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Renting in Germany: Sealing the Deal
The Rental Agreement
When you visit an apartment, sometimes the current tenants will show it to you, in the landlord’s absence. This is especially the case if it’s a cooperative flat or if the date for moving in is still further off. This is a good opportunity to ask the tenants about the neighborhood and their general living conditions.
Your future landlord will probably want to know about your occupational status and your current employer. He or she may ask questions about your family income and even demand bank statements or records of your previous conduct as a tenant. It is best to ask your potential landlord which documents he needs exactly.
If you have pets in Germany, do not try to conceal this fact. Some landlords may be reluctant to accept tenants with pets, but in this case the apartment might not be the home of your choice anyway. If you intend to stay in Germany for a short time only, a suspicious landlord might be afraid not to get their due rent while being unable to sue you for your debt when you’re off and gone. In this case, you will need some extra powers of persuasion.
Signing the Lease
When signing the rental contract or when the keys are handed over, make sure that a complete record about the current condition of the apartment is made together with the landlord. Pay attention to details (cracked tiles in the bathroom, broken window handles, scratches on the wooden floor panels etc.) and have them written down. This protects you from being held responsible for pre-existing damages at the end of your lease. The record (Übergabeprotokoll) must also include the number of keys as well as the meter readings for electricity, water, and heating.
The contract itself is usually very detailed. If your German skills are not sufficient, have a native speaker read the document for you. With your signature the rental agreement becomes binding, except for passages that are not complicit with current legal standards. Generally speaking, you should always check the following rental conditions:
- How much is the rent?
- What do utility costs include?
- How much is the monthly fee for heating? Is it enough, or do you expect additional payments to the energy provider?
- Is there a janitor, or do the various tenants take turns cleaning the staircase? Do you have any other obligations (e.g. tending a shared garden or shoveling snow in winter)?
- Do you have to rent a garage or parking space together with the flat?
- Is (hot) water included in the costs?
- Does your landlord provide cable TV? Is it available at all?
- Whom can you turn to in case of emergencies and necessary repairs?
- Is there a locked storage room available?
- What does the contract say about redecoration and repairs when moving out?
- How much is the deposit, and who administrates the account?
- What is the time period for giving notice?
- Deutscher Mieterbund (German)
- Rent indices for different cities in Germany (German)
- Cities with the highest average rents in Germany (German)
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