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EXPLAINED: What you can and can't do in your basement in Germany

The Local Germany
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EXPLAINED: What you can and can't do in your basement in Germany
Can you store anything in your basement in Switzerland? Photo by SHVETS production:

From storing flammables to practicing hobbies and moving in, here’s everything you can and can’t do in the cellar or basement room of your German apartment.

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When you rent an apartment in Germany it should come with a basement or cellar room, known as a Keller in German.

They are on the underground floors, vary in size and each flat in the building will have one.

They make ideal storage rooms, particularly for those not fortunate enough to rent larger apartments

While in most cases you’ll be allowed to do and store almost everything in your basement, some restrictions and recommendations do still apply.

Are tenants entitled to their own basement room?

There are usually basement rooms in each apartment building, for example laundry rooms or bike cellars, and many have special rooms for tenants to store their stuff with a heavy lock.

However, according to the German Tenants' Association (DMB), tenants are only entitled to their own specific cellar room or compartment if this is explicitly agreed in the contract.

In this case, the basement belongs to the rental property and the tenant can use it to store supplies, tools or even (properly sealed) food with a long shelf life.

According to DMB, the landlord is obligated to make the cellar rooms available empty and cleared at the start of the tenancy - just like the apartment itself.

This means that lingering leftovers, garbage, old tyres or bicycles from the previous tenant do not belong in the basement - and should already be cleared out by the time a tenant moves in.

A basement could be a convenient place to store everything from supplies to miscellaneous artworks that you don't want in your apartment. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Angelika Warmuth

Can the landlord terminate the basement compartment separately?

If your contract states that tenants can use a basement, the landlord isn’t allowed to back track, says DMB.

However, tenants have no say in the allocation of their cellar compartment, with the landlord having the final say on who gets what room. If two tenants want to swap their cellar room with each other, they need to ask the landlord for permission first.


Can I store food in the basement?

As a general rule, anything that can be used for residential purposes may be stored in the cellar compartment. Keeping food supplies in the cellar can also be good idea due to the cool temperature. 

Some landlords even permit their Mieter to keep a freezer in their cellar, but you’ll need to ask for permission first to make sure that structural requirements are met, such as a necessary power connection, a solid base and dryness

Just make sure your supplies are sealed to keep away rats or other pests. 

Can I pursue by hobbies in the cellar?

Are you inspired by Steve Jobs and want to pursue your passions in the basement? Even if the cellar is intended as a storage room, the tenant is generally allowed to use it as they wish, for example to set up a hobby room or even a study. 

However, this must not interfere with other tenants: Even in the basement, tenants must adhere to the house rules and observe the specified quiet periods, for example.

Can I live in my basement?

Okay: we know rents keep getting higher in Germany, but keep in mind that, as a general rule, a basement is meant to be used as a storage room so converting it into a living room or bedroom is not permitted.

There are many reasons as to why one shouldn’t live in the basement, with a common reason being that safety, such as fire protection, is not guaranteed. In addition to this, rooms without windows in Germany must not be used for residential purposes.

READ ALSO: 'Start early': Your best hacks for finding a rental property in Germany


What is not allowed in the tenant's cellar?

Caution is advised when storing highly flammable substances such as petrol, old paints and varnishes or disinfectants.

Due to the high risk of fire, the cellar is not a suitable place for storing these things permanently, according to IDEAL Versicherung. Often the storage of such items in the cellar is already prohibited in the house rules. Otherwise, a maximum quantity of 20 liters applies for flammable liquids in the cellar. 

The storage of pressurized and liquid gas containers and high-dose pesticides is also generally prohibited. If tenants wish to store their motorcycle, moped, scooter or commercial goods in the cellar, they require the landlord's consent.


What rules apply to the use of common rooms?

Common rooms in the basement, such as a drying room or the bicycle cellar, are available to all tenants - even if this is not stated in the tenancy agreement. 

For example, they can specify when tenants are allowed to do their laundry or where they can park their bikes. But the famous German sense of Ordnung must prevail: Turning common rooms into a junk room by storing household goods or bulky waste is taboo, which was also recently ruled on by the Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court.


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