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RENTING

How much deposit do I have to pay when renting in Germany?

Whether it's buying new furniture or obtaining a recent credit report, moving to a new rental property in Germany can often involve splashing some cash. But did you know there are some key rules around one of the biggest outlays - paying your landlord a deposit?

A new tenant signs their rental agreement.
A new tenant signs their rental agreement. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Kloset

Do I have to pay a deposit? 

Under German law, landlords have no automatic right to a deposit, but generally you will have to pay one. That’s because landlords tend to include the deposit in legally binding rental contracts that you’ll have to sign before you move in.

“Tenants usually have to pay a security deposit at the beginning of the tenancy,” the German Tenants’ Association explains. “This is to protect the landlord in the event that the tenant does not properly fulfil his obligations under the tenancy agreement, fails to make payments, and so on.” 

However, there are some laws that govern how much landlords are allowed to ask for and how long tenants should be given to pay. So if your deposit seems unbearably high or they’re asking for it upfront, you may have options.

Here’s the lowdown on the rules.

How high should my deposit be?

It’s common to be asked for around two months’ rent as a deposit, though under German rental law, your landlord is entitled to ask for a maximum of three. 

Crucially, this refers only to what’s known as the Kaltmiete – or cold rent – which is the sum you pay for use of the property without additional costs like service charges, hot water and electricity. 

So if your new apartment costs €500 ‘cold’ and you’re expected to pay €100 extra per month for bills and services, you landlord will still be able to charge you a maximum of €1,500 as a deposit in total. If they’re asking for €1,800, that’s too high. 

It’s worth noting here, however, that this rule only applies to residential lets – in other words, to properties you want to live in. For commercial lets such as offices, there’s no maximum deposit, since these facilities often come with expensive equipment like computers and printers that the landlord will want to protect. 

READ ALSO: Six confusing things about renting a flat in Germany

Do I have to pay it all at once?

No. If you need to, you should have the option of paying the option in three monthly instalments. The first of these would be due on top of your first month’s rent, and the next two would be paid alongside your rent over the subsequent two months.

The crucial thing about this is that, contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to pay your landlord a deposit before you move in – and you certainly don’t have to pay it all in one go. If your landlord is asking for an upfront lump sum in your contract and you’d prefer to pay gradually, it may be worth asking for them to change that in the contract before you sign it, referring them to this clause of the German Civil Code (§ 551, paragraph 2, BGB). 

This will instead mean that you pay twice your usual rent for the first three months of living in the building, with half of the money going towards the deposit. 

Of course, the landlord also has some important rights here, especially if you don’t pay the deposit as arranged. Under § 569, paragraph 2a of the German Civil Code (BGB), letting agents and other landlords can terminate a rental contract without notice if the tenant falls into arrears within these three months.

In other words, paying in instalments shouldn’t ever be used as a way of avoiding paying the deposit. It may be tempting to hope your landlord will forget all about it once you move in, but if you miss a payment, you could unfortunately end up hunting for houses yet again. 

When do I get the deposit back? 

All being well, you should get the deposit back at the end of your tenancy once you’ve completed your handover of the keys and moved out of the property.

Be aware, though: if the walls need repainting or there’s any other wear and tear to the property that need fixing, you may not get the full amount, so be sure to leave the apartment as close to its original condition as possible.

A tenant fixes a door handle in their rental flat. To ensure you get your full deposit back, it’s best to leave the flat in good condition. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get a rent reduction for problems in your German flat

What else do I need to know? 

When you give your landlord a deposit, always make sure you get a receipt of some sort – especially if you pay in cash. This should confirm that you have paid the deposit and detail how much it was. If you transfer the money to the landlord, keep the corresponding account statement until after you move out. This evidence will come in handy when you ask for your deposit back as you’ll likely need to prove that you paid it in the first place. 

Another important rule to be aware of is that the landlord should never keep your deposit in the same bank account as their private or business income, but rather in a special account for tenants’ deposits. 

“In most cases, tenant and landlord agree on a so-called cash deposit,” writes the German Tenants’ Association. “In this case, the landlord receives the deposit amount in cash or, as a rule, it is transferred between bank accounts. He must then invest it in a special account, separate from his other assets, so that it is insolvency-proof.” 

Legally, it’s important to note that the security deposit remains legally yours for the duration of your tenancy, but your landlord has stewardship of it as a means of ensuring that you abide by the terms of your contract. 

If you have any questions or concerns about your deposit or any other aspect of your rental contract, it could be worth joining a Mietverein (renters’ association).

Read our helpful explainer to find out more:

How to join a Mieterverein (renters’ association) in Germany

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RENTING

Everything you should know about renting a furnished flat in Germany

Furnished properties are increasingly popular in Germany - but it's worth knowing the rules around them to make sure you don't get overcharged. Here's everything you need to know before signing the contract on a furnished flat.

Everything you should know about renting a furnished flat in Germany

For someone moving to a new country or city, it seems like a dream scenario: you find a new place, pick up the key, and simply move in and unpack. Everything you need, from your bed to your coffee table, is already there waiting for you. 

You can dispense with the endless trawls through IKEA showrooms and trips across town to pick up second-hand furniture on Ebay Kleinanzeigen – not to mention the stress of endless decisions on colour schemes and measurements. 

It’s exactly this that makes furnished flats such a popular choice with foreigners. While they may not be a long-term option, the ease and flexibility of being able to move-in straight away makes them a great short- or medium-term option while you’re finding your feet in a city.

