Like in all of the world’s metropolises, there is high demand for rentals in the cities of FrankfurtRheinMain (FRM). The housing market is very competitive. Please allow for sufficient time to look for a flat and start your search as early as possible. This section tells you which documents you need, what you need to look for in a rental contract, and where you have to register after moving in.
Housing ads are usually published in German. They contain many abbreviations, from AB (Altbau = old building) to ZH (Zentralheizung = central heating). Knowing these abbreviations will help you understand housing ads better and faster. This might save you an unnecessary viewing or two. We have produced an overview of the most important abbreviations here.
The number of rooms stated in a German housing ad always refers to all rooms except the kitchen, bathroom(s) and hallway.
German apartments usually come without a fitted kitchen. In many cases, you will have to buy your own kitchen. Sometimes, you can pay the previous tenants and continue using theirs.
This payment is called an “Abstandszahlung” in German, and it is possible to take over other pieces of furniture from your landlord or their previous tenants in this way. Unfortunately, the prices asked in these cases tend to be excessive, especially in competitive housing markets. If you refuse to make this payment, the landlord might reject your application. Always think twice before agreeing to such a payment: is it worth it?
Never transfer money to anyone before you sign the lease agreement! There are sometimes fake adverts on commercial property portals online, especially in big cities. The apartments on offer often do not even exist. You can frequently recognise such scams by their rental prices, which are suspiciously low compared to those of similar properties.
In most cases, you will have to prove that you have enough money to pay your rent every month. Many landlords require proof of your income of the past three months. If you cannot provide this yet because you are starting a new job in FRM, you can submit your employment contract instead. Alternatively, someone can act as a guarantor and pledge to pay your rent if you fail to do so.
You will also need a Schufa-Credit report. Schufa is a German credit bureau. The report provides an assessment of your creditworthiness. Foreigners can only obtain a Schufa report after opening a bank account in Germany. You can probably request a similar credit report from your country of origin instead. If you cannot obtain a credit rating, it is best to find a guarantor.
We recommend that you collect all required documents in a folder. Take this folder with you whenever you view an apartment. This can give you an advantage over other applicants. Landlords and real estate agents often invite multiple prospective tenants for a viewing at the same time.
Renting an apartment
You can rent an apartment from a private landlord, a municipality or a company. Often, landlords hire real estate agents or property management companies to handle their properties for them. In Germany, real estate agents invoice the person who hires them. This means: If you hire a real estate agent to find a suitable flat for you, you will have to pay him or her. If a real estate agent shows you an apartment that you found on the internet, for example, he or she is being paid by the landlord.
To rent an apartment officially, you need to sign the lease. It is legally binding for the tenant and the landlord. Before signing this agreement, read it thoroughly and make sure that you understand everything in it. Never move into an apartment without a lease.
A lease agreement contains the following information:
- Duration of the lease
- Rent exclusive of utility costs (“Kaltmiete”)
- Utility costs (gas, water, waste collection, etc.)
- Period of notice (usually 3 months)
- Renovation requirements (you are usually required to renovate the apartment once: either when you move in or when you move out)
- House rules
Lease agreements can also contain a sublet agreement. This comes into play when more than one person lives in the apartment, e.g. for the purpose of a flat share. In these cases, a primary tenant rents the entire apartment from the landlord and sublets it to another person or multiple people. Usually, the primary tenant also lives in the apartment.
If you need legal advice regarding your lease agreement, please contact a local tenants’ protection association.
Most landlords require you to pay a refundable deposit before you move in. The deposit sum can be up to three times the rent (exclusive of utilities) plus VAT (19%). You will get the deposit back when you move out. The landlord must pay interest on the deposit. For this reason, it is transferred to a special account that does not belong to your landlord.
Rent and utilities
In Germany, rent payments are made monthly. You can pay via direct debit or a standing order. You have to pay your basic rent (“Kaltmiete”) plus utilities. The rent only covers the rooms in which you live. Utilities additionally cover gas (heating), water, waste disposal and, in some cases, cleaning services. The total sum of your rent and utilities is called “Warmmiete”.
You must register for electricity, an internet connection and a telephone line yourself. They are not included in the utilities. Consult price comparison portals on the internet to find suitable suppliers. Rates can vary considerably. It can take several weeks for the internet to be connected in a new apartment. If possible, apply for your internet connection several weeks before you move in.
The costs for your heating, gas, water and electricity usually depends on how much you use. You will pay a fixed monthly sum based on your average usage. Once a year, the municipality will have your meters read to determine how much exactly you have used. If you have paid too much, you will receive a reimbursement. If you have paid too little, you will have to cover the difference.
Tenants are well protected in Germany. The formalities surrounding the lease agreement and the handover of the rented property are correspondingly detailed.
As a tenant, there are certain things to keep in mind when you move in. During the handover of the apartment, you and your landlord need to write a handover report. This report details all damage and faults that already exist in the property before your move-in date. It records the state of the walls, floors, ceilings, windows, radiators, bathroom and kitchen. Do not forget to take a note of the meter readings (water, gas, electricity). Otherwise, you might be charged the wrong sum for your utilities. The report also specifies the number of keys that are handed over.
Do not hesitate to be very precise during the handover. This prevents possible disagreements when you move out. You can also take pictures. You (the tenant) and your landlord will sign the handover report. Each of you receives a copy.
You need to register your residence and your new address at the residents’ registration office (“Einwohnermeldeamt”, also known as “Bürgeramt” or “Bürgerbüro”). After moving into your new home, you have one week to complete your registration. The residents’ registration office will welcome you as a new resident of the municipality, and you will receive an orientation folder containing information about the region.
You need to register in person and complete a registration form. Do not forget to bring your ID!
Every German household pays a public broadcasting licence fee to receive public television channels, radio and the internet. You will receive a letter from the “ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice” shortly after registering at the residents’ registration office. At the moment, the licence fee is EUR 17.50 per month, regardless of how many people live in the apartment.