Renting in Germany: A Comprehensive 2023 Guide for Expats

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Navigating the rental market in a foreign country can seem daunting, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the local language and regulations. But don’t worry—you’re not alone. Many people from different parts of the world have successfully made Germany their home, and with the right information, you can too.

This article will delve into the various aspects of renting in Germany, from understanding the legal framework to finding your perfect apartment and even what to do when it’s time to move out.


  • Effective property search involves both online platforms and local networking.
  • A thorough application process usually entails submitting personal and financial documents.
  • Signing the lease commits you to specific responsibilities, so read it carefully.
  • Moving in involves crucial administrative steps, such as the Anmeldung.
  • Good neighborly practices can enhance your living experience, and you should know whom to contact for maintenance and repairs during your stay.
  • Ending a tenancy requires formal notice and complying with the terms laid out in your lease.

The Legal Framework for Renting in Germany

While the German rental market is known for being well-regulated and tenant-friendly, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the legal aspects to ensure a smooth renting experience.

German Tenancy Law: Basics and What You Should Know

In Germany, tenancy laws are primarily governed by the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (Civil Code). The code stipulates everything from the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants to rent increases and termination processes. One reassuring aspect is that German tenancy law is generally pro-tenant, offering protections against arbitrary evictions and unjust rent increases.

Types of Rental Agreements

Rental contracts can be broadly classified into two categories:

  • Unlimited Contracts (Unbefristeter Mietvertrag): These are open-ended contracts that continue indefinitely until either the tenant or the landlord chooses to terminate it, following proper notice and legal requirements.
  • Limited Contracts (Befristeter Mietvertrag): These contracts have a specific end date. It’s essential to read the fine print because you usually can’t terminate these contracts early without a significant reason.

Responsibilities of the Landlord and Tenant

Landlords are generally responsible for ensuring the property is habitable and well-maintained. They must handle significant repairs and maintenance of common areas. On the other hand, tenants are usually responsible for minor repairs and day-to-day property maintenance. Additionally, tenants must comply with the house rules and pay rent on time.

Understanding your responsibilities, as well as your rights, is crucial to a hassle-free living experience. Make sure to read your contract thoroughly and consult the German Civil Code if you have any uncertainties.

Understanding the Rental Market

The rental market in Germany has its unique characteristics, terminologies, and dynamics. Knowing what to expect can significantly ease your search and help you find a residence that suits your needs and budget.

Popular Cities vs Smaller Towns: How the Market Varies

Germany offers a variety of living environments, from bustling cities like Berlin, Munich, and Frankfurt to quieter small towns and villages. The rental market differs significantly depending on the location:


Properties in popular cities are generally more expensive and in higher demand. In addition to traditional apartments, you may also find a range of serviced apartments and co-living spaces, which might be convenient options for newcomers.

Smaller Towns

In contrast, smaller towns often offer larger spaces for the same or lower rent. However, you may find fewer amenities and public transport options.

It’s essential to weigh the pros and cons of each setting to find a location that matches your lifestyle and needs.

Cold Rent vs Warm Rent: Definition and Differences

When searching for a rental property, you’ll encounter terms like “Kaltmiete” (cold rent) and “Warmmiete” (warm rent). Understanding these terms is crucial for budgeting:

Cold Rent

This is the basic rent for the property, which doesn’t include any utilities or additional costs.

Warm Rent

This includes the cold rent and additional costs like heating, water, and sometimes electricity and garbage collection.

Be sure to clarify what is included in the warm rent to avoid unexpected expenses later.

The Role of Real Estate Agents: Fees and What They Handle

Engaging a real estate agent can simplify your property search. Agents have in-depth knowledge of the market and can help you find properties that match your criteria. However, their services come at a cost:

In Germany, the commission for rental property agents is usually up to two months’ cold rent plus VAT. This fee is called “Maklergebühr” and is often paid by the person who hires the agent, which is usually the landlord.

Agents typically manage property viewings, provide necessary documentation, and sometimes even assist in contract negotiations.

Searching for a Place

Germany offers a variety of methods to search for a rental property, each with its own set of advantages and considerations. Here’s how to go about it.

Online Resources: Where to Look

The internet is a treasure trove of listings, virtual tours, and resources to aid in your property search. Popular platforms include:

  • ImmobilienScout24: This is one of the most popular websites for finding rental properties in Germany.
  • WG-Gesucht: Ideal for students or anyone looking to move into a shared apartment (“Wohngemeinschaft”).
  • eBay Kleinanzeigen: Similar to Craigslist, it’s a marketplace for various things, including rental properties.