So, what’s the catch? 

A search for furnished flats on any rental property portal will reveal all. 

For around 30 square metres in Hamburg – the size of a large hotel room – it’s not unusual to see prices of around €2,700 or more per month, which amounts to a pretty hefty €90 per square metre. In Berlin, €3,000 per month may well be the price you pay for a tiny studio in a central location: €100 per square metre.

In the banking hub of Frankfurt, things are marginally more affordable. Here, a 30-square-metre furnished flat will set you back around €1,500. But that’s still a pretty steep €50 per square metre. 

Listings like these can give the impression that landlords are allowed to charge whatever they please for a furnished property. Thankfully, that’s not true – though the rules can get a little bit murky, especially when it comes to short-term lets.

READ ALSO: Six confusing things about renting a flat in Germany

Here’s a few other things you need to know. 

What is a furnished flat?

If a flat is rented as a furnished flat, it should have at least the bare essentials that are required to live in it. Generally, that would mean a bed, wardrobe, table, chairs and sofa, etc. 

However, you can occasionally find furnished flats that are “löffelfertig” (spoon-ready), which as the name suggests means they have everything you need, right down to cutlery and crockery. 

Why are furnished flats more expensive?

Generally speaking, landlords are entitled to compensation for the furniture they buy for the property, which can push the monthly rent up by as much as a few hundred euros per month. 

Since they don’t have to be clear about these costs and how different parts of the rent are calculated, some landlords may inflate the base rent as well, meaning that tenants may end up paying way over the odds. 

It’s also worth knowing that if properties are specifically defined as either holiday or short-term lets, landlords are exempt from many of the usual rent controls. 

Furnished holiday flat Germany

A modern furnished flat in Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Bades Huk | BRITA SOENNICHSEN

If the furnished flat is considered to be a holiday let, then the tenant is often required to pay tourist tax for each night they stay there. In this case, the flat also doesn’t have to be furnished to a particularly high standard as it is only intended to be lived in for a very short time. You may find this type of flat absurdly pricey compared to normal rentals in the city, and if money is a concern it’s best to steer clear of holiday lets for longer-term stays. 

If you work in the city and are staying somewhere for more than two months, the landlord may decide to class the property as a temporary let. In this case, the landlord is exempted from clauses like the Mietpreisbremse (rent brake), which are designed to slow down the rate of rent increases, and you should have a clear duration or move-out date specified in your contract.  

It’s important to note that the landlord will usually have to give a good reason for restricting the time period of the rental. This could be the fact that they or their family want to use it themselves or are planning renovations at a later date. 

READ ALSO: Altbau vs Neubau: What’s the difference and which should I rent in Germany?

How much more can my landlord charge?

As mentioned above, holiday and temporary flats can often be rented out for eye-watering prices – but there are strict rules on categorising a rental flat as temporary or holiday accommodation.

For an ordinary furnished rental, the rent should usually be roughly based on standard prices for similar properties in the same area (a system known as the Mietspiegel), with any premium features or fixtures adding slightly more to the monthly rent. As mentioned above, the landlord can also charge a surplus for the furnishings they include in the flat.

The broad rule of thumb here is that this should be linked to the value of the furniture and its depreciation in value of the course of time. Though landlords aren’t forced to be transparent about the system they use, the two most commonly used ones are the Hamburg and the Berlin model. 

Furnished flat

A cosy bedroom in a furnished flat. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/VDM | Rauch

With the Berlin model, the landlord is allowed to charge two percent of the total value of the furniture each month.

The furniture is assumed to have a lifespan of 10 years, so if the furniture is new when the tenant moves in, they can charge two percent of the purchase price of the furniture each month. If all the furniture in a flat cost the landlord €5,000, that would amount to €100 extra in rent each month. The value of the furniture goes down by ten percent per year, so after five years the landlord would charge €50 per month on top of rent, and after ten there would be no surcharge.

The Hamburg model assumes that furniture goes down in value over the course of seven years, after which time it’s worth just 30 percent of its purchase price. The amount that the tenant pays towards the cost of the furnishings each year is based on these calculations.

READ ALSO: 

Can I take furniture out of a furnished flat?

Yes! If you’re someone who likes to put your own stamp on a place, then you’re fully entitled to replace some of the furniture with your own.

But – and this is a big ‘but’ – you’ll be responsible for storing the furniture safely until you move out, and putting everything back in its previous place.

In other words, we don’t recommend chucking the coffee table out on the street with a ‘Zu verschenken’ label before moving in your own piece. We guarantee your landlord will not be amused once they find out. 

To clarify what’s meant to be in the flat when you move in (and when you move out), tenancy law experts recommend having a full inventory in the contract. That should help you avoid any nasty disputes in the future.

What if the furniture is damaged, missing or defective? 

If furniture is damaged, missing or unusable, you’re entitled to have it repaired or replaced and can also ask for a rent reduction.

Once again, it’s useful to have a full inventory of what should be in the flat to help you with these negotiations.

Do tenants in furnished flats have the same rights as other tenants?

Generally, yes. Having furnishings inside a property doesn’t change the legal status of the contract.

That means that your landlord can’t, for example, suddenly ask you to move out at short notice and without any cause. As mentioned, they also need to have a specific reason for limiting the duration of your contract – otherwise the move-out date isn’t valid. 

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