You own property and you are looking for a new tenant for your Berlin apartment? Or perhaps you are simply curious about the steps taken by landlords to screen and select new residents? ADEN IMMOBILIEN covers key questions and checks to be conducted before signing a rental contract. We are trusted by hundreds of landlords who lease their apartments.Contact us for more information!

Berlin’s rental market may be booming, but finding the right tenant still is a challenging process. That means someone with the right income situation, who inspires you trust, who is truly interested in your apartment. While you may receive many messages to visit your apartment, there may in fact be very few people who will match your expectations! Furthermore, communication between tenants and landlords should work well, for instance if there are repairs to be done. This is crucial because apartments are often rented for extended periods of time, so you want to find a good relationship! So what should you know before choosing a tenant?

Do it yourself? A matter of time and skills

The first question to consider is, do you have time to look for tenants yourselves? In the past few years, the Berlin rental market has been struggling with too much demand and too few apartments. This can seem like a good thing for landlords: more options when choosing tenants, more flexibility when setting the price of the rent. However, the downside is that for any given offer, there will be dozens of applicants to screen, if not hundreds! An ad for a two-bedroom apartment in a central area is likely to get many messages within just hours of posting. Answering these messages, planning visits (whether individual or open house), receiving and reviewing the applications, can take a lot of time!

Furthermore, finding a tenant takes quite some skills: getting to know them, reviewing the application files, knowing how to draft a contract, organising the key handover. It is a fine mix between diplomacy and legal knowledge, and this is typically where an agent (Makler) can help you. If the apartment is empty, then the landlord can do it or ask a real estate agent (Makler) to organise the marketing and visits. Aside from the enormous time savings, going through a Makler can help focus on potential tenants that have reliable situations.

Where to find tenants

There are many options available when advertising a property for rent in Berlin. The easiest way, of course, is to ask friends and relatives, but often you will need to look for other people to rent your apartment. This is challenging because you have to trust first impressions and papers to account for who your potential tenants are!

The most common way to find tenants in Berlin is to use online platforms such as the classified ads on eBay Kleinanzangen, which is very popular in Germany. Craigslist is not very common and may sometimes contain scams. Other specialised platforms are ImmobilienScout24, Immowelt, and Immonet, which are widely used. An apartment with a reasonable asking price and a trendy neighborhood will certainly receive a lot of applications!

If you are organising the procedure yourself, don’t overlook social media like Facebook, where hundreds of thousands of people are looking for apartments every day. Users are often very reactive and you may receive messages asking for visits within just a few minutes. The downside is that it can generate an overwhelming amount of responses. There are for instance:

  •    WG-Zimmer & Wohnungen Berlin – Facebook group, 140 000+ members
  •    WG, Zimmer und Wohnung in Berlin – Facebook group, 55 000+ members
  •    Berlin Apartments – Facebook group, 21 000+ members

Beware however, since many members in these groups are not very serious. They may not answer back, or not come to visits, and therefore use up a lot of your time.

Write your ads precisely

The key part of the screening process resides in how you write your ads. If you are very clear about the terms from the beginning onwards, you won’t waste time with incompatible matches. For instance, make sure that potential tenants know:

  • the type and duration of the contract (“unbefristet” in German means unlimited, which is the most standard), the apartment size in square meters, number of rooms clearly indicated
  • the location is relatively precise (a street, or a close-by transport station)
  • the living situation you are looking for (do you accept houseshares and students? are pets allowed? what kind of income situation are you looking for? etc.)
  • if there are amenities (elevators, balconies, storage rooms, parking spaces, etc.)

For more information, please consult our article on BEING A LANDLORD IN BERLIN and get in touch with ADEN IMMOBILIEN if you are looking for an agent to help you lease your apartment

Take the right pictures!

First impressions count, and an apartment which has the right criteria but the wrong pictures may not interest potential tenants! Showing good, bright and clear photographs of your property is crucial, since it will give people a more realistic understanding of the layout and feeling of the apartment.

Take a look at our article on Real Estate Market Tools to find out more.

Selecting the right tenant for your Berlin apartment

Once you have received enough visits and collected some application files, you will try to select the “right” tenant for your property. But what does that mean?

