The search for somewhere to live should start before you enter Germany: should you be lucky enough to have friends or acquaintances living in the place where you are coming be sure to ask them to start helping you look for somewhere well before you arrive. If not, there are several organisations which may be able to help you if you approach them well enough in advance.
If you don't know anyone in Germany when looking for somewhere to rent you may want to use a rental agency (Makler). This can be expensive, in that the agent fee is paid by the tenant, but they do take a lot of the hassle out of it and generally earn their money. The fee usually is two months "netto" rent, that is the rent without the utilities, plus VAT (MWst) currently 19%. The agent fee is only due when you sign the contract, not earlier.
You could also consider using a relocation expert, anyone who has watched "Get a New Life" will know what they can do for you. It is nice to have someone to ask for help.
Finding somewhere to live in Germany
Most people who come to Germany to live, rent somewhere. Buying a house in Germany doesn't seem as expensive as it once did, due to the price rises in the UK, but there still aren't many people, if any (let me know if you are one), who come here to farm olive trees or make wine. I thought about writing a book about my life here but realised no-one would want to read "A year in Hessen" the tale of two British expats and their tiny garden (which is all they can afford) and her husband's constant battle with ivy (which we are still fighting). That said, if you are here for the long haul, it is something to consider, just don't expect to get mega rich by flipping houses, or through property speculation. There's a brief guide to buying a house here.
You should start with a clear idea of what you are looking for and how much you are prepared to pay. It isn't uncommon here to end up paying up to one-third of your income in rent.
Rent is calculated per square meters (pro Quadratmeter), the larger the flat or house the less rent per sqm (cellars do not count in the calculation). Rooms with dormer roofs are counted as half the actual floor space.
The rent in Germany can consist of the net rent (Kaltmieten) or the net rent plus the utilities (Warm) this is sometimes called all-in rent (Pauschalmiete). This does sometimes include heating, sometimes also electricity. Normally though electricity is not included. If heating is provided by gas then usually the bill has to be paid directly to the gas providing company. The rent you pay can be with or without utilities from case to case - check.
You will also have to pay a deposit which can be up to three months rent. This deposit is kept by the landlord as a security for rent and furniture and in the end if everything is OK you will get this back, normally with the interest accrued.
If your gas or electricity costs must be paid separately, the meter must be read at the hand-over and the details sent to the appropriate provider.
Every year you will be charged (Betriebskosten / Nebenkosten), these cover rubbish collections, water/sewage, and heating for an unfurnished apartment and are usually charged seperately, you will normally have paid for them monthly and at the end of the year there should be an official invoice (Nebenkostenabrechnung) - the landlord will either owe you money or you will owe him money, but ask to see a complete breakdown of the costs, don't just hand the money over.
You should request an English translation of the contract, for which you may have to pay, but it is worth it. At least take someone with you who understands German and can translate the document or take the document away with you to have it translated, don't sign anything you don't understand!
When you move in to the property any defects present in the apartment should be noted in a hand-over protocol. If we carry out the hand-over it is compulsory, it avoids unpleasant discussions at the end of the lease about defects which were already present at the beginning of the tenancy. If any further defects come to light at the beginning of the tenancy (1st week), report them immediately to us or to your landlord. There is also usually an inventory list which helps to make the hand-over and return of the apartment easier.
To register personally for a telephone call Deutsche Telekom on 0800-3301 000. The process is usually easier if you have the telephone number of the previous tenant. It usually takes approx. 7-15 work days to get the telephone connected
When you look in the local papers you will find lots of abbreviations describing the accommodation, some of the most common ones are:-
|Ab sof.||ab sofort||available immediately|
|DHH||Doppelhaus-Hälfte||Semi detached house|
|EBK/ E-Kü||Einbauküche||fitted kitchen|
|kalt||Kaltmiete||rent without additional facilities|
|KT / K||Kaution||security deposit|
|MFH||Mehrfamilienhaus||A detached house with more than one living area (usually split into flats)|
|warm||Warmmiete||rent including additional facilities|
|Wfl||Wohnfläche||living area of flat|
|WG||Wohngemeinschaft||sharing with room mates|
|ZH||Zentral Heizung||central heating|
|zzgl NK||zuzüglich Nebenkosten||plus additional costs|
|3 Zi.-Whg||3 Zimmer Wohnung||3 room flat|
|3 ZKDB||3 Zimmer, Kuche, Diele, Bad||three rooms plus kitchen, hallway, bath|
When you rent a house or flat you will have to sign a contract. These are usually standard pre-printed forms, however as in any contract you must read it and understand it before you sign it, if you do not speak German ask a native speaker to help you.
Contracts must include the following information:-
- The basic rent
- All extra charges - heating, water, sewarage charges, rubbish collection, street cleaning
- Length of contract (anything from six months to five years)
- Length of notice required
!Note - Electricity is usually charged direct to the tenant.
You should also go through the flat or house carefully, with the landlord, make a checklist and note down damage (scuffs, scratches, dents) or missing items. Make an inventory if you are renting a furnished abode.
When signing the contract you will need to provide proof of registration (Anmeldung) and income, a pay slip or work contract is usually acceptable. Don't sign anything you don't like the sound of, even if the landlord or agent says "Oh, don't worry we won't hold you to that." They lie you know.
When we moved into our first unfurnished flat I thought the previous tenants had vandalised it. No wallpaper, no sockets, no light fittings or kitchen. But seemingly this is normal so prepare yourself. By unfurnished they mean rent a space, roof, 4 walls and a floor are included. If however you rent a furnished apartment the landlord usually has to pay the costs of the regular painting of walls, doors, windows etc., if you rent an unfurnished apartment you incur these costs.
However there are advantages to renting unfurnished. If you rent furnished you are required to completely redecorate the apartment to a professional standard or at least to pay some of the costs before you move out. On a short-term let you only pay decorating costs if there is obvious wear and tear or damage, but if you have agreed a longer rental period (over 1 year) you may have to have this work carried out.
On renting an unfurnished flat you leave the place the way you found it. It hurts ripping down perfectly good wallpaper though, believe me it hurts, especially when you are the one who put it up there!
If you suddenly have to return to the UK and need to end the contract early it can get a little sticky. Generally contracts are limited to between two and five years. Termination before the expiry date require different periods of notice, dependant on the length of your residency. Up to two years usually requires 3 months' notice, between 2 and 5 years six months', and over 5 years 12 months' notice.
Always ask to see how much the extra charges (Betriebskosten / Nebenkosten) are, otherwise you could get a nasty surprise at the end of the year, especially if the monthly installments are set too low.
If you wish to be freed early from a fixed contract you may be charged a fee (Weitervermietungsaufwand) to cover the landlords' costs in finding a new tenant. Hopefully you will be able to come to an equitable agreement, offering to find a new, suitable tenant (Nachmieter) for the landlord usually suffices.