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Renting in Germany: What you need to know about keeping pets

Getting a pet can be a great idea, especially if you’re still working from home. But what’s not so fun is being fined by your landlord for not checking the rules first. Here's what you should know if you're renting in Germany.

Renting in Germany: What you need to know about keeping pets
Many of us would love a dog like Toni from Püttlingen, Saarland. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Oliver Dietze

The low down

In Germany, not all pets are regarded the same under tenancy law. The larger or more dangerous the animal, or the more pets you plan to keep, the more complicated it gets. You’ll have better luck in long-term rented accommodation and houses in particular, and of course finding an animal-lover landlord will help. Legally, landlords generally need a justifiable reason to ban pets, but either way you should always ask first or at least check your contract. 

Small animals

For the most part, small animals which can be housed in cages, aquariums and terrariums, can quite easily be kept in rented accommodation without too much resistance.

Small pets like hamsters, fish, guinea pigs and rabbits are usually pretty harmless and won’t cause problems in the apartment or disturb the neighbours. Just be careful about hamsters and other creatures who like to chew things like wires.

READ ALSO: Germany sees ‘extreme’ demand for dogs during the pandemic

“Small animals may not be prohibited by the landlord,” Gunther Geiler, managing director of the German Tenants’ Association in Nuremberg, told Immowelt.

There are, of course, exceptions. Rats leave people pretty divisive, along with ferrets, who can be refused on account of causing bad smells in the apartment. Birds are also subject to judgement on an individual case basis, due to risk of noise disturbance, for example. 

Cats and dogs

As always, the landlord must be asked first. They may have reason to accept certain breeds of dogs and reject others which are so-called “dangerous dogs”. In terms of dogs specifically, noise disturbance may be an issue if you’re in close proximity to a number of neighbours. Naturally, service dogs can be an exception to bans, but the specific laws vary regionally.  

Are you thinking of giving a cat a home like this one in Frankfurt? Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Another important point to note is that both dogs and cats must be registered at your local Bürgeramt (‘Citizens’ Registration Office’), and re-registered every time you move. However, owning a dog means you also have to pay Hundesteuer (‘dog tax’). The more dogs you own, the more tax you pay.

READ ALSO: Prostitution, dogs and loneliness: A look at Germany’s weirdest taxes

Of course, service dogs are exempt, and you’re free from paying tax the first year if you’ve adopted a rescue dog. It is also mandatory for dog owners to get Hundehaftpflichtversicherung (‘dog liability insurance’), in case of property damage or any accidents.

Don’t forget to microchip your dogs, cats and maybe also smaller creatures – even indoor pets can make a great escape and a microchip will make reuniting with your lost pet much easier. Also, once microchipped, you can register with the website Tasso (also available in English) which helps to identify and return missing animals to their owners.

Exotic or dangerous pets

When to comes to tarantulas, reptiles or poisonous snakes, tenants often need to get a legal permit, as well as have the landlord’s permission.

“Anyone who wants to keep dangerous animals in the rented apartment must ask the landlord for permission,” says Oliver Fouquet, a lawyer for tenancy law in Nuremberg.

For non-dangerous pets which are still on the more unusual side, such as a corn snake, you don’t need a legal permit but you should still check with your landlord. Similar to dogs and cats, the landlord can only prohibit this if they have compelling reasons.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about having a pet in Germany

To conclude…

Always check with your landlord and tenancy agreement. Many landlords write into the contract on what conditions pets are allowed. Landlords can still restrict the keeping of certain pets, particularly with regard to size, danger to others or the residence, and disturbance to neighbours.

Permission can be given and then later revoked, if the landlord has sound reason, but legally the odds are often in the tenant’s favour. It also goes without saying to make sure that you have suitable space and facilities to best care for your pet. Often, keeping pets in rented accommodation has to be considered on an individual, case-by-case basis, so do ask and hopefully you’ll be able to enjoy your accommodation with a furry friend. 

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For members


What foreign parents in Germany need to know about Sprach-Kitas

Germany has a number of specialised nursery schools that focus primarily on helping children with their German language skills. Here's what foreigners need to know about them.