While online platforms are convenient and user-friendly, be cautious of scams or listings that seem too good to be true.

Local Newspapers and Community Boards: Alternative Methods

Don’t underestimate the power of local community boards and newspapers. Some landlords prefer these traditional methods to list their properties, so you may find some hidden gems. Look for listings in local publications or boards in supermarkets and community centers.

Visiting the Property: What to Look For

Once you’ve shortlisted properties, the next step is to visit them. Here are some things to consider during your visit:

  • Condition: Check for any signs of wear and tear, dampness, or poor maintenance.
  • Amenities: Take note of what’s available—does it have a balcony, laundry facilities, or a parking spot?
  • Neighborhood: Walk around to get a sense of the area. Is it close to public transport, shops, or parks?

Preparing a list of questions to ask the landlord or agent during the visit is always a good idea. Make sure to inquire about anything not clarified in the listing, like utility costs or whether pets are allowed.

Application Process

renting in germany

The application process in Germany is structured and typically requires a set of documents and sometimes even an interview. But don’t fret; knowing what you need ahead of time can make the process much less intimidating.

Documents Required

Here is a list of standard documents you’ll likely need to provide when applying for a rental property in Germany:

  • Passport or Identification Card: To confirm your identity.
  • Proof of Income: Usually the last three months’ salary slips or a job contract.
  • Schufa Credit Report: A German credit check report you can request online or through some banks.
  • Previous Landlord’s Reference: While not always required, it can strengthen your application.

Having these documents prepared in advance is advisable to speed up the application process.

Credit Checks: How It’s Done in Germany

In Germany, the most common form of credit check is the Schufa report. It is a summary of your financial reliability and creditworthiness. Most landlords will ask for this report to ensure you can afford the rent. Obtaining your Schufa report is generally straightforward and can be requested online.

Related: SCHUFA in Germany [English Guide for 2023]

Security Deposits: How Much and Why

In addition to the first month’s rent, you’ll often need to pay a security deposit, known as “Kaution” in German. The deposit is usually equivalent to two or three months’ cold rent. This is kept by the landlord and returned to you when you move out, provided there are no damages or outstanding payments.

Security deposits serve as a safety net for landlords but also mean you need to budget for this initial expense when planning your move.

Signing the Lease

Once your application is approved, signing the lease is time to make things official. This is a critical stage, as the lease will govern your entire tenure at the property. While German leases are usually standardized and comply with the legal framework, you should still read the document carefully and understand the terms before affixing your signature.

The Importance of Reading the Contract

Take your time to read the entire lease, even if it’s lengthy. Ensure you understand each clause and its implications. If there are terms in German that you’re not familiar with, consider getting the document translated or seek assistance from a native speaker.

Common Clauses to Watch Out For

Here are some standard terms that you might encounter in German rental contracts:

German TermEnglish TranslationWhat is it?
SchönheitsreparaturenCosmetic RepairsRefers to cosmetic repairs like painting and wallpapering.
KündigungsfristNotice PeriodSpecifies the notice period for ending the tenancy, usually three months.
NebenkostenAdditional CostsIncludes costs that make up the “warm rent,” like water, heating, etc.

The lease should also specify details like the rent amount, payment due date, and bank details for the payment.

Remember, signing a lease is a significant commitment. Once you’re satisfied that you understand and agree with all the terms and conditions, go ahead and sign. With the contract signed, the property is officially yours to move into.

Moving In

The lease is signed, the keys are in hand, and now it’s time for the exhilarating part—moving into your new home! While it’s tempting to immediately start settling in, there are a few necessary steps to take to ensure your move-in experience is as smooth as possible.

Inventory and Condition Report: The Übergabeprotokoll

Upon receiving your keys, you and your landlord will usually conduct an inventory and condition check of the property, often referred to as the “Übergabeprotokoll” in German. This is a critical document where any existing damages, the condition of various fixtures, and the number of keys handed over are recorded.

Having a detailed Übergabeprotokoll protects you from being held responsible for pre-existing damages when you eventually move out.

Be thorough. Check faucets, electrical outlets, windows, and any included appliances. If possible, take pictures to document the initial condition of the property.

Registering Your Address: The Anmeldung

In Germany, it is legally required to register your residence within the first two weeks of your move. This process is known as “Anmeldung,” and you’ll need to go to your local “Bürgeramt” (Citizen’s Office) for this.

Required Documents

You’ll typically need:

  • Your identification
  • The completed registration form
  • A confirmation from your landlord.

Why It’s Crucial

Failing to register can result in a fine. Moreover, your registered address is necessary to open a bank account, sign up for utilities, and other essential tasks.

