Signing a home rental contract in Germany? This is what you need to know

Signing a Home Rental Contract in Germany

Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Get Settled in Germany

Step 1: Find an Apartment
Step 2:
Wohnungsbesichtigungstermin – How to Make Your Future Landlord Pick You
Step 3: Signing a Home Rental Contract – Mietvertrag
Step 4: Getting an Anmeldung in Germany – Registering an Address

So, you’ve finally received the word from your landlord/agent that you’ve been selected for the room/apartment.

The battle might’ve been won, but the war is still not over.

There are a few other things we need to focus on and get them right.

Table of Contents

1. Sign the Home Rental Contract (Mietvertrag)

Before moving into the apartment, the tenant and the landlord must sign a home rental contract (Mietvertrag). As any other contracts, it’s a binding agreement between the two parties along with their respective rights, obligations and the details of the asset (Apartment/Room in our case).

>> DO NOT <<

  • Sign a Contract before visiting the room/apartment i.e. Wohnungsbeschichtigung
  • Pay Rent or Deposit (Kaution – See below) before the contract is signed

Rental Contract (Mietvertrag) can/should include the following details;

  1. Company/Landlord’s full name and address
  2. Address of the Property
  3. Rent Amount (kaltmiete/cold rent)
  4. Additional Costs Amount (Warmmiete/Warm Rent: Heating, Water, Garbage Disposal, Drainage, etc.)
  5. Deposit Amount (Kaution)
  6. Rent Increase Conditions (If applicable – yearly/time-specific increase of rent)
  7. Contract Duration
  8. Period of Notice in case of canceling (can be similar or different for both parties)
  9. Landlord’s Obligation wrt. repairs and maintenance
  10. Permission to keep Pets (If Applicable)
  11. Inventory List of Stuff included with the Apartment (Furniture, Kitchen, Carpet, etc.)
  12. Redecoration/Renovation Agreement
  13. General Rules and Regulation (Hausordnung) (No-noise timing, cleaning and shoveling schedule, and other tenant-to-tenant related responsibilities).

Note: Unless you’re absolutely sure, never sign a contract with a fixed period of time because if for some reason you have to move out earlier than planned, you’d be stuck paying rent for the duration of the remaining months on the contract.

Hausmeister: In a building that houses people, a caretaker is appointed as a contact person for any maintenance and repair-related activities. This person is known as Hausmeister (Translated: House Master)

2. Paying the Deposit (Kaution)

Once you’ve signed the contract, the next step is paying the deposit.

Kaution, or simply Deposit, is a refundable amount you pay for security purposes. It is often 1-3 times the amount of the cold rent mentioned in the contract and by law, it can not exceed 3x monthly rent.   

For payment, you have two options,

  1. Pay it all at once
  2. Pay it in 3 monthly installmentsThis is your right, NOT a choice

When you decide to move out, the apartment/room is inspected and recorded and is then compared to the inspection report from when you moved in. The damages that are incurred during your stay are then repaired and the amount is deducted from the Deposit (Kaution).

Therefore, you either get some money back (If costs of repair are less than the deposit amount), or might have to pay a bill (If costs of repair exceed the deposit amount, you pay the difference)

Tip: ALWAYS pay the Deposit via Bank Transfer with the Payment Reference (Verwendungszweck): Deposit and Rent
This makes sure you have proof of payment.

Note: The landlord has up to 6 months to return your deposit after you move out. This is because the necessary repairs and payment calculations have to be taken into account.

3. Handover of the Keys (Schlüsselübergabe)

Once you’ve signed the contract and paid the deposit, you’re ready to move in.

But wait, something’s missing… isn’t it?

The Keys!

In Germany, there is a separate appointment (sometimes on the same day you sign the contract) between the landlord/agent and the tenant for the following reasons;

i. Apartment Handover Protocol – Übergabeprotokoll

During the meeting, the landlord/agent and the tenant inspect the condition of the room/apartment and record all damages in a report. This report is known as the Übergabeprotokoll.

When you eventually move-out, this report is used as a foundation to assess the damages that have been incurred during your stay which you’ll be liable to pay. Therefore, it is important to focus on the following;

  • Open/Close all the doors and windows and check for any cracks or damages
  • Are there any scratches on the floor? Holes in the walls? Broken pipes/faucets? etc.
  • Is there any sort of water damage to the apartment? walls, floor, bathroom, etc.

Tip: Take Pictures of everything that seems worthy of being recorded e.g. Reader meetings, Water damages ..

ii. Handover of the Keys – Schlüsselübergabe

Once the handover report is taken care off, you’ll receive the keys to the apartment and the mailbox. Here, we need to make sure that;

  • Keys are of the same amount as mention in the Contract/Handover Report
  • Check the keys for all locks and mailbox

iii. Document of Confirmation from Landlord – Wohnungsgeberbestätigung

At the end of the appointment, you’ll get the Document of Confirmation from the Landlord stating that you’ve moved into the apart. You’ll need this for when you go for city registration (Anmeldung).

FAQ about Contract Signing

> Does the contract signing take place in person?
NO – This can be done online and using the postal service as well.

> What if I want to leave my Apartment/Room?
Look at the notice period in your contract – Normally a 3-month period is agreed upon, meaning you’ll have to notify the landlord 3 months prior to your leaving.

> Can the Landlord terminate the contract?
Yes – Some of the conditions are;
i. Repeatedly failing to pay rent on time.
ii. Violating the Tenancy Agreement (subletting rooms illegally, keeping pets etc.)
iii. Not Complying with the General Regulations i.e Hausordnung

Even under legal circumstances, eviction required a notice period.

> Landlord’s Notice Period
Landlord’s notice period is depended on the amount of years the tenant has been living there

Period of Stay – YearsNotice Period – Months

The Landlord must comply with these rules, even for legal eviction purposes.

Final Words

Signing a Home Rental Contract (Mietvertrag) seems like an easy task, but as with everything in Germany, there is a lot of paperwork involved so it would be the worst idea to be informed on the subject.

Once you’ve signed the contract, your next step is to register yourself with the city at the address, also known as anmeldung.

Did I miss an important step in the process? Feel free to remind me in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Signing a home rental contract in Germany? This is what you need to know”

  1. I would like to ask about the rental agreement rules in Germany. What happens if your contract starts on the first of the month but you don’t receive the key until later (i.e., if the first falls on a saturday and they don’t schedule the handover until the following working day)? Are renters still liable for rent on those days?

    1. Hi Alex,

      Interesting question. Unfortunately this needs to be cleared between the two parties. Contractually, you are suppose to receive the keys at an appropriate time, but sometimes it gets delayed as previous renters move out on the last day. It once happened with me where I got the room 4 days too late so I politely asked if I am liable to pay for that week, given the room has been occupied by the previous renter and was told that I don’t have to.

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