Renting in Germany

Rental contracts all over the world:

You agree on the monthly rent, the landlord gives you the key, you move in and pay the rent every month. If there is an issue, you call each other and talk about it.

Rental contracts in Germany:

Even for a small apartment, you need to apply with a CV, with references, with bank account statements, with your employment contract, with a credit check and a criminal background check. The landlord will still want two other people, preferably your rich parents, to co-sign as guarantors.

The landlord will only give you the key after you have paid a deposit of three months’ rent, the rent for the first month, a down payment for water, gas, electricity, garbage collection, road-cleaning fees, and will additionally request a power of attorney for your bank account.

There won’t be any furniture in the apartment, probably not even light bulbs. (If there is already a toilet, you hit the jackpot.)

The rental contract will govern every step of your life. You think I am over-dramatizing? Trust me, I am legal translator for German and English and I often translate lease agreements. Today, I came across a section, in which the landlord gives unambiguous instructions about how often, how long and how far the windows should be opened.

Kipplüftung

And you can count on the landlord walking past the house every day to check on you. If you don’t meet the schedule, you’ll find a letter in your mailbox the next day, probably from an attorney at law, sent by registered mail.

Seriously, even if I could afford to rent something in Germany, I wouldn’t want to.

But I am curious to hear about your experience!

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About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a journalist, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in German Law, Germany, Law. Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to Renting in Germany

  1. Miriam says:

    Wow, that’s strict. I’ve just become a landlord here in Australia and, as we’ve bought it all through and via agents, I haven’t even seen the property!

  2. Mattej says:

    In Japan the landlords are nutcases as well. Key money = illegal present money to the landlord which began with the yakuza decades ago, is 1-2 months and non-refundable. Deposit of 2 months which you will never see when you leave as one scratch is around €100 and add 1 month agent fee and another month if you renew. Tenants now have better laws on their sides when renting a shoebox in Tokyo. I changed my locks as the landlord would come in and look around and that is illegal, refuse all registered mail and that puts them into going to the courts which they can’t do unless you have not paid rent for 3 months and court starts from the 4th and eviction at the 6th month ALL at the cost of the landlord. Hire a lawyer to represent you at 80% less if you are not doing well financially and then the landlord must not touch your things and pay for each item to be stored in a warehouse. Getting your next apt however will be next to impossible. One laughable paragraph in the contract states that no one is allowed to visit or stay in your apartment. The best thing I did learn over the years was to change the locks and never answer the door or accept registered mail. Lawyer mail means nothing. Wait for the court docs which would cost the landlord over 10k for the whole process OR he could pay you 2 years of rent to leave.

    • You are a tough tenant!
      I would have been afraid of the landlord sending the yakuza. 😉
      But nice to hear that there is also legal aid for people who are less well off. And that also applies to foreigners? (There is a similar program in Germany, the “Prozesskostenhilfe”, if anyone needs it.)

      The desire to control the tenant’s private/social life is really weird. I only had that once in Arequipa, Peru, where the landlord insisted that I present my visitors to him before, so he can take a copy of their passport (and probably check them out more thoroughly, too). But the next landlords in Peru were super easy, so I don’t think it was typical for the country.
      Generally, I found Eastern Europe the most relaxed place.

    • Anonymous says:

      Many of these very odd landlord behaviors can be curbed with membership in a Mietverein. The knowledgeable tenant can fuck with a crooked or intrusive landlord 24/7, given good legal guidance.

  3. fairfaxco says:

    Andreas, your synopsis of the rental experience and rental contracts was exactly my experience in Germany!
    I laughed while reading your description of the process and even more while looking over the window regulator guidelines.
    Unbelievable but so true 😃

    • Thank you very much for confirming it! I was already worried that nobody would believe it.

      When I am doing these translations, I almost want to add apologies for this weird aspect of my country.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sorry you ended up in Fairfax.

  4. Here is what renting in Australia is like: you run around getting together roughly the same documents as in Germany, including the guarantees, etc. If you’re accepted and after you pay the deposit, they give you the right number of keys and do the handover protocoll, same as in Germany. Every few months, they send you a letter saying that an agent will come around to inspect the condition of the rental property on the following date (1-2 weeks notice) at the following time. If you are not at home, the real estate agency, who always has a key, will just let themselves in. You cannot put a nail in the wall to hang a picture without express permission from the agency/landlord, and don’t even think about painting or installing anything. If you don’t mow the lawn regularly or if they inspect and they think it’s dirty, you get a written warning to clean up your act. At the end of the rental contract, whether or not you were responsible, they will find a way to fleece you and demand “repairs” that cost almost exactly what your deposit was (3 months rent), or maybe a few dollars more just so that they can send you a bill to cover the difference.

