What do I need to know?
Finding a flat is challenging in many German cities. And when you find a flat, there are several tasks and issues you need to consider. In this chapter, you can learn more about your duties and rights as a tenant.
What do I need to know?
In principle, the electricity is not included in the rent, so you have to pay for it separately. You have to be careful when you register with an electricity supplier company - It is worth researching, comparing different offers and finding the best rate. Tariff calculators provided by websites such as Check24 can be very helpful in finding the best option. You can find a company and directly register on their webpage. When you register, the electricity company will ask you for the flat's current power meter reading. You can find the power meter reading on the handover protocol which you have received from the landlord or property manager at the start of your rental contract.
If you use gas for cooking or heating, you may also need to register with a gas supplier company. Your landlord can provide you with more information in this regard. Like electricity, you can compare the prices and register online at the gas providers' website. Visit Check24 to check different gas provider companies' tariffs.
Please note: Your electricity supplier company (and possibly also your gas supplier company) will deduct a fixed amount from your account on a monthly basis. The amount of this payment is calculated based on the company's estimation of your sum of use. Once a year, your actual electricity consumption is checked, and then you either will be reimbursed or have to pay some extra money. What you pay at the end of the year depends on the extent to which your consumption exceeded the company's initial estimations. Your electricity supplier company will contact you at the end of the year and ask for your current power meter reading to check your actual amount of use.
Every tenant will eventually receive a letter from the ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Contributions' Department which demands you to pay €18.36 per month as broadcasting fees (as of July 2021). These contributions are used to finance public broadcasters (ARD, ZDF, 3Sat, Arte, Kika, Deutschlandradio, ...). Every flat-owner or tenant is obliged to pay these fees - even if they do not have a TV or radio at home. You can learn more in our chapter “Licence fee for public broadcasting”.
In Germany, there are different furniture stores, each of which with different price ranges. In addition, there are so-called Social Department Stores ("Sozialkaufhäuser") in many cities where people can buy furniture, household items and other goods on small budgets. On dasoertliche.de, you can find social department stores nearby. Furthermore, you can also find inexpensive or free items in flea markets. You can also search ebay kleinanzeigen or many donations- or sales groups on Facebook for the goods you need.
Indoor mould can harm your health- and when it grows, removing it is quite tricky. In principle, the landlord is responsible for the removal of mould and covering the relevant costs. However, this only applies if the tenant has not caused the mould by improper heating and lack of ventilation. Many tenants try to heat the flat as little as possible and ventilate regularly - they may, for example, turn the heatings off -even in the cold seasons - when they are not at home. However, such an approach not only causes the formation of mould but also leads to higher heating costs, since re-heating a cold room drains more energy. When ventilating, it is crucial to open the windows entirely for about 5 to 10 minutes instead of only tilt-opening them - a tilted window does not let enough fresh air in the flat. You should ventilate the entire flat at least 3-4 times a day. It is important to ventilate immediately after showering, cooking or drying laundry indoors.
Furthermore, make sure to turn off the heating briefly during ventilation. Otherwise, you waste a lot of energy, for which you have to pay. You will find more information about the best ways of heating and ventilation in this leaflet published by wfd-duesseldorf.de.
Please note: In all-inclusive contracts, the heating costs are included in the rent. Once a year, your heating energy consumption will be checked. If you have used more than expected, you pay the rest at the end of the year. When you have used up less heating energy, you will be reimbursed. To verify your actual consumption, your landlord will usually hire a company which will arrange an appointment to come and check your amount of use on your radiators. If you feel any inaccuracies in billing, you can contact the Consumers' Center to seek advice.
The housing benefit (“Wohngeld”) is a subsidy for your rent. The money is usually paid to those who cannot fully cover their rent with their income. Therefore, people whose rent is fully covered by the state do not receive housing benefit. This applies, for example, to recipients of "Bürgergeld", BAföG, social assistance (“Sozialhilfe ”) or benefits for reduced earning capacity (“Erwerbsminderung”).
