has lived in Germany for two decades. She has travelled all over Germany as well as Switzerland and Austria having visited and lived in Berlin, Hamburg, Hannover, Vienna, Bern and other places.
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