Apartment rental

This article provides general information and advice about apartment rental in Germany. For information specific to particular cities, see the pages for: Apartments in Berlin and Apartments in Munich.

Tips for first-time renters

One doesn’t have to be in Germany very long to realize that when it comes to renting Germans do it very differently to the rest of the world. This isn’t meant to be a definitive guide to renting in Germany but rather some tips and tricks to avoid major hassle and expense when moving.

A few important tips

First off you will be required to sign a rental agreement and pay a deposit of up to three months' rent. Sometimes you may have to pay a fee to an agency (Makler) of up to two months' rent plus MwSt. Combined with the first month's rent this comes to a total of six months' rent up front before you even move in. Yes, it's expensive.

Kaution (deposit): The rent deposit usually goes into a special bank account which requires signatures from both you and the landlord. This has to be done at the bank. Otherwise the money goes into his pocket and you have limited legal recourse at the end if you disagree on repair and cleaning costs. This is the kind of thing a dodgy landlord will try to get away with.

Edited by Tom Graham 06.12.2006: The law requires that the landlord holds your deposit separate from his own funds. Any interest accrued on the capital amount belongs to the the owner of the money, i.e. the tenant. In many cases the deposit is placed into a savings account in the name of the tenant but the landlord keeps the "savings book" for the duration of the tenancy, and indeed until the matter of liabilities and repairs is settled. Without the book the tenant has no access to the funds. (Edit ends.)

Secondly, you will be usually given a choice of painting now or when you leave. Always ask to leave the place unpainted. If you agree to paint it when you leave then it has to be to the landlord's satisfaction, which means that if you paint it and he doesn’t like it then he will bring in the professionals and bill you for it. You will also have a harder time fighting damages.

Make a note of any problems (scratches on floor etc); this must be noted in the contract. It is a good idea to take photographs.

For those who are being relocated by their company, make sure that the contract is in the company's name and not yours; this means that they are responsible for the deposit and closing down the place when you move. This means less hassle when you leave.

Legal insurance may seem like a waste of money but in Germany you need it. Alternatively you can join the renter's association (Mietverein). This is cheaper and just as good but you may need good German skills.

How to do everything wrong and hate living in Germany

This is what happened to a couple from the TT Germany chat forum. They were relocated from America to Germany, they rented a large, older, empty house from a co-worker. Heating was by propane and were told it would cost about €1000 a year. They also paid the Kaution (deposit) out of their own pocket rather than having the company pay it or provide a letter. The actual heating costs turned out to be much higher than that, so much so that they were forced to move. After moving they fought with the landlord over getting the rental deposit back; after getting a lawyer involved (at their expense) they finally received a letter detailing all the damage that had been found and explaining why they would not get any money back. Because the money hadn't been placed into a special account, they had a hard time getting it returned.

What they did wrong? Well, just about everything.

Important note on Short Term Lets (furnished apartments)

Munich seems to be a bit unusual in that many landlords require you to sign a contract and post a deposit. If possible, let your company handle it. If you run into problems it will be very difficult to follow up on.

Secondly, if possible try and find a place that requires neither; it can be done - I have never paid a deposit or signed a contract for short term housing.

If you do have to sign a contract, make sure the condition of the place is clearly marked - you don’t have to note every scratch or stain, but the more detail you can provide the better. It would be sufficient to note that there are stains on the carpet (so you don’t have to steam clean it two months later) and stains or scratches on the wall, that the couch is old and worn out, the oven is dirty etc. Basically you want to make sure you only have to worry about a final cleaning when you leave and not repainting the whole place.

Also, be careful about the notice period so you don’t get stuck paying for an empty place. It seems like a real pain to do this when you may only be in the place for 2-3 months but its the only way to protect yourself against dodgy landlords.

Important note on Telephone and DSL

It's not that common to find places in Munich with telephone and Internet already provided. If your place doesn’t have it, I don’t recommend setting it up yourself. It is very expensive to do. Best bet is to find a place with telephone and Internet and ask them to turn the phone on against a deposit (100 to 200 euros is quite reasonable) or as an alternative have them install it and you pay extra per month, but the line rental is in the landlord's name not yours. Either that or get a laptop with wireless and find a local free hotspot.

Note that as of 2007 WiMaxx is now available in some areas.

Rental Advertisement Abbreviations

Advertisements for apartments are always heavily abbreviated. Not knowing what the abbreviations are short for is bad enough in English, but trying to understand them in German can be a nightmare unless you're very familiar with the language. So here are some definitions to give you a head start.

So, now you understand the secret code you can translate the following example:

Sendling: 70qm, EBK, Spülm., Laminat, Bad mit Fenstern & Wanne,grosszügig geschnitten, hell & rhg., sgt. Anbindung (S2, A99, A8)Nicht WG-geeignet, ab 1.5., KM + 740,- +100, -NK PLZ 809

Sendling (district): 70 m², with kitchen and washing machine, laminate flooring, bathroom with window and bath, spacious floor plan, bright, quiet location, good connections (S2 S-Bahn, A99 and A8 motorways), not suitable as a flatshare, free from May 1, rent: €740 per month excluding all bills (which cost about an extra €100 per month), located in postal district 809.

Finding Somewhere to Live

Local newspapers and listings magazines are good places to find accommodation. Other options are:

Immobilien Scout24 - an online exchange for apartments in Munich and the rest of Germany.

Wohnungsbörse.net - an example of a "provision-free" website, where you pay a fee (typically around €70) to receive the contact details of people offering apartments and houses for rent 'Provision-frei' (without any agency fee).

Null Provision.de - an online exchange for apartments without agency fees.

Studenten-WG.com is good for finding flatshares and small apartments.

TT Accommodation Classifieds - Don't forget Toytown Munich's own classified ads section, which is the most active English language accommodation exchange in Germany. Browse to the classified adverts section of the respective city or region to read about currently available apartments. You can also start an "accommodation wanted" thread.

See also

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