Welcome to Germany! Once here you will be probably facing the biggest problem of your whole stay: finding a flat. As for internationals that can be a tricky task, we want to assist with some advice.But right at the beginning we also ask you to help us: please give us feedback, where YOU had the most trouble or what general questions you still have regarding the German renting market! Send us a message, write your comments down below. Don´t be shy!

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So here we go:

1. Get a legal expenses insurance! (Rechtsschutzversicherung) Either a general one or one that is for issues with your landlord (Mietrechtsschutzversicherung) Why right away? Because at most insurances you have to wait for a couple of months after signing before it protects you.

Why at all? Because Germany has very good renter protection and YOU don´t have a clue what your rights are. And landlords think, that especially international tenants don´t know about their rights, so they will treat you like that.

One very good is the „Mietrechtsschutz“ insurance of ARAG. You should get the „Comfort“ option, as the insurance also pays your interview with your lawyer. And the „Premium“ Version you don´t really need, as it covers problems that you would have in the future with craftsmen you ordered yourself. We also have that, my mother has that insurance of the ARAG, so it´s a very good one. You should choose the option with no „cost sharing“ ( „Selbstbeteiligung“) so that you wouldn´t have to bear any cost. Thats extremely important in my eyes, as you would like to consult a lawyer with absolutely NO cost.

So for a flat with an annual rent between 7000 – 9000€ this would be a fee of 9,90€ monthly or 113,05€ for a year (9,42€). Let me tell you: It´s definitely worth the money!

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2. Have all your documents (as copies) ready right away when you have a look at the flat and IF the flat is shown by the property management company or a real estate agent! If you want it, you have to be quick.

3. Cut the middleman! If the flat is shown by the person currently living in it and she/he searches for the next tenant (Nachmieter), give your documents to the current tenant. But DO NOT RELY on that. If you do, it´s the best way NOT to get the flat. Try to find out who actually the landlord or the property management company is. Be there (yes, i mean THERE at the company) at 8.30 monday morning to bring your documents and show your interest. I have searched now for 3 flats the next tenant and it was never the person that we suggested, but the one who did right that.

4. Have all documents needed (and more):

a) Mietkostenfreiheitsbescheinigung (we Germans have wonderful words, don´t we?), that´s a document signed by your last landlord that you don´t owe him any money. Try to get one at least in English. If you have an official or signed translation that´s even better. (Don´t underestimate that, German landlords really really care about that).

b) Gehaltsnachweis – that´s the documents showing your income / salary (best are the transcripts you get from the company for the „Finanzamt“ , the tax authority . You need to show that for the last 3 months. It´s best, if you have that from a German company, if not you will have less chances getting a flat.

c) If you don´t have that, as you are a freelancer, you should get a sbusiness assessment from state certified tax accountant that shows details from your business of the past 6 ! months. Preferably it will be a German tax accountant („Steuerberater“). But i tell you, it will be much tougher. So if you have a girlfriend / boyfriend / spouse, whatever that has a regular job, get him / her in the contract. If you are open to flatshare: try to find a German that has a regular job and wants to be the co-main-tenant (2. Hauptmieter)

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d) Copy of your ID or passport – officially a company is by law not allowed anymore to keep a copy of your passport. But most companies don´t know that and you want the flat.

e) a personal security from a German citizen, company (maybe the company you work for) or bank (try and ask them, for a German it cost´s about 150-200€) that promises to pay the regular rent if you will fail to pay. That is especially important if you either don´t have a job yet or work as a freelancer. This works also, if it covers just a value of 6 months rent. Don´t be shy asking the German company you work for. They know how tough the market is. German landlords want security! Why? Because if you fail to pay your rent, it takes a German landlord 6-12 months to kick you out of the flat, if you refuse to leave. If you don´t get a personal security from a German person or instutition, then at least get one from your parents. Better than nothing. But be aware: your chances are much smaller now.

f) as a German most landlords ask you get a „Schufa Selbstauskunft“. Schufa is a credit scoring company. As an international being new in Germany you probably don´t have that. But if you have a credit scoring company in your own home country: try to get a record. This probably helps, if you show them, that this is equivalent to the German „Schufa“.

5. Try other parts of the city. If you don´t have all above German (!) documents try to search for a flat, which is NOT in the city centre, so competition is less. It might not be as convenient, but you build up a trusted history of renting a flat. In six months you will have a Mietkostensfreiheitsbescheinigung (or documents that show you paid the full amount always on time). That´s a much better situation.

