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

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
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.

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

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“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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