German Rental Contract

Signing a Lease: Here’s What You Should Watch Out For

The rental agreement is an important document that regulates all details of the rental relationship. Once it is signed by you and your landlord or landlady, you must pay the deposit and the first month’s rent.

All conditions and agreements are recorded in writing in the rental contract. This is the only way they are legally binding. This applies, for example, to the start date of the lease, the end of the lease, the cost of rent, the ancillary costs, and the deposit. Regulations on waste separation and house rules should also be included in the contract. Before signing the contract, it is common for landlords and property managers to ask for certain documents (e.g., proof of income, an employment contract, proof of sufficient financial resources, a residence permit). In return, the landlord or landlady must provide an energy certificate.

Mandatory Information in the Lease

Make sure that the landlord’s address is in the lease. Your name should also be complete and correct as only the person named in the rental agreement is entitled to the apartment. In addition, the size of the apartment must be stated. Note that rooms less than two meters high do not count as full living space. Balconies or terraces are also only calculated with half their actual size. Purely usable areas, such as basement or attic rooms, are officially not considered living space. However, it is important that these rooms are correctly listed in the contract. Such information might be necessary if you plan on living in Germany with your family as there are legal regulations regarding the size of the apartment depending on the number of people in the family.

Determination of Rights and Obligations

If you want to sublet your apartment or use it commercially, you must include that information in the contract. Keeping dogs and cats is also allowed only when specifically mentioned in the contract. Small animals, such as fish, birds, hamsters, and guinea pigs, are excluded from this regulation. If tasks, such as stairwell cleaning or winter maintenance, are not outsourced, they are usually shared among the tenants. This must also be noted in the rental agreement, so you can see if you have to take responsibility for such tasks. In principle, the landlord or landlady is responsible for all repairs in the apartment. However, the lease can include an agreement that you will take care of minor repairs yourself. However, certain regulations sometimes made by landlords or landladies, such as restricting you to only paint the walls a certain color, are not permitted and are, therefore, invalid, even if they are in the lease.

Lease Term and Rent Increases

As a rule, rental agreements are for an indefinite period. A time limit is only permissible if a reason is stated in the contract, for example, the landlord’s own needs. If there is no other reason for termination, you have a notice period of three months. Also check the contract to see if there is an agreement to  graduated ren[ST(3] t. Graduated rent means that the rent is automatically increased by a certain amount on fixed dates. Rent may only increase once every twelve months and by a maximum of 20 percent within three years. Rent must comply with the local comparative rent.

What to Do after the Rental Contract Is Signed

Discuss the exact move-in date with your landlord or landlady. Please note that if the day you move in falls on a public holiday, there may be changes to the public transport timetable, and this may affect your arrival. Keys are usually only handed over on weekdays, especially in student residences. When you move in and out, a protocol about the condition of the apartment will be drawn up in which all damages will be listed. If you do not note all the damages to your landlord/landlady when receiving the keys, you must report them within 14 days or you will liable for them!

Need More Information?

On the website of the German Tenants’ Association (Deutscher Mieterbund), you can find all details on the topic of rental contracts. The Studierendenwerk Erlangen-Nürnberg also provides a brief summary of tenancy law specifically for students.

Avoid Hidden Expenses: These Are the Costs You Will Have to Pay in Addition to the Rent

In Germany, there are three types of rental costs: cold rent, warm rent, and all-inclusive rent. On top of that, there are a few additional costs to keep in mind. Sounds complicated? We explain the most important terms and additional costs below.

When you rent a property, you pay to have the apartment or room made available to you. This amount is called cold rent. In addition to the costs for the room itself, there are always additional costs, such as water consumption, janitorial service, garbage collection, and certain taxes and fees. That’s why you pay the landlord or landlady a warm rent (this includes the cold rent with ancillary costs). The actual amount of the service charges is calculated by your property management company in an annual service charge statement. This results in an additional payment for higher consumption or a repayment for lower consumption, depending on your situation. Because of the constantly rising prices, you should always have a small reserve for possible additional payments! In addition, the landlord or landlady can change your monthly advance payment for the service charges after the annual statement.

Electricity Contracts and Other Costs

In your lease contract you can read which ancilliary costs are included in the warm rent. Depending on the type of heating, an advance payment for the cost of your gas consumption is usually included. However, if your apartment has a floor heating system, you may have to take care of a gas supplier yourself and budget for additional monthly heating costs. The choice of electricity provider, on the other hand, is almost always up to the tenant. As such, additional electricity costs must always be factored in. There are local electricity and gas suppliers, but their rates are often quite expensive. It is advisable to check the providers on a comparison portal and then decide on a suitable tariff. As with the ancillary costs, a consumption-based bill is issued annually.

Additionally, every household in Germany has to pay broadcasting fees. Registration takes place automatically after registration at the Residents’ Registration Office. The monthly cost is currently 18.36 EUR. If you live in a shared apartment, of course only one person must pay the fee. It’s best to discuss this directly with your roommates so that the registration can take place and you don’t have any unnecessary costs!

One-time Costs

A one-time deposit is due at the beginning of the lease. You will find the amount in your rental agreement. It may not exceed three months’ cold rent. The deposit must be paid at the beginning of the tenancy. However, you do not have to pay it all at once. You can pay it in three installments and spread it over the first three months’ rent. The landlord or landlady must deposit the security deposit in a bank account and invest it with interest. After you move out, you will get the deposit back, including interest, provided the apartment was not damaged during your tenancy.

All-inclusive Rent

A relatively new form of rent is the all-inclusive rent. As the name suggests, all costs (except the deposit) are included in the rental price. In addition, the actual service charges are not calculated according to consumption but are fixed by contract. On the one hand, this has the advantage that you don’t get a surprise at the end of the year when you receive your utility bill. However, you then also have no possibility of reducing the ancillary costs through a conscious lifestyle.

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