6. Pay your rent always on the first 3 weekdays of the month. German tenancy law is very good, but on that the law is very strict. You as a tenant are required to pay it on the first 3 weekdays of a month. If you fail to do so on a regular basis, you can be kicked out of your flat. It is important that the landlord gets the payment within those 3 days. So if you would transfer the money on the third day via bank order, that is too late, as a normal bank order takes 1 day. Use a recurring bank order for that (Dauerauftrag).

7. Know your rights when paying the deposit. When you rent the flat you have to pay a deposit.

a) This deposit must not excede the amount equivalent of 3 times of  the net cold rent. So if the net cold rent is 600€ then this must not be more than 1800€.

b) You should never pay a deposit without a written contract for the flat.

c) You should never pay a deposit without getting a receipt for the deposit. Try to avoid to pay in cash.

d) The landlord has to put the money he receives from you as a deposit in a separate bank account that is in your name (he only has access to it). By law! That´s not an option. Keep that in mind! Because if he fails to do so that already counts as embezzlement (Veruntreuung), which is a criminal offence. So if you have any problems with a landlord in the future and you are not sure, where the money from your deposit is: ask for that. If a landlord failed to do so, he will be much tamer. And if he fails to answer, give him a last deadline. After that you can report that to the police as a suspicion for a committed crime. Then he will be tame as a lamb. Believe me.

8. By law a real estate agent cannot demand more than 2 x of the net cold rent + value added tax (19%) as a commission. So if the net cold rent is 600€, he must not demand more than (600*2)*1,19=1428€. And you only have to pay, if he is accountable for the contract. So if the current tenant searches for a next tenant, shows you the flat, connects you with the landlord, you can challenge the demand of a real estate agent that has some „exclusive rights“. But for that of course its very good to have an insurance, see 1. above. By law only the party that hired the real estate agent has to pay the agent. Your landlord cannot demand otherwise. You only have to pay a real estate agent, if you hire the agent and if he is offering you a flat that he has not already in his portfolio.

9. Your landlord can kick you out of the flat only if he or a very close relative want to use it for themselves or if you fail to pay the rent for a long time. So if you don´t have a private landlord you cannot be kicked out of your flat in any way as long as you pay the rent. (in most cases)

10. A cancellation by your landlord can be avoided. If you don´t pay the rent for more than two months, or the amount you owe your landlord excedes more than 2 times the normal rent, the landlord has the right to cancel the contract without warning („fristlose Kündigung“). The landlord has to do that in a written letter. But he cannot force you to leave himself, if you don´t leave voluntarily he has to sue you for leaving the flat.

BUT: if you pay the outstanding debt in a certain amount of time (do it right away) and object the cancellation, the cancellation is without effect! You can do that with one landlord only one time, but this is really important to know.

 

Any suggestions for more advice? Let me know in the comments, I will add that to the list.

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21 Responses

  1. Leandro

    Hallo,

    I am currently living in Frankfurt. I live in 3 room WG with a lady. I am an Untermieter. This lady wants to move out. However I want to stay. Do you think it is possible for me to take over the WG as a Hauptmieter? Especially I am a student and pretty much supported by my parents, since student from non-EU country can only work for limited amount of time. How is this process going to be?

    Thank you

    • Daniel

      Hi Leandro,
      just ask the landlord. If he is not okay with you being the main tenant, you could either suggest you find a second main tenant oder that you find someone as a main tenant with the contingency that he lets you stay there as well. Just show the landlord that you have behaved well, etc. Ask him which additional guarantees he might accept. For example a „Bürgschaft“ from a bank (which they offer as a paid service).

      Best
      Daniel

  2. Daniel

    HI there. I just moved into an apartment 3 months ago. My landlord just told me he sold the apartment to a couple. Can he kick me out or what are my choices?

    • Daniel

      Hi Daniel,

      please ask him first the following: when the flat was transformed from a „Mietwohnung“ into a „Eigentumswohnung“. If you know that, please get back to me.

      Best,
      Daniel

  3. giulio

    Hi,

    I am in a bad situation. I started living in an apartment subrented from person X. Then she (person X) moves out and she inserts me in the main contract directly with the landlord, which is a real estate company. After that I make a subrenting contract with Person Y, being 1 room free.
    Now during new years eve, I was overseas, and a problem with the water pipe happens. Person Y was at home and calls an emergency plumber. Person Y does not call me, to inform me, and does not call the number for emergencies displayed from landlord, which lies outside the door in the main hall … he said he did not know and it was an emergency. I came to know the story only at my return.
    Now the plumber said and wrote this is a problem of the structural problem and that the pipe has to be clean for the whole building and responsability is of the landlord.

