Rental Contracts in Germany [Ultimate 2023 English Guide on Rental Agreements]
Updated: May 8
Understand the terms and conditions of the tenancy agreement in Germany. By knowing your housing rights, you can negotiate the lease terms better.
In Germany, there are two types of rent; cold rent (Kaltmiete) and warm rent (Warmmiete). Warm rent is the sum of cold rent, utilities, and extras.
Check how the rent will increase over time. The landlord cannot increase the rent by more than 20% (15% in some states) within 3 years.
The default duration of a tenancy agreement is indefinite. Thus, the landlord needs a strong reason for drafting a fixed-period lease agreement.
Beware of the rental property scams in Germany.
The tenant can cancel the rental contract by giving the landlord a 3 months notice in writing. But, the landlord cannot cancel the tenancy agreement without a valid reason.
Every resident in Germany has to register at the city's local town hall within 2 weeks of moving to a new city or house.
Table of contents
How to cancel the rental agreement
Liability of the landlord, use of the property, subletting, house rules, and pet policy
A rental contract has the following sections:
1. Personal information of both parties
This section contains the following information about all the tenants and landlords.
Dates of birth
2. Rental property details
Here you will find
The address of the property
Portions of the property rented to you. For example, garden, parking space, rooms, etc.
Number of keys given to the tenant
Furniture, fitted kitchen, etc., rented along with the property.
3. Duration of the lease agreement
It states when the tenancy starts and ends.
Usually, rental agreements in Germany are valid for an indefinite period. But, the landlord or the tenant can draft an agreement for a fixed duration.
In Germany, laws favor tenants. Hence, the landlord must fulfill certain conditions to draft a limited-time contract.
For example, a landlord can only draw a limited-time contract if (s)he or their relatives need the property. In this scenario also, the landlord needs to prove that (s)he or their relative does not have any other place to live.
There are many such scenarios, so consult a professional or tenants' union (Mieterverein) for advice when in doubt.
💡NOTE: German tenancy law overrules the terms and conditions of the rental contract. Which means, the clauses in the rent contract must follow the German law, else they are invalid.
4. How to cancel the tenancy agreement
It mentions how a tenant and the landlord can cancel the rental agreement.
Typically, the tenant can cancel the lease by giving the landlord a 3 months notice in writing. The tenant is not required to provide a reason for terminating the rental contract.
But, the landlord cannot cancel the tenancy agreement without a strong reason.
5. Rent details
It details the following
5.1 Rent break-up
In Germany, there are two types of rent; cold rent (Kaltmiete) and warm rent (Warmmiete).
Cold rent is the property's rent. It does not include utility costs, parking, furniture, or anything else.
Warm rent is the total rent the tenant must pay, including all the charges.
It may look like the following:
Installed kitchen and furniture rent
Utility cost (Betriebskosten)
5.2 How will the rent increase over time?
There are two ways landlords can increase the rent in Germany.
Index rent (Indexmiete): In Indexmiete, the rent increases as the living expenses or inflation in Germany increases. You can calculate the increase in rent using the following formula. Percentage index increase = ((New index level / Old index level) x 100) – 100 Let's assume the cold rent has been 600 € since 2019, and the consumer price index (CPI) was 106.6 points. By 2022, the CPI will increase to 109.3 points. Thus, per the formula, the rent should increase by 2.5 %. ((109.3 / 106.6) x 100) – 100 = 2.5 % In other words, the rent increases by 2.5 percent from 600 euros to 615 euros.
Graduated rent (Staffelmiete): In Staffelmiete, the rent will increase over time. The landlord mentions in the contract when and by how much the rent will increase.
⚖️ Know Your Rights: - The landlord cannot increase the rent in the first year of tenancy. - The landlord cannot increase the rent by more than 20% within 3 years. - In some states, the government reduced the rent increase within 3 years to 15%.
5.3 What do the utility costs include?
It details what comes under the utility costs. It generally includes the following:
Housemaster's salary, if any
Cleaning of the common areas and snow in winter (Winterdienst)
Rainwater fee: A fee to process the rainwater from your property
Garden maintenance, if any
Heating, if the building has central heating
Television or internet cable costs
Electricity costs of the common areas
Elevator costs, if any
It may include other costs, but these are the most common.
⚖️ Know Your Rights: The landlord has to provide the yearly statement of the utility costs. If the amount you paid is more than the actual expense, the landlord will reimburse the difference.
5.4 By when and where to pay the rent?
The section includes the bank details of the landlord or the renting company. It also mentions by what date of the month tenant has to pay the rent.
Some rental companies ask tenants to sign a SEPA direct debit mandate. According to it, the tenant permits the landlord to debit their account.
This way, you don't have to pay the rent every month. Instead, the rental company will debit the rent from your bank account.
6. Security deposit (Kaution)
In this section, you can find the amount tenant has to pay as a security deposit to the landlord.
It also mentions when the tenant will get the security back after ending the rental agreement. The period is usually 3 months.
⚠️ WARNING: Many landlords do not return the security within 3 months. They hope that the expat may return to their homeland and forget about it. It is both illegal and unethical. If you find yourself in this situation, send a written complaint to the landlord. You can also contact a tenants' union (Mieterverein) for help.
