Renting in Germany
Understand your rights as a tenant when renting in Germany with this guide to the German rental market and tips on where to look for a house to rent in Germany.
While most countries swing strongly in favour of either renting or buying your home, the options are balanced in Germany, with just under half the population renting their accommodation. More than half of the population live in apartments, making detached family houses somewhat harder to find, particularly in urban areas.
Housing costs are relatively low in Germany. Average rents in Munich are the highest in Germany but only just a third of average rents in London. Most Germans spend less than 30 percent of their income on housing.
Should you rent or buy in Germany?
House prices and rents have risen dramatically in Germany in the last decade, with rents rising 15 percent between 2008–2013 and house prices rising 23 percent in the same period. There are no restrictions for expats looking to purchase a property, making it an attractive investment for many expats planning on staying three years or more – i.e. long enough to defray the purchase costs. Find out more in Expatica's guide to buying a home in Germany.
Online estate agent Immobilien Scout reported in 2015 the most expensive German cities to rent were respectively Freiburg im Breisgau, Munich, Regensburg, Heidelberg, Würzburg Frankfurt, Hamburg, Trier, Stuttgart, and Berlin, where residents were paying some 20–30 percent of their income towards rent, or more than 40 percent in popular neighbourhoods. This, however, still compared favourably to the average of some 70 percent of income that London residents were paying for rent.
If you're looking for a bargain, a flat share (wohngemeinschaft) is usually cheaper than living alone. These are often arranged informally, usually when someone rents out a spare room, and can be found through flat-sharing websites as well as forums and message boards. It's important to remember that without a contract, you will find it hard to insist on your rights as a tenant.
Finding temporary housing and furnished apartments
Sub-letting is legal in Germany and can be an option for temporary accommodation. Good places to find sub-lets are usually among your network of friends and acquaintances and on the internal message boards of large organisations. Several online portals, such as Tempoflat.com and others mentioned below, allow you to search furnished apartments and flat shares.
Online property portals
- Immobilien Scout 24 (German only)
- Immowelt (German only)
- Wohnungsbörse (German only)
- immobilo (German only)
Flat shares (wohngemeinschaft) and furnished apartments
- Studenten-WG (German only)
- Tempoflat.com is an online portal that specialises in commission-free, furnished lodgings for short- and mid-term rental (one month to two years).
Properties advertised in Germany usually state their size in square meters of living space (wohnfläche), as well as indicating the number of bedrooms (schlafzimmer) and bathrooms (badezimmer). In addition, some sites list the total number of rooms (which typically doesn't include bathrooms), the energy rating, and the year of construction.
Many German properties are let unfurnished, often without curtains, light fittings and kitchen appliances.
Apartments may be in divided former family homes, such as farms or town houses, but purpose-built apartment blocks and tower blocks are also common. A split town house may be called a mehrfamilienhaus, while appartementhauser or wohnblock is more common for purpose-built apartments, although the terms are somewhat interchangeable. A wohnsilo is a somewhat derogatory term for a tower block, i.e. an apartment building with dozens or hundreds of units spread over eight or more floors.
- An application form, usually handed out at the viewing;
- Copies of your photo ID and residence permit (if you require one);
- Proof of income (einkommensnachweis), typically wage slips for the last three months;
- A certificate from your previous landlord indicating you have no outstanding rent due (mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung);
- Your credit report (you can order this online through Schufa).
If you don't have one of these documents, for example because you've just arrived in Germany, you should indicate the reasons for this on your application. You may be able to increase your chances of success in a competitive market by including a letter from your employer (in lieu of proof of income) or asking a friend or relative to act as a guarantor (if you have no reliable income, e.g. as a student).
Minimum tenancies can be long in Germany where it's not uncommon for a landlord to request an initial lease period of two years. Make sure the lease agreement includes all the relevant details, and that you understand the conditions for breaking the agreement before the end of the initial contract period.
Most tenancies are unlimited, which means that once the tenancy has begun, the landlord can only end it by evicting the tenant through the courts or giving at least three months' notice. This notice can be contested by the tenant, and will usually only be accepted where the landlord has a good reason for the notice being given. Likewise, rent increases should be justified, unless they follow a scheme laid down in the tenancy agreement.
Limited contracts exist where the landlord has a good reason for being unable to continue renting the property after a certain period, such as a need to use it themselves or planning to sell. These are rarely extended or renewed.
In both cases, The tenant can give notice according to their contract. A three-month notice period is typical after the initial contract period.
Cost of renting a home in Germany
Renting a two bedroom apartment will typically cost upwards of EUR 300 per month. This will be higher in popular areas and large cities. A two bedroom apartment in Berlin, for example, will typically be upwards of EUR 400. In each case, you can easily double or triple these estimated minimums by looking for a central location or a larger, family property.
It is also worth noting that rooms are typically on the smaller side (particularly by American standards), with two bedroom apartments under 65 square metres being common. Average rents in Germany are typically described as a cost per square metre, and the low end of the market ranges from around EUR 4 per square metre (Dresden) to EUR 7 (Berlin) to EUR 12 (Munich).
Thanks to heavy international investment plus an economy which weathered the financial crisis relatively well, Germany's properties are in demand and rents are rising across the board. As legislation restricts rental increases for existing tenants, prices are often increased dramatically when a new lease is arranged. This means that even if you take over a lease from a friend or rent an identical unit in the same building, the rent for the new lease may be much higher. Sky-rocketing rents in certain areas have lead to demonstrations and protests. New legislation may be brought in to limit the increases but in the meantime renters should be particularly aware of rent increase clauses in contracts.
A deposit (kaution) is usually requested by the landlord and is commonly equal to three months' rent – it should not be more than this, and should be deposited in a special savings account.
Utility costs are not typically included in the rent – but this should be laid out in the tenancy agreement. The property will typically be described as kaltmiete, literally the 'cold rent', i.e. without heating or utilities. A warmmiete will include heating and possibly the other costs (nebenkosten) such as management fees and other utilities.
Find a house in Germany using Expatica's housing search.
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Updated: 2013; July 2015.
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