Utilities and Connectivity

Depending on your lease agreement, you may need to set up utilities like electricity, gas, and internet. Some landlords include utilities in the “warm rent,” while others require tenants to sign up individually.

How to Set Up

Most utility services allow you to register and manage your accounts online or over the phone. You’ll usually need your registered address and bank details for this.

Living in the Property

Living in a rental property comes with responsibilities and opportunities to immerse yourself in the community and make the most out of your experience.

Good Neighbor Practices: Building Community Relations

One of the first things you’ll want to do is establish a good relationship with your neighbors. This doesn’t mean you have to become best friends, but small gestures like introducing yourself and observing community rules go a long way.

Noise Regulations

Germany has specific “quiet hours,” usually from 10 PM to 6 AM, and on Sundays and public holidays. Be mindful of your noise levels during these times.

Recycling and Waste Management

Germany takes recycling seriously. Make sure you understand how to separate your waste and where to dispose of it. Your neighbors and the environment will thank you for it.

Maintenance and Repairs: Whom to Contact

If you encounter a problem in the property, like a leaky faucet or a heating issue, your first point of contact should generally be your landlord or property manager. They are usually responsible for dealing with significant repairs and maintenance.

Contact your landlord immediately for urgent issues that might cause damage to the property, such as a burst pipe.

For less pressing concerns, you can usually send an email or make a phone call to arrange for repairs.

Your Rights as a Tenant: What You Should Know

Germany has strong tenant protection laws. For instance, it’s generally difficult for landlords to evict tenants without just cause. Likewise, arbitrary rent increases are usually not allowed.

Legal Support

If you ever feel like your rights as a tenant are being compromised, there are various tenant associations (“Mieterverein”) in Germany that offer legal advice and support.

Related: New to Germany: A Newcomer’s Guide to Living in Germany

Ending the Tenancy

Whether you’re moving cities, buying a house, or simply relocating, ending a tenancy is a process that requires careful attention to detail and adherence to certain legal protocols. Rest assured, it’s a straightforward process when you know what steps to take.

Giving Notice: The Kündigungsfrist

One of the first steps in ending your tenancy is submitting a formal notice to your landlord. This is known as the “Kündigungsfrist.” The notice period is usually outlined in your rental contract, often set at three months.

  • Written Notice: It’s important to give notice in writing and ensure it reaches your landlord within the required timeframe.
  • Date and Signature: Make sure to include the date and your signature in the notice document, as these are essential for legal validity.

Final Walk-Through: The Übergabeprotokoll Revisited

Just as you had an initial walk-through to assess the property’s condition, you’ll have a final walk-through with your landlord. Here, you’ll compare the current state of the apartment with the initial Übergabeprotokoll.

Repairs and Cleaning

Ensure that the property is clean and that any repairs you are responsible for are completed. This will facilitate the return of your full security deposit.

Security Deposit: Getting Your Money Back

One of the common concerns tenants have is about getting their security deposit back. According to German law, the landlord must return your deposit within a reasonable period, usually up to six months, after you vacate the property and return the keys.

Reason for Deduction

If there are legitimate reasons for deductions—like damages or unpaid rent—these will be taken from your security deposit. The landlord is obligated to provide an itemized list of deductions.

De-Registering Your Address: The Abmeldung

Lastly, don’t forget to de-register your address at the local Bürgeramt. This process is known as “Abmeldung.” Failure to do this could lead to complications with the authorities, especially if you’re leaving Germany.

Additional Resources

Whether you’re facing a rental dispute, need clarification on terms, or are looking for networking opportunities, these resources are designed to make your experience smoother and more enjoyable.

Tenant associations, known as “Mieterverein” in German, protect and advocate for tenants’ rights.

  • Benefits: They provide legal advice, support in disputes with landlords, and information on the latest rental laws and regulations.
  • How to Join: Most cities in Germany have a local Mieterverein. You can become a member by paying an annual fee.

If language barriers are an obstacle, there are numerous translation services, both online and offline, that can assist.

  • For Rental Contracts: Consider hiring a legal translator or lawyer specializing in rental agreements to ensure clarity on terms and conditions.
  • Legal Support: If you ever face a serious dispute, consulting with a legal expert familiar with German rental laws might be wise.

While these platforms primarily serve as places to find rental properties, many also offer advice sections, market overviews, and insights into local living.

Websites like WG-Gesucht, ImmobilienScout24, and Immonet can be treasure troves of information beyond just property listings.


Sofia, our esteemed Relocation Expert. Born and raised in the dynamic city of Berlin, Sofia’s profound understanding of Germany’s lifestyle, customs, and regulations makes her an indispensable asset to our platform.

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