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Rent and tenancy law

In order to rent accommodation in Germany, you have to conclude a tenancy agreement. The tenancy agreement is an important document. It regulates all the details of the tenancy and is binding on both you and the landlord, on condition that the regulations are permitted under law. You should therefore always read the tenancy agreement very carefully before signing it and then store it carefully.

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Before concluding a tenancy agreement, you should find out all the details about the following, for example

  • how much the rent is,
  • the ancillary costs (in particular the heating costs),
  • how much the deposit is,
  • if tiered rent (Staffelmiete) is charged (rent that is automatically increased on a regular basis),
  • the length of the tenancy (for a fixed term or unlimited period), and
  • any obligations for the tenant to redecorate the accommodation.

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Insist that all agreements be specified in writing in the tenancy agreement as verbal agreements are often disputed later.

In addition to the tenancy agreement, you often have to sign a handover record (Übergabeprotokoll) when you move into new accommodation. Your signature confirms the condition that the accommodation was in when you moved in. Therefore read through the handover record very carefully. Your landlord could hold you responsible later on for defects that are not noted in it.

The landlord can demand a deposit as security. He can use this deposit to pay for repairs if you leave the accommodation in a bad condition when you move out, or use it to settle your rent arrears if you do not pay the rent regularly. The total of the deposit may be the equivalent of three months rent not including utilities (Kaltmiete).

Utilities and refuse disposal

In addition to the rent for the accommodation you must also pay other operating costs – often known as utilities (Nebenkosten) – that are calculated once a year. These costs include costs for heating and water, as well as sewage and refuse collection charges. As a rule, you pay a specific sum in advance every month for ancillary costs and receive a statement at the end of the year. You should check this statement of the ancillary costs very carefully.

In Germany, refuse is collected and disposed of after having been separated into different categories. There are usually separate containers for paper and cardboard, organic waste (fruit and vegetable waste) and all other refuse. In addition there are collection points or containers for other types of refuse, for example for glass and for special refuse (e.g. for dyes and paint).

Being a good neighbour

Statutory provisions in Germany stipulate that there should be no noise that could disturb neighbours between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. (Nachtruhe). In addition, every apartment building has house rules (Hausordnung). This is a voluntary arrangement to which you agree by signing the tenancy agreement. The house rules specify the rules for all residents of the apartment building. You will receive a copy of the house rules from the caretaker of the building or your landlord.

As a tenant of a house or a flat you have specific obligations. For example, you must pay the agreed rent on time. But you also have rights as a tenant, such as if major repair work is needed. If you have questions about tenancy law, the different tenants’ associations (Mieterbund and Mieterverein) are good contacts. They have offices in many towns which you can approach for advice. However, they sometimes charge a fee for their services.

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You can obtain further information in your area from:

  • town, municipal and district administration: housing office
  • tenants' associations (membership fee applies)
  • property management board
  • landlord
  • consumer advice bureaux
Date 17 December 2015

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