The housing situation in Germany ranges from nearly impossible to a piece of cake, depending on the city. In some cities, increasing numbers of immigrants, largely from Eastern European countries as well as the increase in mobility of Germans themselves since the opening of the German-German border have added new dimensions to an already serious housing problem. Please be aware that the quality and cost of housing facilities vary greatly among different German cities.
In major cities, particularly Hamburg, Munich and Cologne, rents can be expensive. It is common for up to half of salary to go towards paying rent. The type of accommodation required by many foreigners can be expensive: furnished or at least partly-furnished apartments rented at short notice and for relatively short periods. Nor is it easy to find apartments for larger families at reasonable rents.
Supply and demand can vary considerably in the course of the year, particularly in cities with a large student population. At the beginning of a term, i.e. in March/April and September/October, there is usually a high demand for accommodation.
Popular areas for the expatriate community are Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich.
Renting a Property
Despite continuous government efforts to increase the number of property owners, rental accommodation is still the most common form of housing in Germany. The German rental market is highly regulated; giving tenants a wide range of protection. Unfortunately, this also sometimes makes it difficult for landlords to get rid of tenants who cause trouble or simply don’t pay their rent. For this reason, some landlords are very cautious when choosing future tenants.
A wide variety of private rental accommodation is available, particularly in the cities, but it is expensive, particularly if you wish to rent furnished accommodation for a relatively short time period. Rental accommodation in Germany varies widely in price and availability. The rent can be anywhere from EUR 300-800 for an apartment and EUR 1,550-2,550 and higher for a house. The majority of rental properties are let unfurnished, excluding even basic facilities such as curtains and kitchen equipment.
Apartments for rent are advertised in the classifieds section of the local newspapers, being placed by the property owners, real estate agents or the existing tenants looking for someone to take over their contract. Estate agencies also deal with rental properties, but they charge the tenant a commission of up to two months’ rent, plus VAT, once a contract has been signed.
It is possible to check whether the rent you are being asked to pay is reasonable, by checking the Mietspeigel, a table which lists rent prices for each town and city. This is held at the town hall, and tenants’ associations will also have a copy for their area. The rent payable usually includes an amount for communal maintenance charges, but utility bills are usually paid separately by the tenant. Most landlords require the rent to be paid by standing order or bank transfer.
It is common practice in Germany for tenants to be asked to redecorate their rented accommodation, either when they move in or move out. It is also common for landlords to require tenants to take out contents insurance and/or personal liability insurance.
On signing the contract, a refundable deposit is usually payable, which may amount to up to three months rent, plus VAT. When the deposit is refunded, the landlord is legally required to pay the tenant any interest earned on the deposit. The landlord can retain all or part of the deposit as necessary to repair any damage to the property caused by the tenant.
The rental contract is called a Mietvertrag, and this typically covers:
Length of the rental agreement;
How much rent is payable, and the schedule of payments and increases;
Details of what the rent includes and excludes (e.g. communal maintenance charges);
Period of notice which must be given by the tenant and the landlord (often 3 months);
Deposit required and details of the interest it will earn;
Any insurance requirements.
The tenant should also be issued with an Inventory of contents (in the case of furnished accommodation) and a copy of the House Rules. In Germany’s tight regulatory climate, it is expected that both parties will follow the terms of the contract strictly and that the tenant will observe the house rules, which cover excessive noise for example. It is apparently common for neighbors to report tenants who break these rules to the police or landlord, and the landlord can legally ask the tenant to leave under such circumstances. Some require tenants to take out contents insurance and/or personal liability insurance.