Renting in Germany: Everything you need to know

Adam Rozsa

Moving to Germany for work, study or perhaps even permanently? One of the first things you’ll need to do is find somewhere to live.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about renting in Germany like how to find and apply for rental properties in Germany, the documents you’ll need, and some essential info about tenancy contracts, rights and laws.

Plus, a handy tip to help you manage your money while abroad - the Wise account. This could make your move, and your time in Germany, easier and more affordable - but more on that later.


📝 Table of Contents

Can foreigners rent apartments in Germany?

There are no restrictions preventing foreigners from renting property in Germany. As long as you have your documentation in order and the appropriate resident permit or visa (if applicable), you should be good to go.

However, it can sometimes be a little more difficult for non-German citizens or permanent residents to apply for rental properties.

This is because you’ll usually be asked for your German credit report (known as Schufa). But don’t worry, as there are options for providing equivalent documentation from your bank in the US.

We’ll look at which documents you’ll need in just a moment.

Is it expensive to rent in Germany?

It’s always good to compare average rental prices before moving to a new country, along with the general cost of living and expenses like buying a car.

The good news for US citizens looking to move to Germany is that rental costs are on average around 44% lower than the United States¹.

Just like back home though, it can vary considerably depending on location. The average monthly rent for a one bedroom city center apartment in Germany is around $885 (€872), while in the US it’s $1,675¹.

Move out of the city center, and you’ll pay an average of just $636 (€627) a month in Germany, compared to $1,240 in the US¹.

And of course, rental prices tend to be higher in Germany’s big cities, with Munich, Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Düsseldorf being the most expensive².

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What documents do I need to rent a flat in Germany?

Before you even start looking in Germany for houses to rent, it can be a good idea to get all your documentation in order. This means you’ll be ready to apply the moment you find your perfect property.

Here’s what documents you’ll need to provide:

  • The completed application form, which an agent will give you at the viewing.
  • Copies of your photo ID and any visa or residence permit (if needed)
  • Proof of income (Einkommensnachweis) - such as wage slips for the last three months.
  • You might also need a certificate from your previous landlord stating you have no outstanding rent due (Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung)
  • A credit report (known as a Schufa because of the agency which completes the checks).

Getting a Schufa certificate can be tricky for new expats, as it’s likely that you won’t have built up a credit history in Germany and don’t yet have a permanent address.

If you don’t have a Schufa, you may be able to provide alternative documents. For example, bank statements from the US, and if possible, something proving that you’ve always paid rent on time.

💡 If you don’t have a Schufa, you may be able to provide alternative documents. For example, bank statements from the US, and if possible, something proving that you’ve always paid rent on time.

How do I rent a flat in Germany?

While you get your documents ready, it’s time to start searching for your dream house or apartment for rent in Germany. Have a think about your requirements and set your budget, then you can look online or contact a real estate agent.

Real estate agents

It can be helpful to contact real estate agents (known as Makler) in the area you’re looking to rent, letting them know your requirements. They may be able to recommend properties they currently have on their books.

There’s not usually a charge for renting a home through an estate agent¹, unless you choose to pay someone to find a property for you.

Online property portals

One of the best ways to get a head start on finding a place to rent in Germany is to look online. Great websites to find a house or apartment to rent include:

  • WG Gesucht allows you to search for flats, homes or flatmates - and has an English language site.
  • Immobilien Scout 24 has a wide range of housing options on offer, ideal if you’re looking to rent an apartment in Germany long-term.
  • Wohnungsboerse puts you into direct contact with landlords, so there's no agent’s fee. However, this will mean that you have to do your own research to make sure the place is suitable for you.
  • Homelike, a great choice for move-in ready apartments and flexible/monthly stays.
  • Immowelt is a handy portal for your property search, which also has information and advice for renters on things like German property types.
💡 You may also try less formal sites for your property search, like Craigslist Frankfurt Germany, but approach with caution.

How to apply for a property to rent in Germany

The most important part of applying for a rental property is your documentation. You’ll be given an application form known as a Selbstauskunft⁵ at the viewing, so will need to submit this to the landlord or agent along with your other documents. Then it’s just a case of waiting to see if your application is accepted.

Can I negotiate the rent with the landlord?

The German property rental market can be competitive, and there are often more prospective tenants than there are apartments. So, although German law strongly favors tenants, landlords tend to have the upper hand when choosing which tenants can move in.

All of this means that efforts to negotiate on the rent are unlikely to work, although you may have more luck negotiating in a smaller town in Germany where demand for rental properties isn’t so high.

German tenancy contracts

If your application to rent a house in Germany is successful, the next step is to check and sign the lease agreement.

There are two different types you need to know about - indefinite (unbefristet) and fixed-term (befristet). The first has no end date, so you can end the lease simply by providing notice. The second has a fixed move-out date.

The tenancy contract will include things like:

  • Details of the tenant, landlord and the property
  • Rental conditions, including bills (we’ll look at that next)
  • Utilities and operating costs
  • Inventory (for furnished properties)
  • The start date and lease period
  • Parking arrangements (if available)
  • Rental payment amount, due date and bank details
  • Deposit amount
  • Conditions relating to rent increases
  • House rules for living in the property.

Make sure to read everything through carefully before signing.

Utilities and bills the renter is responsible for

Before you finalize a rental agreement, you should make sure you’re clear on the terms regarding the payment of utility bills.

There are a couple of terms you need to know about, relating to ‘warm’ and ‘cold’ rent in Germany. Warmmiete refers to warm rent, while Kaltmiete means cold rent.

What is cold rent in Germany, and how is it different to warm rent? In short, it’s all about whether heating and utilities are included in the rent.

With Kaltmiete, no bills are included. Properties advertised as Warmmiete have heating and possibly utilities and other management costs covered under the monthly rent payment.

When weighing up warm vs cold rent in Germany, it’s worth checking out how much the bills would typically be. Remember that things like electricity, gas, TV and internet costs may not be included.

💡 When weighing up warm vs cold rent in Germany, it’s worth checking out how much the bills would typically be. Remember that things like electricity, gas, TV and internet costs may not be included.

German tenant laws and rights

As a tenant in Germany, you have rights which are legally protected.

Exactly what the law says might vary between areas in Germany. But wherever you are, it’s good to know that landlords can’t evict tenants without notice. Even if a tenant fails to pay rent, they're often offered a grace period to pay up¹.

In cities with rapidly rising rents, you might find that you’re protected against your landlord putting up the price of your tenancy midway through.

If you think your landlord isn’t treating you fairly, you should contact your local tenants association, where specialists can help you negotiate with your landlord and resolve any issue.

How can I make sure I'm not being scammed?

Like anywhere else in the world, you might encounter issues when renting a place in Germany. However, because the law is quite favorable to tenants in Germany, you should be able to get any problems sorted out fairly easily.

Common issues include:

  • The landlord withholding deposit money for a long time or for unfair reasons. Under the law, a landlord actually has several months to pay the deposit money back after the tenant vacates. It’s worth keeping on good terms to reduce the likelihood of this happening.
  • The landlord withholding a portion of your deposit for reasons you think are unfair. You should catalog any damage present when you move in, by taking photos of things like scratches on floors. It’s also a good idea to keep a record of minor repairs as you do them, to show that you’ve taken good care of the place and any issues are just normal wear and tear.

Don’t forget that you need to register your new address within 14 days of moving in. The exact details of how you do this will vary from place to place, so a quick online search for your city, or a chat with the local tenants' association is the best way to get the lowdown.

Sources used:
  3. Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing: Only Pay for What You Use for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

All sources checked on 08-Jul-2022

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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