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RENTING

Renting in Germany: What to know about the ‘Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung’

The German language is known for having exceptionally long words. And here is one that you need to know if you're applying to rent a home.

A flat searching sign in Eimsbüttel, Hamburg.
Eine Wohnungs-Suchanzeige hängt an einer Ampel im Stadtteil Eimsbüttel. +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

What is the Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung?

We’re glad you asked. This absolute monster of a word – with nine syllables – translates to ‘certificate of freedom from rent debts’ or ‘rent debt-free certificate.’

Tenants in Germany usually have to prove to their prospective landlord that they reliably pay their rent. And one of the most popular ways of doing this is with a certificate that shows you are free from any rental debts.

It is essentially a piece of paper from your landlord explaining that you have paid all of your rent on time and you don’t have arrears. It has to be signed and can be included in your Bewerbermappe (application portfolio) when you’re applying to rent a flat or house.  

It acts as proof of the creditworthiness of the prospective tenant.

Why do I need this document?

You don’t need it (although some landlords may ask for it), however, it will give you an advantage over other tenants applying for flats. This is essential to know in places like Berlin, Munich and Hamburg where demand for affordable flats far outstrips supply. 

Who issues the certificate?

The rent debt-free document can be issued by the landlord or their property manager (Hausverwaltung). If you are living in a shared flat, it’s also possible to get it from the main tenant (Hauptmieter) who can sign the document for a sub-tenant on behalf of the landlord. 

However, German real estate and renting portal Immowelt says that your landlord is under no obligation to issue the rental debt-free certificate to tenants. 

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

Flats in Frankfurt, Hesse.

Flats in Frankfurt, Hesse. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Can parents issue a rent debt-free certificate?

Parents cannot issue this document to their children. However, if the parents of a trainee or student vouch for their child, and live in rented accommodation themselves, they can have their landlord issue a rent debt-free certificate for the child.

However, this option doesn’t work if the parents live in their own property. In this case, an alternative could be to include the parents in the tenancy agreement as guarantors. 

What does a rental debt-free certificate say?

It usually contains the following information:

  • Name of the tenant
  • Address of the rented flat
  • Confirmation that there are no rent arrears or information on existing rent debts
  • Confirmation of regular, timely payment
  • Name, address and signature of the landlord/property manager/main tenant

Can I be charged a fee for this?

The question of whether and how much money a landlord can charge for issuing a certificate of freedom from rent debts has not been clarified by law. However, since it is a service that the landlord does not have to provide, there is some evidence to suggest that the landlord can charge for this service.

Since the document is no more than a single piece of paper, you would hope that landlords would oblige. 

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

But according to Immowelt, a fee of up to €50 would be considered a reasonable fee. Charges on the amount of fees for receipts and certificates may also be regulated in people’s tenancy agreements.

On the other hand, the landlord is free to issue the confirmation free of charge – especially if they are offered a fully completed form by the tenant and only need to check it and sign. 

You can find plenty of samples of a typical Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung online which you can download and adapt. 

If your landlord refuses to issue this certificate, there are ways to get around it. For instance, you can provide evidence of bank transfers paying for your rent every month. 

How current does the rent debt-free certificate have to be?

There are no legal regulations on how up-to-date the certificate has to be, and it depends on the prospective landlord’s requirements. Credit reports are usually valid for six to six months so this can act as a guideline. 

How important is this Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung anyway?

The certificate showing you have no rent arrears has no legal significance, and in many cases contains neither information about the duration of the certified period nor statements about the payment of operating costs.

The certificate also doesn’t provide any information about the current or expected future creditworthiness of the prospective tenant.

It serves to give a snapshot of how the tenant has behaved in their last apartment when it comes to paying rent on time. 

As is typical of German bureaucracy, the more documents you can give to a prospective landlord, the happier they will be. They are trying to get an overall impression of the potential tenant and want as much security as possible. 

What happens if I forge the document?

As with any forgery, we’d always advise: don’t do it! 

If the new landlord has any doubts about a a rental debt-free certificate, they can get in touch with the tenant and ask to contact the previous landlord (they can’t contact them without the tenant’s permission). But that could make things a little awkward…

If the certificate of freedom from rent debts is found to be forged by the new landlord, this is considered a breach of contract and is grounds for terminating the tenancy without notice.

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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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