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RENTING

EXPLAINED: How to deal with excessive noise in your German flat

Your home should be a relaxing place to be, but what if you're dealing with endless screaming rows from the neighbours, barking dogs or endless drilling from building work? Here's what the German law says about situations like this.

A drill and work tools
A drill and other tools. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

Environmental or neighbourhood noise

When discussing noise complaints, it’s important to distinguish between what’s known as “environmental noise” and what’s known as “neighbourhood noise”. In a legal sense, environmental noise is understood to be noise that isn’t generated by the landlord and isn’t under their control. Neighbourhood noise, meanwhile, refers to all noise disturbances that result from living under one roof or in a residential complex, as well as all disturbances from the surrounding neighbourhood, such as a loud party next door. 

What kind of noise is allowed – and what isn’t? 

Generally, there are some hard-and-fast rules about when noise is allowed to be made in your region. Designated ‘quiet’ times often fall on Sundays, in the evenings and around midday, meaning neighbours, builders and local businesses should make a concerted effort to keep noise to a minimum.

However, to keep the peace (quite literally), your landlord has probably put together another set of rules in the Hausordnung, which should guide you on what is and isn’t permissible.

These might include restricting practicing music instruments to a few hours a day outside of quiet hours, bans on keeping loud pets such as dogs, guidance on the optimum volume to listen to music, and rules around hosting parties. 

If you want to know specifically what the rules are in your apartment building, look up the designated quiet times in your state along with these house rules, which you should have been notified of when signing the contract. 

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

When does noise count as “excessive”? 

All types of noise can naturally grate on the nerves, though as we’ve explained above, some types of noise are hard to deal with because they’re deemed to be unavoidable. That includes things the aforementioned environmental noise, such as hoards of children screaming and chatting as they walk home from a nearby school, general traffic noise or planes flying overhead. 

On the other hand, if a neighbour is having a noisy BBQ in their garden or another is playing music at all times of the day or night, those are often avoidable causes of noise and could be grounds for a complaint to your landlord or the authorities.

When it comes to children, a bit of noise is to be expected, but this doesn’t mean that anything goes. Parents should never let children play in the stairwell and should try and ensure that noise levels don’t get out of hand, especially during designated quiet times. 

children in Hamburg

Children play in a Hamburg flat. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Mascha Brichta

With local businesses such as bars and restaurants in the neighbourhood, things get a little bit more complicated. If you were aware of the presence of these business when you moved in, you probably won’t have the right to complain – unless they breach the ‘quiet period’ rules. Another exception is if the business suddenly expands its capacity, moves tables onto the street, or extends its opening hours. For these unforeseen circumstances, you may be able to seek some form of compensation from the landlord. 

Building work – though potentially unavoidable – can also be grounds for complaint, especially if the work is affecting your quality of life. Even if builders are only working within permissible hours, having endless drilling or hammering above and below you can definitely make your home a much less relaxing place to be. It’s important to note once again that the noise doesn’t have to be confined to your building. If work is being done in a neighbouring house or in the street and is also affecting your quality of life, it may be time to take action. 

What can I do if it’s too noisy? 

If a neighbour is causing excessive noise, it could be that they’re unaware how loud they are or that the noise from their flat is bleeding through to other homes in the building. In these cases, often a brief, friendly chat or a polite note left in their mailbox can clear things up. 

If the noise is outside of the designated “quiet” times in your state and they refuse to keep the noise down, you are well within your rights to call the police. Generally, quiet periods last from around 10pm to 6am and all day on Sundays. In some states, you’ll also have a midday quiet period of a few hours around lunchtime. But check in your rental contract because there could be slight differences. 

For ongoing issues such as building work or excessive noise from neighbours, you could have grounds for a rent reduction. The amount of rent that’s reduced will depend on how severe the issue is, but could be anywhere between five and 40 percent. To make a complaint about a neighbour that is regularly noisy, you may have to make what’s known as a Mängelanzeige (a notice of defects or grievances). This is essentially a record of the times that you experienced excessive noise, details of who was responsible, and the dates and times of each incident. 

If you’re still not sure if you have a good case or if your landlord is being uncooperative, it could be a good idea to seek the advice of an expert at your local Mietverein (Tenants’ Association). They may be able to advise you further on your case and give you an idea of how much of a rent reduction (if any) you would be eligible for. 

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

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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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