    Person Y asks for refund, that he won’t pay the rent if not refunded. On the other side the landlord sees him explicitly as my guest since I do not have in writing permission for making a subcontract (even if I was myself a subrenter until 2 months ago), so responsability falls on me.. any suggestion? I do not have any insurance or so on..

    • Daniel

      Hi Giulio,
      as I am not a lawyer, I can´t really give you advice on that matter. Just some general remarks:
      You wrote: „she inserts me in the main contract“. Generally nobody can insert you in a contract, you would have to sign a new contract with a landlord. So I guess you are the main tenant now.
      You always need the consent of your landlord to sublet a room.
      This article may help you a little: http://www.morgenpost.de/berlin/article103913395/Wann-darf-ein-Mieter-den-Handwerker-rufen.html
      In a case of emergency the tenant has the right to call for a plumber and if the landlord doesn´t want to pay that, you can subtract that for your rent. One would announce that then in a message to the landlord before and paying rent minus cost. So I guess it´s the question if that was emergency. The article also says that this could be also seen as a small repair, for which the tenant only has to pay, if it doesn´t exceed a certain amount. Normally around 75€.
      In any case you should get permission for subletting a room (reason could be that you cannot afford the whole rent yourself) in the future.

    • Daniel

      Hi Aram,
      I did not really understand your question. Could you tell me a little more about the situation? How long do you live in the flat,
      when do you want to move out, when did you cancel the contract…..

  4. Igor Fobia

    I would also suggest to check the address of the landlord. If she/he put the same address of the flat, then you do not have the actual legal address and in case she/he does not pay the deposit back you do not know how to find that person. Adding the date of birth of the landlord also helps.

    • Daniel

      I don´t see that as a big problem, you should just never only pay the rent in cash. If you have you transfer money to a German bank account, you have a good reference point for the identity.

  5. stephen

    I just signed a contract beginning today and, to my horror, have discovered that I can hear EVERYTHING from upstairs! Don’t like the idea of living like that – do I now have to give the three months‘ notice?
    Also, if I don’t live in the flat during that time, am I responsible for any damage that might happen or break-ins?

    • Daniel

      Well, that depends on your contract, but it is at least 3 months, but sometimes there is a clause in the contract, that it is minimum 1 year.
      What I would do: speak with the landlord, explain the situation, offer him to show around new tenants, you will get a new tenant very fast. Regarding break-ins: Normally there is a insurance for that „Gebäudehaftpflicht“ which the owner anyway has. Regarding damages: you are obliged to heat the flat at least a littlebit and i you should switch off the main water pipe. Except of that I can´t really imagine a damage.

  6. Fiona

    If a landlord is asking for cold rent + car parking * 3 as the deposit, is that legal? Does the car parking count as part of the cold rent? Also, the deposit is not mentioned on the contract but I was rushing to sign and did so then realised. Is there any way I can back out of the agreement if I have not paid anything yet? Really worried about this – I feel like I’ve been conned.

    • Daniel

      That´s a good question. Will look it up till tomorrow. Regarding the other question: I dont fully understand what your problem is. You can give me a call, you find the number in „impressum“

  7. Tim

    Hello, thanks for the helpful article!

    As an American, I think there can be slight improvements to various parts of the article that can clear up some ambiguities that are a result of a direct German > English translation.

    I do copy writing on the side and would like to offer my services at a very low fee (possibly free). Please reach out if you are interested in seeing what I can do.

    Regardless, I thank you for writing this article as it was very useful.

    Best,

    Tim

    • Daniel

      Hi Tim,
      that´s a very nice offer. As I don´t focus on English speaking users with my blog, I don´t have any budget for that. But I would be delighted if you would let me know where you are seeing ambiguities.

      Best, Daniel

  8. Christina

    Hello!

    Do you have any „red-flags“ about company to keep away from? I have received contract on an apartment to rent from 1st of september. The company who is the middle hand between me and the person who owns the apartment is called „HomeCompany“ (website http://www.homecompany.de) I can not find any good or bad about the company and can´t deiced to trust them or not.

    The first rent and deposition need to be payed 1 week before 1 st of September. I have received name, address and phone number to the owner of the flat.

    Everything seems good but I maybe think the processe went to easy.

    Got any suggestions?
    Thankful for an answer.

    Best regards
    Christina

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