What foreign parents in Germany need to know about Sprach-Kitas

What even is a Sprach-Kita? 

A “Sprach-Kita”, or Language Kindergarten, is a special type of nursery school that’s been around in Germany since 2016 under the government’s Sprach-Kita Programme. The main aim is to help young children build up their German language skills to a level that will allow them to succeed at school. 

How is this different to a normal Kita or daycare centre?

Unlike most Kindergartens in Germany, Sprach-Kitas employ staff who are specifically trained in language teaching and acquisition. These specialists are paid for through Sprach-Kita Programme funding and help to shape the environment of the nursery school, making it easier for children to develop their German skills in an everyday setting.

The schools also have access to external support and advice on catering to children with language setbacks, and may work closely with parents to encourage further language development at home. 

Since the scheme was set up in 2016, around 7,000 nursery schools have successfully applied for “Sprach-Kita” status and received at least €25,000 funding through the programme. These were mostly Kitas that had already taken in a higher-than-average number of children from foreign backgrounds, such as those in popular migrant or expat areas.

Sprach-Kitas will generally be much more diverse and focus most heavily on children’s language skills, in addition to teaching young kids about cultural inclusivity.  

READ ALSO: ‘Multilingualism is an enrichment, not a deficit’: Raising bilingual kids in Germany

Who are Sprach-Kitas for?

Any young child in Germany is allowed to go to a Sprach-Kita, but the main target audience for these specialised nurseries are the children of foreign parents.

In households where German isn’t the main language spoken, children may struggle to keep up with their classmates at school due to their lower level of German fluency. That could be because the child has two international parents – such as a French mum and an English dad – or because the child has more contact with a parent who doesn’t speak German. 

According to recent statistics, around one in five nursery-age children in Germany doesn’t speak German with their parents at home. That equates to 675,000 children in total. In addition, around 40 percent of nursery school children come from a migrant background. 

Through the Sprach-Kita Programme, government is hoping to help these children integrate at an early age to set them up fully for life in Germany. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The rise in multilingual children in Germany

Do I have to pay for a Sprach-Kita? 

Parents usually have to pay a monthly fee for their child to attend a German nursery school – and the same applies to Sprach-Kitas. The fee structure is generally set by the local government, meaning it can vary widely across different regions of the country.

However, you won’t pay any more (or less) for a Sprach-Kita than you would for an ordinary nursery school. 

Where can I find a Sprach-Kita?

Around one in eight Kindergartens in Germany is currently a Sprach-Kita, meaning they aren’t particularly hard to find.

To look for one near you, the best thing to do is to hop onto the government website and look on this interactive map detailing all of the Sprach-Kitas in Germany. 

Children ride tricycles at a German kindergarten.

Children ride tricycles at a German kindergarten. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/mauritius images / Westend61 / M | Westend61 / Mareen Fischinger

However, partly due to staffing shortages, Kita places in Germany are highly competitive right now – so securing a place may involve getting in touch with a number of them at an early date. 

READ ALSO: How can Germany improve its Kitas amid teacher shortage?

Is there anything else I need to know?

Currently, the funding for the Sprach-Kita Programme is due to end at the end of 2022 – and it’s unclear what the fate of the existing language-focused nursery schools will be after this happens.

Though the three parties of the traffic-light coalition had pledged to extend the scheme in their coalition contract, it appears that the programme was one of the first victims of savage negotiations over next year’s budget.

That means the federal government are now hoping to transfer the responsibility for funding the language support over to the 16 states.  

“Responsibility in the area of daycare for children lies with the states and cannot be permanently financed by federal funding programmes,” a spokeswoman for the Family Ministry told Welt. 

The Ministry for Families has also pledged to make language acquisition a cornerstone of its forthcoming Good Childcare Act, which will see at least €2 billion in federal funding made available for nurseries in 2023 and 2024. 

That could make it possible for existing Sprach-Kitas to remain in place as specialised centres for language support.