Renting in Germany: how to find and secure your accommodation

Bas

Updated on Jul 24 • 8 minute read

Whether you’re moving to Germany for work or for study purposes, one of the most important parts of starting your new life abroad is to find yourself a new home. The rental market is slightly different in almost every country, so our experts at HousingAnywhere bundled their knowledge of the german housing market. With this guide, we’ll explain the German rental process and help you find a place as quickly as possible. Jetzt geht’s los (Let’s get started)!

Types of housing in Germany

First, let’s take a look at what you can expect when moving to Germany. Depending on whether you’re an international student, budding young professional or seasoned expat professional, there are different trends and types of accommodation in the German market for you to consider.

Accommodation for students

Moving to Germany for a semester, and exchange program or even for your entire course is becoming increasingly popular, especially since Germany is doing its best to become one of the top educational destinations in Europe. This has resulted in a competitive housing market with prices that have risen quite quickly over the past few years. Thankfully, major cities like Berlin have taken measures to protect tenants from paying even more (Mietdeckel).

As you might expect, rooms (Zimmer) and studios are the most popular among students, alongside sharing an apartment. This shared living (referred to as Wohngemeinschaft, or WG) often consists of roommates who don’t neccessarily know each other. Another note is that subletting is also quite common. For example, someone rents an apartment from a landlord, only to sublet one or more rooms to another tenant. So you might just end up living alongside your de-facto landlord. These arrangements can be pretty informal, which makes them great for shorter term stays. If you’re looking to stay for any length of time, though, make sure you get a proper rental arrangement on paper.

Check out our student accommodation in Germany!

Accommodation for young professionals

As a young professional starting or continuing your career abroad is super exciting! However, living in a room somewhere might not be your style any longer. While having an entire apartment to yourself might be a bit too pricey in the competitive markets of the larger german cities like Berlin or Munich, a studio apartment might offer you the right balance between space and privacy. A pretty solid middle ground, especially if you’re tired of having to share your bathroom and kitchen with people who are not as cleanly as you are! Or, if you’re a social butterfly, sharing an apartment with some other expats and Germans of your generation might be exactly what you need to kickstart your social circle in Germany.

Check out our German studio’s!

Accomodation for expats

As an expat, this probably isn’t your first rodeo. You’re making moves in your career and you’re bringing your partner or even your family along for your new life in Germany. You’re looking for something a little more spacious and permanent, so renting a spacious apartment in Germany is probably the way to go for you. Depending on the length of your stay, you might want to make your place your own. No worries there, as apartments on the German market are often let in an unfurnished state, so you’re free to decorate to your own taste, down to the curtains and the kitchen appliances. That said, there’s also a wide variety of fully furnished options available that are tailored to expats and their families during their year(s) abroad. Are you living in an apartment on your own? Subletting is legal, so you could always get yourself a roommate and save yourself some money at the same time!

Check out our available apartments all over Germany

How do I find rental accommodation in Germany?

Now that you know what to look for, you can start focusing on the fun part! Finding housing can be a great adventure. You just have to know where to look and the best way to search. The first thing you need to know is what city am I going to live in? Each one of the large German cities has its own housing market and varies in terms of safety, cost of living and international scene. Lucky you, because our German market expert Marle discusses all the best places for internationals to live in Germany.

Now that you know where you want to live, you’ll want to sign up with a trusted housing platform. You have the option of using a real estate agency or expat housing service, but they can be very expensive, and the fees are often not listed upfront. You might also feel like setting out on your own to look for an apartment, and social media like Facebook do have many groups and communities where you can look for listings. However, remember that the housing markets in bigger cities are extremely competitive. Often, a listing can rent out within hours, so you have to stay ahead of the game. As Benny, our Lead Account Manager for Germany notes, "because of the extremely competitive rental market, there are a lot of scammers and on Facebook, anyone can advertise".

because of the extremely competitive rental market, there are a lot of scammers and on Facebook, anyone can advertise

At HousingAnywhere we have scam-detection technology built upon machine learning, which prevents scam listings from appearing on the website in the first place. Furthermore, we keep your money safe until 48 hours after you've moved in, to give you the chance to scope out the place. In case the place doesn’t match what was advertised (such as a single, instead of a double bed), we'll give you your money back and help you find another place. Facebook simply doesn't offer this level of security. In addition to this, HousingAnywhere makes your search easier by notifying you when a suitable property is listed, so you can immediately jump on it. And by jumping on it, we mean you can talk directly to the property owner.

Preparation: documents needed to rent in Germany

When renting an apartment in Germany, there are a number of documents that you need to have ready to go. Not all landlords will require every document, but making sure you’re prepared will save you time and make your search for your new home that much easier.