  • they have sufficient and stable income to convince you there won’t be problems paying the rent. For example, you may want to see a net income at least three times the (warm) rent, and a guarantor who makes at least five times the rent (since they will have expenses on their side too)
  • their rental history is clear and their previous landlord is satisfied with them (shown by a document called Mietschuldenfreiheit.
  • their situation matches your requirements
  • their SCHUFA shows a positive credit history

What does the SCHUFA mean?

SCHUFA Holding AG is a German company keeping credit records of individuals residing in Germany. This company will track a person’s bills, fines, and credit lines that may have been left unpaid, and will compile them into a document called the SCHUFA Auskunft. The initial SCHUFA score is theoretically 100%, which is what everybody gets at the beginning (when they first register in Germany, or when German nationals turn 18). It is a quick, although approximate, way to track a private individual’s ability to pay their bills on time. The score will decrease accordingly with payment delays or failures, and it is common for people to score between 90 and 97,5%.

Below is the indicative SCHUFA score table:

> 97,5% Very low risk

95% – 97,5% Low to manageable risk

90% – 95% Satisfactory to increased risk

80% – 90% Significantly increased to high risk

50% – 80% Very high risk

<50% Critical risk

Source: SCHUFA Basisscore Tabelle [https://www.bonify.de/bonitaets-score]

Contracts and procedures

Once you have found someone to rent your Berlin apartment, you need to draft a rental contract. There are many templates online, but make sure to consult our article on LANDLORD AND TENANT OBLIGATIONS IN GERMANY  to understand each party’s responsibilities. Usually, contracts start on the 1st of the month, but you may also start on the 15th. On that date, the landlord, the agent or a legal representative should be at the apartment to welcome the new tenants and finalise the paperwork:

  • landlord and tenant should have at least one copy of the contract, signed by both parties
  • you should establish an Ubergabeprotokoll, which lists the condition of each room and appliances and says clearly if the paint, windows, floors, furniture, bathroom amenities are in new condition, used, or damaged. If there are holes in the walls or other defects, they should be clearly marked. Both parties get a signed copy of this document
  • a document which declares how many keys were given

Conclusions

In the end, even though there exists many documents to help you assess the trustworthiness of a tenant to rent your Berlin apartment, it is also important to trust your instinct. Do you feel like you can have proper, respectful, professional communication with that person? Keep in mind that most rental contracts in Germany are unlimited, and so the opportunity of an empty apartment might not occur again before long. Unsure if you should rent your apartment or sell it now? Find out more in our article about deciding if renting or selling is the better option for you!
ADEN IMMOBILIEN works as real estate agent in Berlin and is trusted by hundreds of landlords who lease their apartments. Contact us for more information!

Berlin is an attractive city, with a high quality of life. ADEN IMMOBILIEN offers many rental opportunities, from single studios to large family apartments. So how can you prepare to find an apartment in Berlin? ADEN IMMOBILIEN discusses some tips to look for flats, prepare your documents, and get in touch with the landlord.

Before you start searching for an apartment

First things first: finding an apartment in Berlin takes time! On a low budget, it can take weeks, even months, before finding the right match.

Secondly, even if you have an ideal Kiez (neighborhood) in mind, be ready to look into other options less in demand. Areas like Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg, and now even the less central Neukölln or Friedrichshain are the most wanted in the city! Why not consider less “hyped” neighbourhoods like Wedding, Schöneberg, or Lichtenberg?

The application file

In Berlin, like in many other cities, landlords or brokers expect to see interested tenants arrive with a number of documents all ready to go. So before you start flat hunting, here is what you should prepare and print:

  • A Schufa. The Schufa is a document that traces your credit or debt history. Anyone arriving in Germany and registering as a resident automatically gets one (it will be empty, which is normal). You can get it for free on the official Schufa institute, or you can get one a bit faster paying a flat rate of €25,00. This article by All About Berlin explains the SCHUFA procedure.
  • Work contracts and recent payslips, bank statements, or other proofs of income. Landlords want to see proofs of income, which can be tricky for freelancers who don’t have guaranteed work. A copy of your bank statements (including savings), and a letter from your tax advisor (Steuerberater) can help in this case!
  • A guarantor (Bürgschaft), especially if you don’t make enough money or if you don’t have a stable income source. You can ask a parent of a friend to be your guarantor (they have to live in Germany, or at least in another EU country). The Bürgschaft letter should be written in German and has no specific format, and here is a template for instance.
  • Money for the Kaution (security deposit). In most cases, the deposit is 3 months of rent (Kaltmiete), which is the legal maximum. If you don’t have enough money to cover the deposit, open a Mietkautionskonto or get a Mietaval from your bank. Your bank will act as your guarantor and cover your deposit.
  • Money for the first month of rent, of course!
  • A bank account from which you can transfer money to your landlord. In Germany it is common to use wire transfers to pay the rent, rather than cheques or cash. In the European SEPA zone, you can transfer money to other European bank accounts without paying extra fees.
  • A copy of your passport or ID.
  • Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung. This is a document from your previous landlord that confirms you don’t owe him/her any money. It has no specific format, and can be a simple letter.
  • Write a cover letter. Write a simple cover letter in German explaining who you are and what you are looking for. This will differentiate your application from the rest.
  • A portrait of yourself, to make you stand out from the others.

Where to look for apartments?

General apartment search platforms include the classified ads platform eBay Kleinanzangen, which is the most popular in Germany. Craigslist is not very common and sometimes contains scams. Other specialised platforms are ImmobilienScout24, Immowelt, and Immonet [ADD LINKS] which are widely used (expect a lot of competition!). If you are looking for a room in a shared apartment, WG-Gesucht is the most famous roommate search website in Germany. Expect fierce competition.

Another strategy involves contacting housing companies, which own a lot of real estate in Berlin. For instance:

  •    1892
  •    Charlottenburger Baugenossenschaft
  •    DPF
  •    Fortuna
  •    GESOBAU
  •    Gewobag
  •    GSW
  •    HOWOGE
  •    immobilio.de
  •    Salz und Brot
  •    Stadt und Land
  •    WBM
  •    WG Merkur
  •    WG Weissensee
  •    Wohnungsbaugenossenschaften
  •    Zoomsquare

There are also many Facebook groups where people post ads, usually for shared apartments (Wohngemeinschaft, or WG in short):

  •    WG-Zimmer & Wohnungen Berlin – Facebook group, 140 000+ members
  •    WG, Zimmer und Wohnung in Berlin – Facebook group, 55 000+ members
  •    Berlin Apartments – Facebook group, 21 000+ members
  •    Apartments/roommates in Berlin – Facebook group, 17 000+ members
  •    WG Zimmer Wohnung in Berlin – Facebook group, 15 000+ members
  •    Flats in Berlin ONLY LONG TERM – Facebook group, 6 000+ members
  •    Berlin LONG TERM rooms/flats – Facebook group, 2 000+ members
  •    Queer housing Berlin – Facebook group, 1 000+ members

Going to visits

In some cases, you can get an individual visit with an agent, with the landlord, or with the current tenants. Sometimes, empty apartments are shown at particular times, and there will be other visitors along with you. Don’t be discouraged! Talk to the person in charge of the visits, introduce yourself, ask some questions. The idea is to make a good impression from the very beginning. Make sure to be on time. Call the agent or the landlord in the evening after the visit, or the day after, because decisions are taken very quickly!

Understand your contract and your obligations

Most Germans are renters! Therefore renting apartments in Germany has a lot of regulations. Tenants are well protected by law, if they have a standard, unlimited (unbefristet) rental contract. There are rules about the rental price in Berlin and how much it increases. And there are few circumstances under which a landlord can terminate such a contract: find out more in our article about tenant and landlord obligations. However, there exist other kinds of contracts, particularly short-term contracts (Zwischenmiete), where regulations about rent and termination are quite different. Make sure that you know what kind of contract you are getting.

