Quick guide to renting a flat in Germany

Quick guide to renting a flat in Germany

Renting a flat in Germany is, depending on the circumstances, more difficult than finding a job. It could be an exaggeration, but it’s not. And if not, you should ask those who spend months visiting flats and preparing documents as if it were a job interview. With last month’s move, we’ve already had three in Hamburg. If you are looking for an apartment or you already have one, but you still don’t fully understand how things work here. Today I’ll tell you the main keys for you to come out successful in your task.

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Keys to renting a flat in Germany

Real estate and the Makler

An important difference when it comes to renting a flat in Germany, if we compare it with Spain, is that here almost all of the rented flats are for real estate. It is rare to rent an apartment directly with the owner. Therefore, if you are planning to go out and look at balconies or facades to write down telephone numbers, it is better not to waste time. To “apply” as a potential tenant, the first thing you’ll have to do is contact Makler (real estate agent in charge of finding tenant for the apartment) and strive to be his favorite candidate.

Where to look

My advice is that you record floor alerts that match what you’re looking for on immonet, immowelt, or immoscout24 websites. How? Well, recording the data of the floor you’re looking for, (area, number of rooms, price range, etc.) and leaving your email to send you an alert in the form of e-mail when they give high floors that meet these characteristics. In addition, you can also download the App and accept to receive notifications when an apartment that meets your requirements is free.

Another option is to be quick if you find out that someone is leaving their flat. If you are lucky enough to apply as a candidate without an ad being published, your chances are logically higher.

The number of rooms (Zimmer Wohnung)

If you have been living in these latitudes for a while, you will have noticed that the first thing you need to know when renting a flat in Germany is how many rooms you want. And be careful because rooms are not synonymous with dormitories. If we talk about number of rooms or Zimmer, we include all rooms in the house except kitchen and bathrooms. In other words, any room that can be converted into a bedroom is included.

This makes it easier for those who rent to have a shared flat or Wege. In these flats there is usually no living room, but all rooms are used as bedrooms, except bathrooms and kitchen.

Kaltmiete or Warmmiete

These two terms must be clear before renting a flat in Germany, as they indicate the monthly amount you will have to pay. The Kaltmiete is what in Spain we call the monthly rental price. Often both here and there the price of the water bill is included.

The Warmmiete gathers the total amount to pay at the end of the month once we include the bills of consumption of electricity and heating, among others. These additional costs of invoices are the Nebenkosten or Betriebkosten. The cleaning of the building or the collection of garbage are included in this amount. Make clear what is included in the Warmmiete and who has to do the hiring, because sometimes there are invoices that are not calculated in the amount and in the end you get surprises.

Keller (storage room) or Dachboden (Attic)

Virtually every self-respecting floor has its own storage room in the basement or attic. In Spain I spent several years sharing a rented flat and we never had either one or the other. Now I do not know how we manage without this piece (for me already fundamental) of daily life. Many storerooms located in the basements of old floors are humid. This means that what you store there may become damaged or smell damp. Don’t rent a flat without visiting the storeroom.

Fahrrad Keller

Another positive point of any floor. Many buildings have space inside for bicycles. This is great for keeping your bike safe, but don’t trust it. Even if you keep it in a locked space with other bikes, don’t forget to lock it.

Altbau or Neubau

Old flat (Altbau) or new flat (Neubau), that’s the question. In Germany there is a lot of cool old flat. High ceilings, wooden floors and large windows. Many have Denkmalschutz, which is the same, protection for which you can not change the facades. This is one reason why we don’t install lifts for them and many mothers see us with our Minis on our backs down the stairs.

Saniert or Renoviert

Related to the above, if you are one of those who get lost in a nice Altbau flat, it is possible that you will find a sanitized one (Saniert) or renovated one (Renoviert). What is the difference? Well, in the first one they usually have changed installations such as pipes in bathrooms and kitchens. It’s like moving into a new apartment but with the “casing” of the old apartment. A renovated floor usually retains old bathrooms, electrical and water installations. They will have repaired what didn’t work properly and painted it. Normally, depending on how your apartment is delivered to you, you will have to leave it when you leave.

