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How to successfully rent a flat in Berlin, Germany

This post was originally written for a friend, but I thought it might have some useful information for people new to Berlin or Germany. It relates to crucial points in the rental process.

You might want to read this post to get a bit of a background.

Typically a landlord or seller of real estate wants as little trouble as possible before (and after) the deal.

The German real estate market is highly regulated. For example, it is more or less forbidden to ask the renter to sign a self-terminating rental contract. Unterminated rental contracts seem to be very nice pro-renter friendly, but it does create several problems.

Once the landlord signed a lease agreement it is hard fro him to get rid of the tenant (if the tenant pays the rent regularly).
Because it’s hard to evict the tenant, therefore, a landlord or his property manager/letting agent will back round scan the tenant, in order not to acquire a “problematic” tenant.

Why should a landlord consider you as a renter?

An owner will make assumptions about you based on your behavior.

If a potential renter asks silly questions or behaves in a strange way, it is likely that he or she will also act strangely after the rental contract is signed. A landlord will always check the tenant’s background and ask as many questions as possible – before the contract is signed.

Apart from some soft factors like the way you communicate, dress and act, the landlord will also check hard facts.
You can, therefore, prepare the data to make it easy for the owner, and gain a small advantage over the competition.

Here are some typical hard facts landlords love to check:

1. Proof of Income (in German: Einkommensnachweis)

Purchase power – can you afford the rent and all the side costs?
Typically the rent payment should not exceed 30% of your overall income. You should be able to show a paper that proves your income, in the best case the typical German “Lohnbescheinigung” or in case you are self-employed a letter of your tax advisor testifying your income.

Extra tip: If you don’t have a high enough income, or you can’t prove it, you could provide a guarantee from a third party, for example, your parents or a friend. We call this in German “Buergschaft”.

2. Rent Payment History (in German: Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung)

Your past rent payment behavior – did you pay your rent regularly?
You should be able to present a letter from your last landlord(s) that testifies that you always paid the full amount on time and that you don’t owe rent to him or her.

3. Credit Report (in German: Schufa-Auskunft)

Credibility- a landlord who wants to check your credit report might sound crazy, but remember that he has no chance of getting rid of you once you are his renter.
You should have a paper ready to present your latest and current credit report.
If you already own a German bank account the easiest way to get a credit report is www. meine-schufa.de.
I agree that it is a pain in the neck for a non-resident to get a credit report. I will address this problem in a later post “How to get a credit report in Germany”.

4. Identification (in German: Meldebescheinigung/Kopie des Personalausweises)

Who wants to rent the place?
Typically you hand in a copy of your ID. In the case of it being a passport, you should also attach a copy of your residency registration (Meldebescheinigung). Again, it might be a problem for newly arrived people to present such a record. We will deal this issue in a later post.

The easiest way is to rent a room in a shared flat, get a contract and a letter from the owner/property manager that you are living there. The contract is not enough since they changed the rules a while ago. The letter of the owner of the flat is crucial. Then you go to the municipality (Einwohnermeldeamt), to get registered. As a result, you will get a certificate of registration (Meldebescheinigung) from the municipality.

5. Insurance Policies

The two insurances named below are not needed, but could help to stand out. Every good property manager advises the landlord to make this insurances mandatory for every renter anyway. If you present those insurance papers right along with the documents mentioned above, you show that you are a serious, hassle-free renter (and have an advantage over the competition).

5a. Household contents insurance (Hausratversicherung)

5b. Casualty insurance (Haftpflicht)

Why have all those insurances? Its’ easy: like everything in life, some small things can cause big trouble. Remember that your landlord wants to make money with this investment. An innocent candle could cause a fire, and the water from the fire brigade causes a 250.000 Euro damage. If you are not insured, you will probably have to declare bankruptcy and your landlord as well. But don’t worry, those insurances are both around 100 Euro/year. If you have kids under the age of five, you should tell this explicitly to the insurance broker.

I recommend you have all those documents printed with you while you visit the flat – and have it ready to be blown out digitally by email if asked.

Make it as easy for all involved parties and put all the documents in one PDF file.

I am totally aware of the fact that these documents are not easy to get, especially if you are a foreigner.

However, if you can’t present this documents, it will be very hard for you to find a flat.

Make sure you read the more general text by Joseph Parson “Guide for Moving to Berlin 2014“.
I also enjoyed “A Guide to renting in Berlin” by Marcel Krueger.

And give the Official Berlin Senat “Welcome to Berlin” PDF a try, especially section “Housing in Berlin”.

This post was written by Alexander Korte. I am a Berlin based property developer and investor, I regularly contribute to real estate relevant themes in the international press. Press inquiries via this form, please.

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How to successfully rent a flat in Berlin, Germany

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