Which documents are necessary for renting a flat?

Landlords usually require various documents from people who apply for a flat. Without these documents, in principle, you do not have any chance of finding an apartment. The following documents are usually required:

  • Tenant's personal information ("Mieterselbstauskunft"), including your name, your contact details (phone number and e-mail), your job title, your current address, etc. Many landlords and property management companies have their own specific personal information forms which is usually distributed before or during the flat viewing. The applicants usually fill out the form on site and give it back to the company's agent. You can find a sample personal information form ("Mieterselbstauskunft") on www.wohnungsboerse.net.
  • A copy of your Schufa credit report. You can learn more about this report in our chapter "Schufa".
  • Proof(s) of income from the last three months (for employees) or your most recent tax assessment (for the self-employed). If you receive social benefits, you also need a copy of the respective office's confirmation that they will cover the rental costs. You can obtain this confirmation from the staff member responsible for you at the Social Welfare Office or the Job Centre.
  • Proof of Rent Payment Certificate ("Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung"). On this Certificate, your current landlord confirms that you have always paid your rent and there are no arrears to be paid. If you are still living in a refugee accommodation centre, the director of the centre or the staff responsible for you in the Social Welfare Office can prepare you a Rent Payment Certificate.
  • A copy of your passport and residence permit.
  • If applicable, a copy of your WBS; i.e. a document certifying your eligibility for rent subsidised housing. You can find out more in this regard in our chapter "WBS".

You must prepare these documents both in print in a folder and as a PDF file to be sent by e-mail. Some landlords expect the documents to be handed directly during the flat viewing- others may ask you to submit your papers by e-mail. In the latter case, send the necessary documents to the specified address as quickly as possible, as landlords usually prefer to pick the first tenant who meets the requirements.

Tip: You can increase your chances by adding a cover letter to your application- in this letter you can briefly introduce yourself and your family, explain your life situation in Germany and describe your plans for the future (e.g. you will soon start vocational training or a university degree). If you do not speak German well enough yet, it is advisable to give the contact details of a German-speaking friend for further pre-contractual communication. Many landlords are concerned that they may not be able to communicate with their non-German tenants in case of a problem; that is why a German-speaking friend or acquaintance can be quite helpful.

Where should I search?

Some newspapers and magazines still publish housing ads, but internet ads exceed them in number by far, so the best place to start your search is online.

On housing websites, you can specify the rent range, location and other features of the apartment you are searching for and then go through the details of your search result one by one. Many websites also offer you the opportunity to set up an alarm, by which the website would automatically send you a message anytime an apartment matching your search terms is added to their database. On websites like eBay Kleinanzeigen, Immobilienscout24 and Immonet, you can find numerous ads and search for what suits your needs. If you are looking for a room in a shared flat, WG-gesucht is one of the websites you can check. When you are looking for a room in a shared flat, it is worthwhile to take a look at the pin boards in the universities and search local Facebook groups for a suitable room. Alternatively, you can post what you are searching for on these platforms, so others can find you.

Online ads often include images of the place and all necessary information, including rent, utility costs, the date you can move in, and the preferred channels of communication with the landlord. In principle, the landlords expect the applicants to send them a message via the housing website or an email. Write a few short sentences about yourself in this email or message and ask for a flat viewing appointment (“Besichtigungstermin”). You must read the description in each posting carefully and contact the landlord for further questions. Some landlords publish their phone number in the ad, and some prefer communication through message and email. Keep in mind that you should be quick to react when you find a place that fits your needs, as a suitable tenant is often selected pretty fast and the ad vanishes from the internet in no time.


Who can help me with the flat hunting?

In some cities, there are organisations which provide help for individuals who are searching for a flat. Visit our Local Search pages to find out whether there are such supporting organisations in your city or not.  Friends and acquaintances can be of great help- ask them if they can help you in your search. They may know someone who is renting an apartment or looking for a new tenant who can substitute them. The more people know about your search, the higher your chances of ending up with a nice flat.

You can also hire a broker to find you an apartment, but make sure you choose a reliable one. You must only pay a broker if you have successfully signed a contract for the apartment he has found. A broker usually charges you the equal amount of two rents plus the VAT (“Mehrwertsteuer”) for their service.

Beware of scammers and fictitious apartment ads!

As the number of people in looking for apartments is constantly on the rise, many are in urgent need of a flat- and this is a situation the fraudsters misuse to benefit. That is why you should be cautious during your search, mainly when an opportunity seems “too good to be true”, in particular, when an apartment is too cheap or in cases where the other party demands you to transfer the money and promises to send you the keys later.  Same is the case when you are asked to pay the deposit in cash on the flat viewing day. Important: Remember you should never pay before signing an actual rental contract and receiving the keys to the apartment.

If you have decided to hire a property management agents to find you an apartment, make sure you never pay unless the amount of your payment and its purpose is explicitly clarified in a written agreement. The payment should take place when they have successfully found you an apartment. Make sure the property management agent you have found is legitimate- some fraudsters would introduce themselves as a property management agent, take your money but cut contact afterwards.