With the new housing benefits law, the so-called "Wohngeld Plus", more people are able to apply for and receive housing benefits since January 1, 2023. The new housing benefit has also doubled in amount. On average, from €180 per month to an average of €370. One reason for this is that the income limit up to which you can apply for housing benefit has been raised. The housing benefits also include a heating cost component, which is added to your housing benefits. You will receive it automatically; so do not have to apply for it. Th heating cost component has nothing to do with the so-called "Heizkostenzuschuss”. The Heizkostenzuschuss I and Heizkostenzuschuss II are limited in time, but the heating cost component is not. You can read more about “Heizkostenzuschuss” in the chapter "State Aid for Cost of Living Crisis".
For some flats, a "climate component" is added to the housing benfits. Climate component is intended to help prevent climate-neutral conversion from becoming a burden for people with low incomes. So the low-income families receive some extra money if their rent has raised as a result of climate-neutral renovations. If that is the case, a 40 cents per square meter climate component will be added to the housing benefits.
Currently (as of January 2023), these following groups are eligible for housing benefits:
- People with low income who have paid their entire rent themselves up to now
- Students who cannot receive BAföG and do not live with their parents
- Trainees who cannot receive a vocational training allowance and do not live with their parents
- Recipients of unemployment benefit I
- Recipients of short-time allowance ("Kurzarbeitergeld”)
The amount of money you receive as “Wohngeld” depends on the number of people who live with you in the household, the amount of your salary and your rent. You can use the new housing benefits calculator on the Federal Ministry of Building and Housing (neuen Wohngeld-Rechner) to calculate the approximate amount. If you are not sure whether you can receive housing benefits, it makes sense to apply anyway. A rejection has no disadvantages for you.
You should apply for the housing benefits at the competent authority in your place of residence. This is usually the so-called "Wohngeldstelle". There you should fill out and submit an application. You can find the right authority in your area by searching online. Enter the words "Wohngeldstelle" and the name of your place of residence in the search bar. You can find the applications specific to your federal state on wohngeld.org. Submit your application as early as possible, because it often takes several weeks before you receive the money. You can find out more about housing benefits in our chapter, "Renting a flat in Germany".
Please note: If you collect benefits under the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act, you will only receive housing benefit in exceptional cases.
As gas and heating oil prices have risen sharply since 2022, the state will provide financial support to people with lower incomes in 2023. This state aid is called "Heizkostenzuschuss "("heating cost subsidy").
For more detailed information on the topic, visit our chapter “State Aid for Cost of Living Crisis”.
Given the rising energy price, the state has introduced various types of aid to cushion the burden to some extent. You can learn more about the available state aids in our chapter “State Aid for Rising Energy Crisis”, section “Electricity”.
If you do not pay your electricity bill, your electricity may be cut off- but not right away: You must owe at least €100 to your electricity supplier. Your electricity supplier cannot just turn off your electricity - first, they have to send you a reminder. If you still do not pay, your electricity supplier must send a so-called "blocking threat" ("Sperrandrohung"). This is a letter threatening that the electricity will be cut off for your household if you don't pay. After this letter, you have four weeks to pay- and If you don't, your supplier can cut off your electricity. Keep in mind that your supplier has to send you a letter with the specific date in advance.
If you cannot pay your electricity bill, make sure you seek advice from the consumer advice counselling centre as soon as possible. You can search for a counselling centre nearby on Verbraucherzentrale.de. You can also contact the consumer counselling centre via phone or email.
When, for instance, your heating system is not working or there is water damage in your flat, you must immediately inform your landlord or the property management. You will usually find the contact details on your rental agreement or other documents that you have been handed when moving in. In many residences, you can also find this information on a bulletin board at the house entrance. You can notify the landlord or the property management via phone or in writing. In principle, the property manager then sends a technician over to inspect the damage and repair it either right away or later. Usually, the landlord pays the respective costs. If the landlord or property manager does not respond or refuses to fix the damage, you must contact the Consumers' Center or a tenants’ protection associations ("Mietschutzverein"). In principle, the landlord is obliged to repair damages- and a counselling centre can help you claim your right. Most tenant’s protection associations require you to become a member before you can seek advice and assistance. As a member, you have to pay a small annual membership fee. At mieterbund.de, you can find a tenants’ protection association in your area.