Flats without kitchen

This today and after five years around here, still seems to me to be the most surreal. Can you imagine renting a flat that does not have a kitchen? What’s more, can you imagine having to set up the kitchen of a rented flat, at your own expense? Well, this can happen to you if you live in Germany. The owner of the flat is obliged to bear the costs of the sink and kitchen ovens (ceramic hob, gas cooker, electric cooker or whatever). But the rest is up to you. It is assumed that you can then resell it to the next tenant.

Almost always, without furniture

In Germany most flats for rent (even if they are for sharing), are rented unfurnished. Personally, I only see advantages in this. First of all because you feel much more comfortable in a flat with your own furniture. Then, because if you move again, you take your beloved furniture with you (moving is more complicated than if you didn’t have to do it, that’s true) and set up the “chiringuito” somewhere else. Also, considering the second-hand furniture market, it won’t be difficult to resell them.

Massive Visits

Just like that. Don’t be surprised if you are summoned on a Saturday at 11 a.m. to visit the flat you liked and you find a line of people queuing at the door. They are your rivals. Probably someone has a face under his arm with the documents that were required in the description of the floor to personally deliver to Makler.

Although this type of visit is quite common, it is also possible that you will be summoned just to see the flat. If this is your case, take the opportunity to make a good impression, not forgetting to ask questions.

Favorite candidate

The way the Makler perceives you can be decisive when it comes to getting the flat. Many times, the owner is guided by the Makler’s criteria. Or the Makler is in charge of making a first sieve, presenting two or three potential tenants to the owner. That’s why it’s important to make a good impression. How? Be nice (if you’re not 😉 ). If it’s a crowded visit, ask him at the end with questions (that make sense) so that you stay in his memory.

Keep an eye on the conditions of the contract

If you’re finally the graceful one, congratulations! But let’s not get carried away by emotion. Read the terms of the contract carefully and ask any questions you may have before signing it.

Some things to keep in mind are:

Kaution or deposit

It is usually three monthly installments of Kaltmiete and you must deposit it at the beginning of the hiring period. If at the end of the contract there were damages in the flat, the payment of the same will be discounted from there, as well as the invoices that remain to come from consumptions of electricity and heating, among others. It can take up to three months to refund the amount of the Kaution once the contract has ended, which will be returned to you with interest. (At least, this has always been our case).

Befristet Vertrag or contract of limited duration

Sometimes the rent can only be for a certain period. This means that, after this period, you are obliged to leave the flat. On the other hand, you may also be required in the contract to stay a minimum of years in the apartment. Make this clear if you find it in your contract. Sometimes a transfer to your country of origin, for example, exempts you from the penalty that has been stipulated.


This has to do with the increase in rent over the years. It is frequent that, already by contract, it is collected that you will have to pay more in the following years. This increase is usually prolonged during the first five years of the rent. In Hamburg it is common to see a 3% increase every two years or 1.5% a year.

Kundigungsfrist or period of notice to leave the flat

It’s usually three months. This means you are obligated to pay for the next three months from the date you give notice that you are leaving the apartment. Be careful because this period can be extended the longer you have been in the flat. In our previous flat, it increased to six months after the first five years of rent. Considering that often when you look for an apartment and get it, you have a few weeks to move in, this Kundigungsfriest can be a problem. Luckily, the demand for rental apartments is so high that it won’t be difficult for you, as a tenant, to find future tenants interested in keeping your apartment. If this is your case, present them to the real estate agency so that they can give the final approval. Although this works on many occasions, the real estate company is not obliged to accept new tenants during your Kundigungsfrist.

Abschlag or historical price of invoices

Another curious thing is that the amount you pay for electricity or water monthly will not be the real one, but the estimated one. The estimate comes from the previous year’s consumption. If you have just entered the flat and your predecessor did not look much at what you consumed, it may be that at the end of the year you receive a letter from the electricity company where you get your money back. In this case the estimated amount that you will pay in this concept the next twelve months will decrease.

Copies of keys

The contract includes the number of copies of keys that you have been given at the beginning. There are usually three copies and they usually bear a mark indicating that they belong to a rented flat. So you, as a tenant, can’t copy them. This, however, does not happen in all cases.

So much for this quick guide to renting a flat in Germany. Also comment that there are some kind of cooperatives like SAGA, in which you receive certain advantages for being a member. I am not too interested in this topic, but here you will find more information if you are interested.

Do you want to know more German curiosities? Have you had difficulties to rent an apartment in Germany? If you are in search penalty, you will find 😉 in the end.

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