Where can I get support for my monthly rent when I do not have any income?

If you receive social benefits from the Social Welfare Office or Job Centre, you have to notify them before you start looking for a flat. The Social Welfare Office and Job Centre cover the rental costs up to a certain amount and only if certain conditions are met. So in the first step, you must ask your administrative assistant to endorse your flat-hunting by a written confirmation.

Your administrative assistant can also tell you how high the rent may be and what other conditions there are to fulfil. The permitted amount of rental costs vary from city to city and depends on several factors, including the type of heating and the size of the building. The apartment you find must not exceed the designated size range.  Also, keep in mind that the Social Welfare Office and the Job Centre usually reject fixed-term rental offers as well as rental offers with graduated rent. Make sure you inquire about the conditions that apply to you before starting the search.

Once you have the agreement of a landlord, ask them to issue you a rental offer ("Mietangebot ). On this rental offer, all pertinent information regarding the apartment as well as the phone number of the landlord must be specified. Many offices have specific rental offer forms that you can hand over to the landlord to fill- you can ask your administrative assistant for such a form. After your potential landlord handed you the filled rental offer, you have to take this document to your administrative assistant as soon as possible, so that he or she can check the rental offer and confirm that they will take over the rental costs. After receiving the written confirmation of the reimbursement ("Bestätigung der Kostenübernahme"), you can officially sign the rental contract with your landlord.

What is social housing?

If you earn little or no money, you are entitled to social housing. Social housing refers to apartments which are cheaper than others because the state subsidises them. To rent such an apartment, you need a certificate of eligibility for subsidised rental housing ("Wohnberechtigungsschein" or WBS) from the competent office in the city or town you live. The WBS proves that your income is below a certain limit. You must show the WBS to your potential landlord during the flat viewing session.

Please note: If your asylum procedure is still ongoing or in case you have been permitted a tolerated stay (i.e. you have a "Duldung"), in principle, you are not entitled to WBS.

I want to live in a WG (“Wohngemeinschaft”).

In a "Wohngemeinschaft" or WG, several persons share a flat. In most WGs everyone has their own room, but the bathroom and kitchen are shared. Finding a room in a shared flat usually is somewhat easier than finding your own flat, because you do not have to convince a landlord, but only the member(s) of the flatshare. Furthermore, a room is cheaper than a whole apartment.

If you receive benefits from the Job Centre or Social Welfare Office, you will need to submit to the Office both your sublease agreement and the primary tenant's rental contract. Many administrative assistants also want to see a confirmation from the landlord which proves the primary tenant is allowed to sublet the room.

How can I increase my chances of success during the flat viewing session?

  • Be punctual!
  • Choose the right outfit for the day.
  • Treat other interested people respectfully.
  • If there is a large group of applicants, try to directly talk to the landlord and make a good impression. Inquire, for example about the nearest school or express how much you like the flowers in the backyard. Try not to bring up tricky topics such as renovation work.
  • Prepare your folder with all the necessary documents beforehand.

What should I consider when signing the rental contract?

  • Read the contract carefully before signing it. If you cannot speak German very well yet, ask a friend who is more proficient to accompany you and read you the contract.
  • When the apartment is handed over to you, have all the already existing issues and damages documented by taking photos. Otherwise, you will be held responsible for any problem or damage in the apartment when you move out.
  • Usually, you will be required to pay a security deposit directly after signing the contract. The landlord may demand a maximum of three months' rent as deposit, which you may pay in three monthly instalments. If you do not cause any damage to the apartment, your landlord must repay you the deposit (with interest) when you move out at the end of your contract.

What should I do after signing the contract?

  • It is necessary to register your new place of residence as soon as you move in. To do so, contact the registration authorities (“Bürgeramt” or “Einwohnermeldeamt”) nearby. You can learn more about the process in our “Registration” chapter. In some cities, presentaing the contract is sufficient- in others, you will need to provide a so-called "Confirmation of Residence" or "Wohnungsgeberbescheinigung" in which the landlord confirms you have moved in.
  • Notify the Immigration Office of your new address as soon as possible. If your asylum procedure is still ongoing, you must also immediately notify the BAMF of your new address, otherwise, you may miss some critical letters.
  • Inform all other authorities you are dealing with (e.g. the Job Centre, Social Welfare Office and Tax Office), your bank and your insurance company about your new address.
  • To make sure that you do not miss any letters, you can send a forwarding order to Deutschen Post and Pin Mail AG for a certain period of time. Keep in mind that you have to pay for this service.
  • You must register with an electricity supplier company. In principle, the electricity is not included in the total rent ("Warmmiete"), so you have to pay for it separately. When you register, the electricity company will ask you for the apartment's current power meter reading. You can find this digit on the handover protocol which you have received from the landlord or property manager agent at the start of your rental contract. Read more about this topic in our chapter "Housing".
  • As a tenant, you must also make contributions to the German public broadcasting. After you register your new place of residence, you will automatically receive a letter from the Department of Contributions at the German public broadcasting concerning your monthly contributions. You can read more in this regard in our chapter "Licence Fee for Public Broadcasting".