Top Takeaways From This Post
Last updated on May 9th, 2023 at 07:50 pm
New Expat in Germany? Found your dream rental apartment? Now learn about a typical German rental contract, tenant rights in Germany and German landlord responsibilities.
So the months and months of your house hunting in Germany have come to end. You finally found your cool new crib in the neighbourhood of your choice. And a landlord ready to make the final offer. Congratulations!
In this blog post, we will go through some finer details of a rental contract in Germany and your tenant rights.
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First and foremost,
1. Understand your rental contract in Germany
Once you have successfully found your dream rental in Germany, you have to deal with the most important step that sets you apart from a newbie expat- making sure that you clearly know your tenant rights in Germany before you sign that complicated Mietvertrag.
A typical Mietvertrag or a rental contract in Germany contains information on the length of tenancy, monthly rent amount, the term of notice and additional costs for heating, water, garbage disposal and more.
In case your German language skills are still not up to speed, then consider getting one of your German mates to go through the tenancy agreement in exchange for a good dinner or beer, or both!
Verify the clauses in your contract
It is possible that your tenancy agreement may contain some specific details which are not standard for you.
Ours, for instance, says we are not allowed to drill into the balcony walls. The balcony walls are part of the whole building (and not our apartment), which is owned by a completely different Hauseverwaltung or a ‘house management organisation’ instead of our landlord.
See, what I meant? 😉
PRO TIP: If you really want to cover all your bases, then get your rental contract checked online through YourXpert’s online contract verification service.
You can upload your rental contract on this page and YourXpert’s matches you with a real estate lawyer who:
- Reviews your lease agreement and identify any possible pitfalls and missing or legally doubtful clauses.
- Suggests better and legally favourable wording/changes in the contract.
- Helps you demand necessary changes from your contractual partner (landlord or leasing company)
- Replies to your follow-up queries for free of cost
It costs only 84 EUR and you get a response from a real estate lawyer within 24 hours.
Learn more about this contract check service here.
2. Rules on house pets in your rental agreement
If you’re a pet lover, you may want to know the rules on house pets before moving in. Generally, small animals like cats, hamsters, and bunnies are allowed without any special clause in your rental contract in Germany. It still might be polite to give your landlord a heads-up before you bring your little friend home.
The good news is that the Federal High Court of Germany recently decided that landlords are no longer allowed to include pre-written clauses in their Mietvertrag that bans you from keeping dogs and cats.
They can, however, ban pets while the contract is still being negotiated.
The tenant laws in Germany also allow tenants with legitimate reasons for keeping a pet, a space to negotiate in. This especially applies to people with the need for a seeing-eye dog or an emotional support animal and the like.
As such, each case has to be handled individually and should consider the interests of the landlord, the tenant, housemates and neighbours.
You can read more about getting a pet in Germany here.
But Before you get a pet make sure you are covered for any damages caused by your pets.
If your cat or dog damages some of your rental property your landlord may be in the right to retain your caution deposit. In fact, they may be able to charge you to cover the cost of any damages caused by your pet. So pet liability insurance can really protect you from these unexpected damages.
PRO TIP: GetSafe is a Berlin-based (and English-speaking) insurance startup that offers comprehensive and affordable dog liability insurance in Germany.
3. How to deal with a loud noisy neighbour
Ideally, it’s always best to have good relationships with your neighbours. If you are getting disturbed by one of your neighbours, simply go to them in person first and politely inform them about your problem.
Usually, these conflicts end right there.
In an odd case, if they continue bothering you with their noisy late-night raves or loud sex it’s time to call your landlord or the Ordnungsamt.
If you reside in an apartment building and your neighbours repeatedly violate the Hausordnung, which are the house rules set by your landlord, inform your landlord and let him deal with the problem.
If their action, however, is a violation of the Ruhezeit, you can call the police.
Bear in mind though that not every moment of the day falls in the Ruhezeit in Germany. Mittagsruhe (midday silence) is between 1 pm – 3 pm and Nachtruhe between 10 pm – 6 am or 7 am in the morning.
PRO TIP: You can forget about mowing the lawn on Sundays and national holidays because Germany celebrates round-the-clock Ruhezeit on these days!
4. Can you end your rental contract in Germany sooner?
Every tenant in Germany is protected by the legal period of a notice of eviction, which is three months. This is especially true if you have an open-ended contract. And the longer you reside in the apartment, your notice period also becomes longer.
