As in all large metropolises, the housing market is very competitive in the cities in the FrankfurtRheinMain (FRM) region. Therefore, you should allow enough time to look for an apartment and start looking as early as possible. Here you can find out what documents you need, what you need to look out for in a rental contract, and where you have to register after moving in.
Housing advertisements are usually published in German and contain many abbreviations, from AB (Altbau = old building) to ZH (Zentralheizung = central heating). If you are familiar with these abbreviations you will find it easier to understand the adverts. It could well save you viewing flats that do not fit your needs. We have compiled an overview of the most important abbreviations here.
The number of rooms mentioned in a German housing advert always refers to all of the rooms except for the kitchen, bathroom(s) and hallway. In Germany, fitted kitchens are not always included. In some cases, you may either have to install one yourself or you can buy the kitchen from the previous tenant.
“Abstand” means that you pay some money to your landlord or the previous tenant for items you wish to keep, such as the kitchen. Unfortunately, in these competitive housing markets, the prices being asked for these items are extortionate, If you decline to make this payment, the landlord might reject your application. You should always weigh up whether it is worth paying for these items.
Never transfer money to anyone before you sign the rental contract! On commercial property portals online, especially in big cities, you will sometimes find fake adverts for apartments which do not exist. You can often spot these scams as the rent is a lot lower than similar apartments.
In general you will have to prove that you have enough money to pay your rent every month. Many landlords require proof of income from the past three months. If you are unable to provide this because you are starting a new job in FRM, you can submit your employment contract instead. Alternatively, someone can act as a guarantor and agrees to pay your rent if you are not able to.
In addition, you will have to provide a credit rating, Schufa-Auskunft, as proof of your creditworthiness. Foreigners can only obtain a credit rating after opening a bank account in Germany. Often you can request an equivalent credit rating from your country of origin instead. Alternatively you can use a guarantor.
We recommend that you bring all of the required documents in a folder when you view an apartment. This can give you a head start over other applicants as viewings often take place with many prospective tenants at the same time.
Renting an Apartment
You can rent an apartment from a private landlord, a municipality or a company. Apartments are often rented out through estate agents or property management companies and not directly from the landlord. In Germany, estate agents are paid by the person who hires them. This means that if you hire an estate agent to find a suitable flat for you, you will have to pay them a fee. If an estate agent shows you an apartment that you found on the internet, for example, they will be paid by the landlord.
An apartment is officially rented out once you sign the rental contract. It is legally binding for the tenant and the landlord. Before signing the contract, you should read it carefully and make sure that you understand everything in it. In addition you should never move into an apartment without signing a rental contract.
A rental contract contains the following information:
- Duration of the contract
- Basic rent, „Kaltmiete“ (excluding utilities)
- Utilities (heating, water, waste disposal, etc.)
- Notice period (usually 3 months)
- Renovation requirements (you may be required to renovate the apartment when you move in or out, depending on yur rental contract and the length of your tenancy)
- House rules
Another feature of rental contracts is the subletting agreement. This comes into play when more than one person lives in the apartment, e.g. in a flatshare. In this case, the main tenant rents the apartment from the landlord and sublets it to one or more people. The main tenant normally also lives in the apartment.
If you need legal advice regarding your rental contract, you can contact the local Tenants’ Association, „Mieterverein“.
Most landlords require you to pay a deposit before you move in. The deposit can be up to three times the basic rent (excluding utilities). It is refunded when you move out, as long as your rent has been fully paid and there is no damage to the flat. The landlord must pay interest on the deposit. Therefore, it is transferred to a special account and not directly to your landlord.
Rent and Utilities
Rent in Germany is paid on a monthly basis either by direct debit or a standing order. It is made up of the basic rent (“Kaltmiete”) plus utilities. The basic rent only covers the rooms in which you live. Utilities cover costs for heating, water, waste disposal and, in some cases, house cleaning services. The sum of your basic rent and utilities is called “Warmmiete”.
Electricity, an internet connection and a telephone line are not included in the rent and you have to register for these separately. You will find suitable providers on specific online portals with comparisons of the various options. Rates can vary considerably. It often takes several weeks for the internet to be connected in a new apartment. Therefore, if possible, apply for your internet connection several weeks before you move in.
In general, the cost for your heating, water and electricity depends on how much you use. You pay a fixed monthly sum based on your average consumption. Once a year, the meters are read to determine actual consumption. If you have paid too much, you will be reimbursed. If you have paid too little, you will have to cover the difference.
In Germany tenants have a lot of rights and the formalities around the rental contract and the handover of the apartment are just as precise.
As a tenant, there are a few things to bear in mind when you move in. During the handover of the apartment, a handover report is written, in which details of current damage and defects in the apartment are noted. It records the state of the walls, floors, ceilings, windows and radiators, as well as the bathroom and kitchen. Make sure you take a note of the meter readings for water, gas and electricity, otherwise, you may be charged the wrong sum for your utilities. The report also specifies the number of keys that are handed over.
It is advisable to be very thorough during the handover to avoid any disagreements when you move out. You can also take pictures. You (the tenant) and your landlord will sign the handover report and each of you will receive a copy.
You need to register yourself and your new address at the registration office, the “Einwohnermeldeamt”, often referred to as the “Bürgeramt” or “Bürgerbüro”. After moving into your new home, you have one week to do so. Registration must be done in person, and you will need your ID card or passport and a registration form.
Each household in Germany has to pay a TV licence fee, which funds public broadcasting institutions (state television channels, radio and internet). Shortly after you register, you will receive a letter from the “ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice”. At the moment, the licence fee is EUR 17.50 per month, regardless of how many people live in the apartment.