Every building has its own rules and regulations ("Hausordnung"). When you sign a rental contract, you are automatically obliged to observe these regulations- If you repeatedly violate these rules and regulations, your landlord may ask you to evacuate. In most building rules and regulations, there are, e.g. regulations regarding resting times ("Ruhestand"), pet ownership, sanitation in the stairwell or backyard and waste separation. It is crucial to follow these rules to avoid trouble with your neighbours and landlord. You can read more about pet ownership in Germany in our chapter "Pets". To know more about proper waste separation, check our chapter "waste separation".
Even if a resting times ("Ruhezeit") clause is not specified in your buildings' rules and regulations, you should stick to the regular rest time. In general, noontime, nights and Sundays are considered rest time. If you repeatedly break the "Ruhezeit" rule by creating loud noises, you will very likely have problems with your neighbours and your landlord soon. Your neighbours can also call the police in the event of a disturbance, for instant, loud music after 10 p.m.
As a tenant, you can always terminate an indefinite rental contract by informing your landlord in writing three months ahead of your moving date ("Kündigungsfrist"). The cancellation letter must reach the landlord no later than the third working day of a month, for the corresponding month to be counted. In some cases, the notice period may be shorter. The cancellation period depends on what you have agreed on in your contract. You can prepare a cancellation letter ("Kundigungsschreiben") on Immobilienscout24 for free.
Please note: If you have a fixed-term contract, i.e. have agreed with your landlord on a fixed rental period, you cannot usually terminate the contract before it expires. However, many fixed-term leases are not legally binding. In such cases, you can cancel your lease within the statutory notice period of three months. Contact the Consumer's Centre ("Verbraucherzenterale") or a tenants’ protection association to check whether your temporary lease is legally valid or not. Most tenants’ protection associations require you to become a member before you can seek advice. As a member, you have to pay a small annual membership fee. At mieterbund.de, you can find a tenants’ protection association in your area and seek help.
Tenants are well protected in Germany, so your landlord needs a good reason to cancel your lease. Cancellation by the landlord is possible under the following circumstances:
- Your landlord needs the flat for himself or his family, i.e. he needs the place for personal use ("Eigenbedarf"). In such a case, your landlord needs to provide proof that he or his family need to move into the flat. And if you have adequate reasons for staying (for instance, a severe illness), in principle, your landlord cannot ask you to leave. Even when you actually have to leave the flat, your landlord must give you enough time to look for a new one. The duration of this period depends on the duration of your tenancy.
- Your landlord wants to demolish the house. In this case, your landlord must give you enough time to look for a new flat. The duration of this period depends on the duration of your tenancy.
- You have not paid your rent for two months. In such cases, termination without notice is also permissible, i.e. your landlord can demand that you leave the flat immediately.
- You have repeatedly disturbed the peace in the building, e.g. you have harassed or insulted the neighbours. In this case, your landlord must first officially warn you. If the problems re-occur, he can terminate your contract without notice.
- You have sublet your flat without permission, and your landlord can prove it. In such cases, termination without notice is also permissible, i.e. your landlord can demand that you leave the flat immediately.
If your landlord terminates your lease, contact a tenants’ protection association and seek advice. Many landlord-initiated cancellations are not in accordance with the law, so you can counter them by legal means. You can contact the Consumer's Center or join a tenants’ protection association for more support. You usually have to become a member of a tenants’ protection association and pay an annual membership fee (about €50) to receive a comprehensive consultation and legal assistance when needed. At mieterbund.de, you can find a tenants’ protection association in your area and seek help.
If you have problems with your landlord or neighbour(s), you can seek advice from a tenant protection association or tenant association. You usually have to become a member and pay a membership fee (approx. €50), so that you can receive comprehensive advice and legal assistance from them. At mieterbund.de, you will find a tenant protection association in your area.
If you are discriminated against by your landlord or your neighbour(s), you can also contact the Anti-discrimination Office. To find a counselling centre nearby, check antidiskriminierungsstelle.de. Learn more in our chapter “Discrimination”.
Tenants are entitled to legal protections in Germany. If you have problems with your landlord, contact a tenants’ protection association (in German: "Mietschutzbund" or "Mietschutzverein"). The staff there can help you with any lease-related difficulties and assist you during disputes with the landlord.