    • Oh. This shatters everyone’s image of cool and relaxed Australia. 😢
      But then, at least you didn’t face an enormous culture shock when you moved to Germany.

  5. Anonymous says:

    First, my family and I thank our luck every day that we rent and do not own the house in which we live.

    Renting is relative bliss, knowing that we are not stuck forever in this noisy childeren‘s playground of a neighborhood. Our neighbors are OK, mostly traditional German thirtysomethings, but there must have been a directive issued somewhere, that to live here one must already have several screaming toddlers and is duty bound to fuck night and day to create more of them.

    • I agree on renting vs. owning. I like the flexibility pf packing my bags and being gone, although it’s much easier in other countries where you find more furnished places. (When I move to other countries, I only need to take two bags with me, even when I will stay one year. And one of those bags is full of books.)
      I would need property like a stone tied to my leg.

      The noises you describe can be annoying, but after living in South America, I probably won’t be complaining about noise in Germany ever again, even if I sleep next to the Autobahn.

    • Anonymous says:

      Indeed. Buying is for suckers. We have owned several houses in another country and came out ahead financially, but it was absolutely not worth the hassle. When I hear of young people wanting to buy a house and settle down, I am astonished that they have given up on life so quickly. The fact of the matter is, in Germany, their houses are usually given to them, passed down free of charge from their dead elders.

    • “Giving up on life” sounds harsh, but it’s exactly how I view it. You tied yourself to one spot, until you die. Of course the (prospective) owners will say that can always sell it or rent it, but then they will still have stress with it all the time.
      Freedom rules!

    • Anonymous says:

      Freedom is indeed priceless. I do not know why so many people choose to be shackled by ownership of objects, such as houses. Borrow that shit and give it back when you are done, I say.

  6. Anonymous says:

    (And by the way, as you well know, Andreas, Germans hate moving air and will keep the windows latched unless compelled to unlatch them. Sadly, these condescending ventilation directives are absolutely necessary. When I board the Straßenbahn the first thing I do is open all the windows in the car in which I am a passenger. Glare all you want, I like air and do not particularly want to breathe in your BO.)

    • I wouldn’t have thought that the fear of moving air is still widespread. (My grandmothers thought the draught makes you sick, a belief which is still widely shared and painstakingly adhered to in Romania.)

    • Anonymous says:

      I am not sure the abhorrence of moving air is health-related. It just seems to be a preference. Windows on public conveyance are, by default, latched.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Directions about how to ventilate the flat is not about Germans beeing strict. It is about stupid green politics. Everybody has been told and pushed to insulate buildings, put triple glassing windows,… Now that there is no air circulating naturally, tenants have to be reminded that they need to take action that the air is circulating. If they don’t do it you have mold in the flat. Thanks to green ideoligists.

    • I find insulation much more sensible than either freezing or paying exorbitant heating expenses.
      I don’t mind opening the windows, quite the contrary, and I understand the issue of mold, of course, I just think that the landlord could explain that to the tenant, and everything would work out fine. There is no need for guideline that is stricter than on the International Space Station.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I think there is a need for a guideline. Knowing German tenants and their lawyers. The tenant will sue the landlord for not keeping the house in order because of all the mold in the accomodation. But the mold exists because the tenant did not air the accomodation properly.

    The ‘extreme’ rental contract is due to German environmental and tenant protection laws.

    In Eastern or Southern Europe the landlords are more relaxed. Why? Because there are not such extreme laws.

    • I understand the mold issue, but somehow, non-Germans seem to be able to work this out without an exact schedule for opening windows.

      I am not sure of that causality between laws and contracts.
      The rental contracts in Germany usually include clauses to protect the landlord, not the tenant or the environment. And the statutory requirements cannot be circumvented or negated by a contract anyway. In fact, the more strict laws are in place, the less you need a contract because you simply revert to the codification (which is much easier in a civil law jurisdiction like Germany than in a common law jurisdiction). You could simply sign a contract denoting the rental object, the beginning of the lease and the monthly payment. Nothing more is needed. Everything else is in the beautiful BGB (“Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch”, the German Civil Code).