Remember that your landlord can’t cancel your Mietvertrag without giving a berechtigtes Interesse or a legally valid reason.
In case, you want to terminate the contract, the statutory rule is that a tenant can always terminate the contract by giving the landlord a three-month notice without having to give a reason.
Just make sure that you don’t sign a Mietvertrag that forces you to rent for more than 12 months. Such contracts are, by the way, not allowed. But there have been cases when a landlord, armed with a long lease contract, and faced with a tenant who wants to terminate it, forces their tenant to keep the apartment for the rest of the stipulated period!
5. When can the landlord evict you?
Can the landlord ask you to leave before the contract term is over and without notice? It is extremely hard for landlords to unlawfully evict their tenants. Generally, two conditions apply for eviction notice:
1) You breached your contractual obligations (berechtigtes Interesse):
- Late or no payment of rent
- Subletting the rented property to third parties without the landlord’s consent (e.g. Airbnb)
- Continuous violation of house rules
- Operating an unauthorised trade or business from the property (does not include home office)
- Keeping a pet despite a lawful prohibition in your contract
- Damaging or neglecting the rented property intentionally
2) The landlord needs the property for personal use (Eigenbedarfskündigung):
Personal use exists if the landlord needs the apartment for him/herself or for a family member for residential purposes.
The landlord must justify his legitimate need though, i.e. describe why and for whom he needs the property. He can claim the need for:
- Children, stepchildren, parents, grandchildren, grandparents,
- Siblings, nieces and nephews,
- Partners, spouses, ex-spouses, parents-in-law,
- Brothers and sisters-in-law, cousins,
- Domestic workers (permanent nannies, foster carers and domestic helpers)
PRO TIP: If you suspect your landlord might be discriminating against you, you can learn how to deal with the situation here.
6. Who pays for unexpected damages and repairs?
Before you move into your rented house or apartment, you should make an appointment with your landlord to inspect any scratches, damage, stains and any form of wear and tear in your new accommodation.
Document these defects: Create a list of the damages, and take photos from various angles. Get your landlord to sign the list so you have written verification of the damages when you move out.
There have been unfortunate cases, where the landlord retained most of the security deposit by falsely claiming new damages during the rental period.
Also, make sure that your contract or house rules contain the scope of repairs for you and the landlord.
Sometimes, no matter how thorough you are with your rental contract in Germany, shit can still go down. Accidents could happen without your fault. In such cases, personal liability insurance is your best friend!
PRO TIP: You can get private liability insurance in Germany with GetSafe starting at € 4.99/month.
7. When does the rent reduction law apply?
The tenants in Germany can reduce the rent if the rental property has a defect that impairs its usability or leads to a reduced quality of living. The legal basis for the rent reduction is described in §536 BGB (German Civil Code).
Which rental defect entitles you to a rent reduction?
Any defect that hinders the usability of the rented living space and your quality of living is a reason for a rent reduction. Construction noise in the house, a defective water pipe, mould in the bathroom, heating and hot water failure, water damage, pests: there are many legitimate reasons for a rent reduction.
8. Want some preventive measures? Get your backup!
As a tenant in Germany, you can join the local Mieterschutzverein (tenants’ association) which can give you professional support and legal advice for a very nominal annual fee. Once a member, your Mieterschutzverein can represent your interest in case you have a conflict with your landlord in Germany. In addition, after a few weeks of your membership, you can have a legal expenses insurance policy.
This will cover your legal expenses in case you will encounter problems pertaining to rental matters.
These associations are in most German cities so you should find it easy to join one in your new neighbourhood.
The key point to remember is to know your tenant rights in Germany inside and out. Get in contact with your local Mieterschutzverein.
PRO TIP: You can always take out your own legal expenses insurance policy. It is known as a ‘Mieter-Rechtsschutzversicherung.
- You can get basic coverage starting from €15,18 with legal protection providers like Roland-Rechtsschutz.
- GetSafe offers legal insurance protection and other services completely in English.
Fazit: When it comes to your tenant rights and rental contract in Germany: Read it carefully before you sign it! 😉
So, have you ever rented an apartment in Germany? Are there any other tenant rights in Germany that I missed in this post? We would love to hear your stories too so do share them with us in the comments section below.