You should also be aware of the rental property scams in Germany. The scammers try to gain your trust using different techniques in these scams.
After scammers have your trust, they will ask for a security deposit. Once you transfer the rental security, the scammers disappear with your money.
One way to protect yourself against such scams is to use forms other than cash to pay the security deposit.
7. Liability of the landlord, use of the property, subletting, house rules, and pet policy
This section explains
What is the landlord's liability regarding the structural health of the property building?
What comes under the tenant's responsibility while using the rental property? For example, keeping the property clean, ventilating it, keeping it free of vermin, etc.
The clause regarding whether the tenant can sublet the property or not.
The rules concerning visitors visiting the tenant for more than 6 weeks.
It also contains the pet policy defined by the landlord.
The tenant should negotiate these terms with the landlord before signing the contract.
8. Maintenance obligations of the rental property
Here you can find the following details:
Who is liable to pay for the damage caused by the negligence of the tenant or their guests? Usually, it is the tenant who has to bear the costs. Thus, having private liability insurance comes in handy in such situations.
Who pays for the annual maintenance of heaters, boilers, etc.?
9. Inspection of the rented property
It details when the landlord or their representative can inspect the property. It could be
to check the smoke alarms
show the property to potential new tenants
resolve any conflicts, etc.
During what time and day landlord can visit the property?
In emergencies, the landlord reserves the right to enter the property without notice. An emergency could be a pipe burst, fire, or similar event that could damage the rented property significantly.
The landlord is not allowed to have the keys to the rental property once rented to the tenant. It also means that the landlord cannot come unannounced to visit the property.
10. Changes inside and outside the rental property
You might want to renovate the rental property in the future. Thus, it's critical to know what you can renovate and do you need approval for it.
You can find this information in this section.
11. Renovation/cosmetic repairs of the rented property
The tenant has to return the property in the condition he got it. It is a standard in Germany.
Thus, if the tenant moves into a renovated property, they must return it in the same stand. So, if cosmetic repairs are necessary, the tenant must do them before handing over the property.
If the tenant does not make the necessary repairs, the landlord can deduct the costs from the rental security.
Cosmetic repairs include painting the walls, ceilings, doors, windows, etc.
The lease agreement also outlines the time for particular renovations. After that time, the tenant should complete those renovations.
If the tenant didn't execute the renovations at that time, (s)he has to do it when terminating the contract.
12. End of the tenancy
It states what happens in different scenarios when the tenancy ends. For example,
Things the tenant has to do before handing the property over. For example, cleaning the carpets, painting the walls, etc.
What happens to the things left behind by the tenant?
13. House rules of the rental property building
Every apartment building (Mehrfamilienhaus) has house rules. Everyone living in the building has to follow them.
Here are some rules you may find in this section:
Day and time after which you cannot make loud noises.
The time when the central boilers will turn on.
Who is responsible for cleaning the snow during winter.
How to separate the garbage, etc.
⚠️ WARNING: Landlord has the right to terminate your rental agreement if you do not follow the house rules. Landlord can also end your contract, if other residents of the building files a complaint.
14. Obligation to register in the local city hall (Rathaus)
In Germany, every resident must register in the local city hall within 2 weeks of moving to a new city or house. To register, you need the following documents:
Residence card (Visa)
Certificate from your landlord stating that you live at this address (Wohnungsgeberbescheinigung).
Sometimes the lease agreement can have a clause that tenants must register in the local city hall.
People in Germany take the storage and use of personal data seriously. Hence, you will find this section in every German contract.
This section outlines the following data protection terms and conditions.
The landlord is responsible for storing the personal information of the tenant securely.
The landlord cannot share the tenant's personal information without the tenant's consent.
The landlord should collect only the necessary data required to conclude the contract.
The landlord can use the tenant's data for administrative tasks like creating annual utility cost statements.
The tenant can ask the landlord to destroy their personal data. The landlord is obligated to comply with the tenant's request.
16. Energy efficiency certificate
The landlord must provide the tenant with an energy efficiency certificate. The certificate shows how energy efficient the property building is. The more energy efficient it is, the less heating cost you will incur.
17. Other terms and conditions for renting the property
The landlord can add other clauses on top of a standard rental contract. For example, the tenant cannot drill holes in the wall, or the tenant must carry yearly boiler servicing, etc.
The terms and conditions cannot override or contradict German law. Hence, read them carefully and contact a professional in doubt.
Now you know what a standard tenancy agreement in Germany looks like. The format may change a bit, but the content remains the same.
You can contact the Tenants Union (Mieterverein) or a lawyer for advice when in doubt. They can even help you resolve conflicts with your landlord.
Last but not least, beware of the rental property scams in Germany. You can learn everything about them and how to protect yourself here.
11 Mistakes Foreigners Make While Living in a Rented Property in Germany
Tenants Rights in Germany: 5 Important Tenant Laws To Protect Renters in Germany
Disclaimer: This article is for entertainment purposes only. It should not be considered financial, tax, or legal advice. Consult a certified professional before making any major decisions.
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