    • Anonymous says:

      Ah, this „Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch” has caught my interest! We are in an area of rising rents and a shortage of rental housing. Our landlord inserted a clause that she can raise the monthly rent above some sort of standard benchmark for rent v. square meters. My neighbor does not believe the clause will allow her to do that.

    • I would need to take a look at the contract to have an opinion on that. But sadly, I charge 200 EUR for that, which is usually not worth it, unless there is an immediate demand fir higher rent.

    • Anonymous says:

      If it becomes an issue we will absolutely be in touch. Our relationship with our Vermieterin has been good so our first response (should this clause be invoked) will be to communicate and reason with her. The important thing is to be willing and able to move at the drop of a hat. That is bargaining chip A1. We have always paid rent before it is due and keep the place imacculately clean, yet another chip. She would miss us.

      We may be in touch.

    • Very good points!
      Most landlords (should) prefer a good tenant at a stable rent over an increased rent from an unknown tenant, who could open a drug lab.

  9. Socko says:

    What is missing from the first paragraph is that, if it’s a bigger and/or desirable city like Cologne, you’ll have to make it past the “roulette” stage where a few dozen people are all interested in the same flat – so unless you bribe your potential future landlord, it will most likely end at this stage.

    • Oh yes, I forgot about that!
      And, another sad consequence, if you look or sound “foreign”, which can include being from another German state, your chances will drop considerably.

    • Anonymous says:

      Our solution to that kind of behavior is to not look for flats in neighborhoods that attract that kind of competition. Be a contrarian. If we have to pedal a few extra km on our bicycles, all the better.

    • I am even more contrarian and like to live in Eastern Europe. Romantic apartments, fully furnished, for a fraction of the price.
      But I concede that not everybody can or wants to work remotely.

    • Anonymous says:

      As regards being a foreigner: When we were looking for a flat we engaged an old-fashioned Makler. When we learned that landlords did not want foreign renters he corrected us, saying not to worry, we were the „right“ kind of foreigner.

      Racism from landlords and agents in our country is a bit more subtle, because it is expressly illegal.

    • Oh yes, some foreigners are OK, others are not. Actually, some foreigners (particularly whites) are even more welcomed than some Germans.
      And if you have a PhD, always put the “Dr.” in front of your name. That helps a lot!

      In Germany, that kind of discrimination is actually also expressly banned, although there are exceptions for some rental contracts (§ 19 para. 3 and 5 AGG).

    • Anonymous says:

      Interesting, thanks. In our country there are active „testers“ whose job it is to sniff out and actually prosecute landlords and agents engaging in prohibited discrimination. The fines are significant.

    • I think that’s the only way to do it!
      Where are you from?

    • Anonymous says:

      Trumpistan.

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  11. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

    Clearly you have never been to Dubai where you have to pay your entire year’s rent in one cheque in advance to get the flat. Sometimes you can pay in two cheques of six month rents but the rent goes up if you do two cheques instead of one.

    • Oh oh.
      Indeed I have never been to Dubai beyond the airport. And now I know that I will never be able to afford living there.

  12. Ex-Vermieter says:

    Instructions on airing – are they so bad? Who thinks so has probably never seen a room that got moldy by negligence of letting fresh air in on a regular basis.
    “borrow that shit” as a comment on a house you rent might be an indicator of how that “shit” might be treated by the tenant. So can you blame a landlord who tries to be careful wanting to avoid shit-handlers as tenants.

    • My issue is not with opening windows, my issue is with putting it into a contract with illustrations instead of people simply talking to each other.

      To all potential landlords, I want to add that I personally keep the windows open as much as possible at all times!

    • Ex-Vermieter says:

      …while experience tells us: gone in through one ear, gone out through the other, no trace left at all.
      Putting it into a contract does not exclude talking about it, whereas only talking makes almost sure the subject will be forgotten (not by those who keep windows open as much as possible, but) by those who tend to keep them closed.
      25 y. experience as a tenant, 20 y. as landlord with almost every kind of tenant, I simply know what I talk about.

  13. Ex-Vermieter says:

    Correction: 15 / 30 years

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  15. Ashley's Blog says:

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