In Germany, there is the cold rent (Kaltmiete) and the warm rent (Warmmiete) which contains the utilities, called Nebenkosten, which include central heating, hot water, city taxes. The Nebenkosten are not a fixed cost, they are estimated. Your Nebenkosten will be recalculated every year and you should get paper proof of the totals. If you didn’t pay enough, you will get an invoice. Electricity and internet contracts are usually acquired by the tenant themselves on top of the Warmmiete.

Since 2015, you should never pay an agent fee (Maklergebühr or Provision) when renting an apartment. The landlord hires the agent and pays the fee, not the future tenant.

Rental contracts are often very long, and contain legal German writing which can be difficult to understand. Is it clear which costs are to be carried out by the tenant? Will there be extra charges for renovation or painting at the end of the contract? These questions should be transparent for you. So you should never immediately sign the contract, but have someone else look at it, for instance a Mieterverein (tenant’s association, which you can join for a yearly fee) to have some legal (and native German) eyes look over the contract.

Conclusions

Finding an apartment in Berlin can be very competitive. Make sure that you give yourself time to get your foot in the rental market. One last tip: call, don’t write! Most landlords don’t have time to answer emails, so if you find an apartment you like, call immediately and try to introduce yourself in German. Come prepared to the visits with your application file ready, printed, and stapled together. After visiting, call again to leave a strong impression and improve your chances.

Once you have found a place to live in Berlin, the next steps are to register your address at the Bürgeramt, find a good liability insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung), get your internet connected, and find a power company. Make sure that your name appears on the doorbell and mailbox.

Discover ADEN IMMOBILIEN’s rental offers!

Disclaimer: This article is written for your information only. We try to provide correct information on these procedures but ADEN Immo is a real estate agency and speaks from their experience as real estate brokers only. We cannot be held liable for any mistakes or omissions in the current article. Thank you for understanding.

Buying property in Germany as a foreigner: an open option for foreigners

With a strong and stable housing market, unaffected by the 2008 recession, Germany appears to be a good opportunity to invest in real estate. There are no restrictions for non-nationals and non-residents to buy a property in Germany. Whether your fiscal residence is in another EU country or abroad, you are entitled to buying property in Germany. However, you should keep in mind that:

• Owning property in Germany does not grant you the right of residence

• You will likely need to get a loan (mortgage) from a German bank or financial institution to finance your investment

• German banks and financial institutions often grant up to 50% of the property price to foreigners (i.e. people whose fiscal residence is not in Germany)

• Germany has passed fiscal conventions to prevent double imposition with a number of countries around the world, but not all (see our article on the fiscality of real estate in Germany to find out more about fiscal conventions)

Arriving in Germany: how to register and get a residence permit

Citizens of another EU country are entitled to work, live and buy property in Germany without needing to apply for a visa. This usually means having to declare Germany your fiscal residence by officially registering in two distinct locations:
At the local city hall, the Bürgeramt, to obtain a very useful document called the Anmeldung (or Meldeschein) which demonstrates that you are living in that city
At the local ministry of finance, the Finanzamt, to establish your fiscal residence in Germany, declare what your occupation is, and get a tax identification number

All foreigners from outside the EU who wish to stay in Germany for more than 3 months (the standard visitor permission time) will need to apply for a residence permit (the Aufenthaltstitel). Keep in mind that a visa is not quite the same as a residence permit: a visa is usually issued for a limited period of time, with a specific occupational purpose such as being a freelancer in your discipline. Citizens from specific countries, such as the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, Switzerland and others, are allowed to enter Germany without a visa and apply for one while being in the country. Citizens from other countries usually need to apply for a visa from a German embassy in their home country.

Staying in Germany: how to get a visa

Being in Germany on a valid visa is the first requirement to being able to apply for a residence permit at the Foreigner’s Office, Ausländerbehörde.
• German Permanent Residency: a Permanent settlement permit (unlimited residence permit – § 9 section 2 AufenthG) in Germany can be granted after 3 years, if a full coverage of the applicants means of subsistence and a successful business can be demonstrated.
German Citizenship: naturalizing for Citizenship in Germany is possible after 8 years of continuous living in Germany, provided there are no criminal records, sufficient income and financial means to live in Germany, that taxes, pensions and health contributions have been paid, and that the applicant has sufficient knowledge of German.
• Business / investment residence permit: foreign entrepreneurs or freelancers who aim to start-up a business in Germany (or set-up a branch of their business in Germany) can obtain a ‘D’ visa, and later a residence permit through § 21 AufenthG if they invest a minimum of 200 000 euros and if they can prove that the business will have a “positive effect on the German economy” (source)

Frelance and artist visa (Visa for the purpose of Self-Employment): in Berlin in particular, there are a number of options available to obtain freelance or artists visa, which are usually granted for 1-2 years and renewable. Discover more on this guide by DispatchEurope or on the official Berlin website (in English!).

