The Lease or Rental Contract (Mietvertrag)
Understand what to expect from the tenancy agreement when renting property in Germany...
Applying for Rented Accommodation
When applying for rented accommodation, it is good to have an application portfolio which can be sent to the landlord or agency on request. This should include:
- Proof of salary
- CV (Lebenslauf)
- A copy of the Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung (credit rating certificate indicating whether the rent was paid in the previous property). This can be obtained from the previous landlord (if applicable)
- Information and contact details of previous landlord
- Written evidence of a guarantor (in the case of apprentices and students)
Landlords may also ask for the following information:
- Has the tenant ever been declared bankrupt?
- Details on employment: employer's address, salary and duration of employment
- Details of financial means (bank statements or payslips)
There are certain personal details that must be declared to the landlord, others do not have to be declared but, if provided, may help to build a relationship of trust with the landlord.
Personal details that must be declared:
Personal details that do not have to be declared:
There are two types of rental leases: for an unlimited duration (unbefristeter Mietvertrag) or for a limited duration (befristeter Mietvertrag, also called Zeitmietvertrag). A standard rental contract can be downloaded or can be bought from most stationery shops.
The rental contract (Mietvertrag) covers the following:
- Length of rental agreement (in the case of a time-limited contract)
- Amount of rent payable, schedule of payments and of increases
- Details of what the rent includes and excludes
- Deposit required and details of any interest it will earn
- Requirements for redecoration
- Insurance requirements
- Rights and obligations of the tenant and landlord (notice period, pets)
The tenant should also take out third party liability and/or contents insurance for the property.
As well as the signed lease, tenants will receive an Übergabeprotokoll. This document states the condition of the rented accommodation when the tenant moves in. It needs to be filled out in detail, listing any defects however minor, such as scratches, stains or other damage, to protect the tenant at the end of the lease.
The Mietspiegel is a regular representative sampling of average rental amounts throughout Germany, compiled by the Hamburg Research Institute GEWOS GmbH. It is used by city authorities to inform tenants and landlords about acceptable rental price ranges within their districts and allows those who are about to rent to check whether the quoted rental price is reasonable. It is available in town halls.
- A list of average rental prices throughout Germany can also be found online
The deposit (Kaution) tends to be high; landlords are legally entitled to ask for up to three months' rent in advance on signing the contract. This can be paid in three monthly instalments, the first at the beginning of the tenancy and the second and third in the following months. The two parties can arrange between themselves how to pay the deposit. The most common way is using a cash bond arrangement where the tenant transfers or pays in cash the sum to the landlord. It is also possible to include a third party, such as a bank, to act as a mediator. Tenants are under no obligation to pay the sum in cash or make a transfer to a private bank account. Instead they can ask to pay the deposit into an Insolvezfestes Konto (a bank account that is separate from the assets of the landlord) in order to protect the deposit from the landlord’s creditors.
At the end of the tenancy, the landlord is required to pay the tenant the deposit as well as any interest earned on the deposit. However, the landlord may retain part of the deposit as necessary to repair any damage to the property caused by the tenant. In order to work out whether any of the deposit may be retained another Übergabeprotokoll must be filled in. On inspection of the property at the end of the tenancy the tenant and landlord agree and sign the Übergabeprotokoll. If any defects have been noted that were not stated in the initial Übergabeprotokoll, then the tenant is given a period of time in which to fix the defect. If the defects cannot be fixed then the landlord may retain part of the deposit. If, after the final Übergabeprotokoll has been signed, the landlord attempts to declare faults, the tenant is under no obligation to have part of their deposit deducted and the Übergabeprotokoll can act as legal evidence against the landlord’s claim.
The Mieterschutzbund can offer advice if a landlord does try to make an unjustifiable claim on the deposit.
Ending the Agreement
The normal notice period is three months for both the tenant and landlord. The notice period for both parties extends by three months after 5, 8 and 10 years of continuous occupation of the property. A shorter notice period for the tenant only can be agreed when the lease is signed. Tenants may also give shorter notice periods if the landlord announces a rent increase or makes a refurbishment plan for the property that will lead to higher rent payments.
The landlord can end a rental agreement only under the following circumstances:
- If the property is used consistently for non-agreed purposes
- If the rent is unpaid for at least two months
- If the tenant is consistently noisy and disturbs the neighbours ("disturbance of the calm of the house", Störung des Hausfriedens)
- If the tenant has broken the conditions of the lease on a number of occasions
- If the property is to be used by the landlord or a relative (Eigenbedarf)
- If the landlord intends to modify the property in a major way and a continuation of the rental lease would considerably hinder these plans
- If the fact that the property is occupied will cause the landlord to suffer economically in the case of the sale of the property. The landlord must prove that they are in need of the money from the property sale
It is possible for the tenant to make a written objection to the landlord’s termination of a tenancy which expresses the desire to continue the tenancy. A Härtegrund is a reason for wanting to continue you the tenancy. Viable Härtegrunde include being unable to obtain adequate, alternative housing, old age, bad health or having had a long length of tenancy in the residence. The written objection must be sent to the landlord two months before the appointed end of lease.
It is common practice for landlords to ask their tenants to redecorate the property when moving out. This involves painting the walls white and leaving it in the same state as it was received.