What should I know before signing a rental contract in Germany?
A rental contract (Mietvertrag) is an agreement between the tenant and owner (landlord) signed before the tenant moves into the rental apartment. If you would like to know how to find an apartment or flatshare in Germany please read my previous blog: How to find an apartment in Germany? Here is the list of things you should keep in mind before you sign the rental contract:
Go through the apartment rental contract carefully
This contract contains details about the apartment, in addition to the rights and obligations of tenant and owner (landlord).
Have a look at Cold (Kaltmiete) and Warm rent (Warmiete). Warmiete = Kaltmiete + Nebenkosten (Utilities) Take a note of what is included in the Nebenkosten. Sometimes electricity (Storm), Heating (Heizung), etc. may not be included in the Nebenkosten (esp. for Wohnung / haus). You may have to register separately with the respective service providers and pay directly to them (of course in addition to the Nebenkosten).
Also, have a look if the Garage / Stellplatz (parking) cost is included in the contract or you have to pay extra (if applicable).
Check if the contract contains a copy of general rules and regulations of the house (Hausordnung). Having a copy of the Hausordnung is esp. important if you are renting an apartment in a building with many tenants.
Get the advice of a German friend/colleague if you feel that you cannot understand some parts of the rental contract or some unusual conditions are present.
Breaking the terms of the contract (and rules mentioned in the hausordnung) can give your landlord the legal right to kick you out of the apartment. This sometimes comes as a shock to people from less regulated countries.
Usually, the rent must be paid every month.
Check the date by which you should pay the rent every month (usually the start of the month). For example, my contract states that I should pay the rent within the first 3 working days of the month.
Most landlords expect rent to be paid by automatic bank transfer or standing order; this is specified in the contract as well.
Check the deposit amount (Kaution) in the contract.
It cannot be more than three times the cold rent.
The deposit must be refunded to you when you move out.
However, if you make any damages to the rented property, the owner may deduct the amount from the deposit.
The landlord must also ensure that you receive the current rate of interest on the deposit for the whole rental period (This may not be the case in WGs).
Upcoming post: Renting an apartment without needing to pay deposit – Mietbürgschaft (subscribe to our blog at end of this post to be informed)
Length of contract and notice period
Check the length of the agreement (how long you are allowed to live in the apartment) and the notice period.
The notice period applies if either you or your owner wants to cancel the rental contract. Practically speaking, the landlord can only terminate the contract under these three conditions:
because the tenant has breached his contractual obligations, or
if the owner can credibly establish that he (or a close family member) wants to move into the flat or house himself or
Continuing the lease would prevent the owner from making appropriate commercial use of the property.
In an open-ended contract, the notice period is usually 3 month. Any different conditions must be present in the contract or separately in writing.
It is usually not a good idea to sign a rental contract that states a fixed number of years/months unless you are very sure that you will stay there exactly for that long. For example, if your contract states 4 years (without mentioning a notice period), then the owner may not allow you to terminate the contract even if you want to move out after two years. My recommendation is to never sign such a contract without consulting with an expert.
Check your obligations on any renovations you should make when moving in or out of the apartment. Many apartments need you to paint the apartment either while moving in or just before moving out. Also, check who is responsible for making repairs during your rental period.
Have a look at the apartment contract as to who is responsible for cleaning the stairs, garden, sidewalk, etc. It could be your responsibility and failing to do so on a timely basis can cause issues later on. For example, if you are responsible for cleaning the snow/ice on the sidewalk, then you can be held liable for any injuries caused because of uncleaned snow/ice on the sidewalk.
In a building with many tenants, there is often a handyman/caretaker (Hausmeister). He/she is responsible for maintaining everything and making repairs.
Before moving into the apartment, make sure you have received all the keys mentioned in the contract.
If you lose a key, you will be liable for paying for replacement of the lock(s) and new keys. If the key, belongs to a common area (for example, the main door to the building), you will be liable not only for the locks and keys for yourself, but you will also have to pay for a copy of the key for everyone else who lives in the apartment.
If you forget the keys in the house/apartment and have no other means of going in again to get them, then inform the owner/caretaker (Hausmeister) immediately. They may have an extra key. If not, you may have to pay them a hefty amount to call a locksmith to open the door for you (locksmith may charge more on the weekend!).
Internet cost is usually not included in the rent (esp. for Wohnung / Haus).
Additionally, you may have to pay for Radio service. It is compulsory for most residents in Germany to pay this fee. It can be as much as Euro 17,50 per month.
If you have any pets, obtain a written permission from the Owner that you are allowed to keep them in the apartment.
Before moving in, it is a good idea to visit the apartment with the owner and have a list of everything that is present in the apartment. Make a note of any damages/defects present on the Walls, floor, doors, windows, etc. If you observe any mold (Schimmel, in German) notify the owner. This list should be signed by the owner and must be kept by you.
Now that you know what should you know before signing the contract. Let us move on to living in an apartment in Germany.
General advice while living in an apartment in Germany
Quiet hours: loud noises between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and from 10 pm to 7am should be avoided from Monday to Saturday and all day on Sunday
Garbage separation: Most cities in Germany require separation of garbage. Ask your apartment/house owner regarding how you should separate the garbage.
Washing and drying clothes should only be done in areas or room provided for it.
Inform the landlord immediately of any damage to gas, water or electrical lines.
Never Grill, BBQ or make an open fire on the balcony or any area not specially designated for it.
Ventilate the house thoroughly to avoid mold (schimmel) formation. Keep the windows completely open for at least 5 minutes every day, even in winter. If needed, use dehumidifiers.
Close and lock all doors and windows in your apartment during periods of extended absence.
Install satellite dishes and television or radio antennas only with the permission of the landlord and in compliance with local laws.
Register your residence in Germany (Meldebescheinigung) at Rathaus. This should be done within 2 weeks of moving into a new apartment.
Mieterverein (tenants association)
Tenant associations are associations of tenants in Germany. They represent the interests of the tenants in the catchment area of their association (for example, when determining the rent level) and provide information on all tenancy issues. In that regard, they carry out the tasks of consumer protection.
Many tenants register for membership of a tenants association. There is a fee for membership. For example, DMB Landesverband Rheinland-Pfalz e.V. charges a membership fee of around 100€ per year.
If you have a membership for such an association, they will provide you with free advice and cheaper out-of-court representations. In addition, members often have the option to take out a reduced legal expenses insurance only for rental disputes.
Next up I will be covering topic “Renting an apartment without needing to pay deposit – Mietbürgschaft“. If you want to stay informed please subscribe to our blog or like us on facebook.
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After completing his Master’s degree from Technical University of Kaiserslautern in Germany, Gautam Gala continued as a PhD student at the same university. His research involves software for safety critical systems like Aeroplanes. He has a number of Scientific publications in collaboration with industries and other universities around Europe and is working with EU-supported projects like DREAMS and SECREDAS. A Mountain biker, Skier, Hiker, Globetrotter, Gentleman and Engineer, always hopeful of fun & adventure.