'Know your rights': The advice you need about renting in Germany

Rachel Loxton
Rachel Loxton - [email protected]
'Know your rights': The advice you need about renting in Germany
Apartments in Frankfurt. Photo: DPA

Getting a place to stay in Germany is no easy task due to high costs, bureaucracy and picky landlords. We asked internationals for advice on finding a flat.

Looking to move? Find your next rental apartment here.


Anyone who's tried to rent a flat or house will be familiar with the long and drawn-out process. Whether it's attending a viewing with 30 other people, having to print, prepare and photocopy a pile of documents - or simply dealing with landlords and the property management, finding a flat is tough. 

Unfortunately there's no quick fix - and it's causing huge stress for internationals living here.

We asked our readers to share some of advice on finding a place.

SEE ALSO: High costs, long queues and discrimination: What it's like to rent in Germany

Stay on top of 'convenient' flat-finding websites

Respondents praised the websites that people in Germany can use to search for a flat, such as WG-Gesucht, ImmobilienScout24 and eBay Kleinanzeigen, calling them “convenient and practical”.

Pranshul, 21, an Indian resident from Dubai, who is studying in Jülich, North Rhine-Westphalia, said: “The ability to directly message a landlord or ad owner is highly convenient.

"This is perhaps the best way of looking for a new place to move into, compared to less affordable options (especially for students) such as a property agent.”

Don't forget about Facebook groups. Often people will post about available rooms with pictures on the site. However, be prepared to face lots of competition. Rooms can be snapped up very quickly.

Many websites also give you the option to create a profile of yourself, adding a photo and filling in criteria of what you're looking for – be it the ideal size of the flat or the location you're after. It also allows landlords to get a sense of you when you apply for the flat online.

“Be quick to respond to any advertisement and try to mail in the German language,” added another respondent.

Don't just keep it digital

When it comes to looking for a new apartment or house to rent, readers also advise being proactive and speaking to people. This could be asking colleagues at work, fellow students or talking about it in your community.

Even some posters on notice boards in universities might be a good way to advertise the fact you're looking for an apartment.

SEE ALSO: Renting in Germany – What you need to know

Know your rights – or join a union

As we reported, finding a place to live causes significant anxiety for internationals living in Germany. Our readers told us that Munich in particular is too expensive, there's not enough availability in Berlin and that discrimination was rife during the flat-finding process across the country. 

Rachel, 25, from New York who lives in Berlin said: “The process not only allows but encourages landlords to act on their worst instincts and develop stereotypes based on attributes like gender and country of origin."

“The result hurts everyone: those who are not selected for arbitrary reasons are often forced to pay more for short-term options like Airbnb that drives up costs for everyone.”

Although tenants don't have power in every situation, being part of a Mietverein, which acts as a kind of union to support tenants, can help.

Photo: DPA

The Deutscher Mieterbund (DMB) is the umbrella organization for 320 local tenants associations, or Mietervereine (renters' associations), in cities all across Germany, which employs about 1,300 full-time employees and 2,500 volunteers across its network.

The DMB's website offers sample tenancy contracts, up-to-date information on the average heating, water, and cooling costs, and explanations about tenancy laws.

One reader said: "I found it helpful to know I could contact the Mietverein if I needed to, especially because my German isn't that good."

But you can make sure you also take your own steps. One respondent to our survey said: “Read your contract three to four times.”

Meanwhile, David in Berlin simply said “don’t trust agents”, while another reader advised not getting your own apartment but instead opting for a shared flat to avoid bureaucracy.

SEE ALSO: Rent for student housing across Germany has sky-rocketed, survey shows

Watch for scams

Adarsh, who lives in Munich, warned people to watch out for scammers on websites such as WG Gesucht or other sites, and never transfer money if you have any suspicions.

From the age-old 'deposit the money and I'll send the key' scam, to newer forms of fraud which may lead to identity theft, it pays to remain suspicious. 

Don't be shy to ask further questions - and remember that if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. 

Preparation, preparation, preparation

This is a good tip to stick to in Germany where the process is often very bureaucratic. Landlords and property management companies typically require lots of documents and photocopies. 

From evidence of your earnings to a credit check (Schufa), never forget that Germans love paperwork. 

SEE ALSO: Schufa - How this one piece of paper holds the key to your future in Germany

“Get your documents sorted in advance,” one reader said. “Be open and honest about who you are, and your journey.  But be sure to give reassurance (if you can) about your circumstances with visas or how long you intend to stay.”

Shaik in Stuttgart, said you should discuss all the hidden costs and work hard in advance, while some readers said you should ask for help from friends and colleagues who will know more about the German system.

SEE ALSO: How to stand out from the flat-finding crowd

Be 'memorable' at the viewing

No one wants to think of a flat or a house viewing as an audition, but sadly when there's lots of competition, you do have to show off your best self.

When looking for an apartment or house, Carolyn said you should try to be as “human and memorable” when applying or meeting potential new housemates.

Make sure you make a good impression by arriving on time (a bit early in case there's a queue) and preparing the kinds of things you want to say.

Stay in the game

Don't feel disheartened if you keep getting knocked back. Our readers reported lots of difficulties in finding a place to stay.

“I have been searching for a house in the south of Munich for the past 4 months,” said Ajith. “It's even hard to get a viewing. When we get a viewing opportunity there will be 25 people standing in a queue.”

Silviu, from Romania who lives in Munich said people searching for somewhere to stay should be flexible.  It helps to have a high salary to afford to live in a major city, he said. Or be prepared to live outside the city which may leave you with a longer commute.

One respondent said: “Keep sending applications and pray for the best. Here, it’s all about luck.”

“Be patient and wait for the right place. You will find it eventually," another reader said.


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