  • Rental application form or rental application letter, usually handed out at the viewing, containing all your basic contact information and/or a bit about yourself.
  • Copies of a valid Passport or ID card.
  • A copy of your residence permit (if you require one). - Proof of income (Einkommensnachweis), which could be bank statements and payslips or, if you’re completely new, your employment contract, proof of scholarship or any other document that proves you can afford your tenancy.
  • A document provided by your previous landlord, indicating you have no outstanding rental payments. (Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung);

As the rental market is quite competitive, make sure you have these documents ready to send by email. This way you can cement your interest with the landlord or real estate agent (Makler) right after your viewing, by sending all the necessary documents right away.

Once you sign your rental agreement, you’ll be required to register your new address with the Bürgeramt (registration office). If you plan to stay for over three months, which is typical if you’re studying or working in Germany, then you’ll need to register (Anmeldung). Registration is also necessary if you plan to sign any other contracts, such as opening a bank account.

Tenant's rights in Germany

A rental agreement is always required when you are renting a room or an apartment in Germany. If your landlord says that one isn’t necessary, then insist upon an agreement, or begin to look for another property. Keep in mind that a rental agreement not only protects the landlord, but the tenant as well.

Protection from eviction

As a tenant in Germany, you are under the protection of the law. This means you’re safe from sudden evictions and the like. Every tenant in Germany is protected by the legal notice of contract termination of at least 3 months. The longer you reside in the apartment, the longer the notice period becomes.

Additionally, Your landlord can’t cancel your rental contract (Mietvertrag) without a legally valid reason (berechtigtes Interesse). As a tenant, however, you can cancel an open ended rental contract at any time, as long as you give the landlord 3 months notice. The landlord does have the ability to start eviction proceedings if you don’t pay the rent for 2 or more months. So, if you’re having financial difficulties, make sure to talk to your landlord about it, to prevent that kind of escalation.

Making sure your rental deposit is returned

At the start of your tenancy, you pay a deposit (Kaution) to cover for any damages you might cause during your stay in the rental property. In order to prevent the landlord from pulling a fast one by blaming existing damages on your stay, you should schedule a walk-through with the landlord. During this walk-through, you inspect the place for any scratches, damage, stains and any form of wear and tear that might already be there. Compile a list of any damages and make sure you take pictures. Make sure you get the landlord to sign the document and share the information with them as well.

issues with your landlord

Despite everyone’s best efforts, it’s still possible that you might end up in a (legal) conflict with your landlord. A good way to make sure you’re prepared for this eventuality is to make sure you sign us as a member of your local tenants association (Mietschutzverein). You pay a small annual fee for this membership, but in return they can provide you regal advice and representation if you run into any trouble with your landlord. In any case, having your own insurance that covers legal expenses can save you a load of money in the long run!

German rental terminology

Once you're on the hunt, it will help you to know some of the German words you might run into while looking for a home. So, as a finishing touch, we’ll help you set up with a little German rental vocabulary. :

  • Mieter – Tenant, this would be you!
  • Vermieter – Landlord, the person who is renting out this space.
  • Makler – Real Estate Agent, the one who could be the one to meet you for viewings, if the landlord isn’t personally involved.
  • Wohnfläche – the size of a place in square meters. This includes all the rooms and ¼ of a balcony. Make sure you know what minimum apartment size for you and/or your family should be.
  • Kaltmiete – Basic rent, the monthly rental price excluding any extra costs.
  • Warmmiete - Full rent, including additional costs, such as electricity, heating and internet.
  • Untervermietet – Sublet, this means the place is being sublet, so you’re not renting directly from the actual landlord. Be careful with these arrangements if there is no contract involved, but they might offer a good solution for shorter stays.
  • Kaution – Deposit, which can range between 1x-3x the Kaltmiete (excluding bills). The deposit is always specified in the rental contract.
  • Einkommensnachweis – Proof of income, such as your employment contract and/or bank statements which proves you will be able to afford the cost of living in this home.
  • Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung - A document, usually provided by your previous landlord, that states that you didn’t skip out and have any open rental payments.
  • Mietvertrag - The rental agreement, make sure you always read and understand it all!
  • Schlafzimmer – Bedroom, when mentioned in a listing, these are included in the amount of rooms.
  • Badezimmer – Bathroom, Unless there is more than one, these are not counted in the amount of rooms in a listing.
  • EBK (Einbauküche) – Fitted Kitchen,
  • Renoviert – Renovated, as you might guess, these apartments have recently had issues fixes and usually sport a brand new kitchen and/or bathroom.