This article is written for your information only. We try to provide correct information on these procedures but we are not immigration lawyers. Please refer to the appropriate government agencies ! The law firm Citizen Lane offers interesting support in this domain (link: http://citizenlane.ch/residence-by-investment/germany/)

All in all, buying a property in Germany does not qualify you for a residence permit! It is also difficult to say if owning property in Germany might help you renew a temporary visa towards obtaining permanent residency. We advise you refer to an immigration lawyer when your visa is due to renewal in order to put all chances on your side. Indeed, Germany is an attractive place t live and the German real estate market remains an interesting investment opportunity for foreigners. Find out how to buy a property in Germany in our full guide!

If you are currently renting out an apartment in Berlin, there are many things to know about tenant protection in rental agreements in Germany. For instance, who is responsible for paying the cleaning service in the building? Or perhaps the windows need to be changed, and you are not sure if this is included in the landlord obligations? ADEN Immo explains it all to you.

Keep in mind that ADEN Immo is a real estate agency and recommends you consult the official publications from the Berliner Finanzamt and Senate. This article is provided for your information only, based on our knowledge and experience as real estate brokers in Berlin. ADEN Immo bears no liability for omissions or errors.

Rental contracts and tenant protection

In Germany, whenever an apartment is rented out, a rental contract (Mietvertrag) has to be signed by both the landlord and the tenant. The contract must contain information about the duration, costs (rent and monthly charges), terms of notice, deposit, and redecoration once the tenant moves out. It is common practice for landlords to ask their tenants to redecorate the property when moving out. This involves painting the walls white and leaving it in the same state as it was received… while of course signs of usage are expected, the tenant is responsible for broken appliances or furniture (see below: the importance of the Übergabeprotokoll).

In the rental contract, the house rules (Hausordnung) should also be specified (or added in a separate document). These will necessarily mention quiet hours, which in Germany are usually from 22:00-7:00 and 13:00-15:00. If the tenant consistently disregards these quiet hours and disturbs the building, if there are many complaints from the neighbors, this can constitute grounds for an eviction without notice.

Ending a rental agreement: tenant protection

There are many myths about the almighty tenant status in Germany. In 1971 in West Berlin, a law was passed that made evictions virtually impossible. Since then, the law has been repealed but there are still very strict reglementations on ending an unlimited (unbefristet) contract. These are still the standard rental contract in Germany:
• The notice period is usually 3 months. It may increase to 6, 9 and 12 months, when the tenant has occupied the apartment for over 5, 8 and 10 years respectively
• A shorter notice period may be agreed upon in the lease. Often, the notice is just one month for short-term contracts like Zwischenmiete. If the landlord wants to terminate the lease before it is up, he still needs to justify it)
• The lease may be terminated if the tenant has broken the conditions of the contract on repeated occasions. This has to be proven and documented.
• Eigenbedarf: the lease may be terminated if the tenant wants to use the property for himself or a relative. This also must be proven and justified extensively.

Generally, terminating a lease is a very restricted affair for landlords in Germany! Furnished apartments are usually treated a bit differently (shorter contracts with shorter notice periods, for instance). Discover everything in ADEN Immo’s Guide to being a landlord in Berlin and renting out an apartment (PDF)!

Deposits: Importance of the Übergabeprotokoll

Before moving in, tenants are usually asked to pay a deposit (Kaution). This represents up to 3 months of rent (Kaltmiete). At the end of the tenancy, this must be paid back to the tenant, usually within one month. However, if there were damages to the property or furniture, the landlord may keep part of it. So how do we determine if there were damages? Before getting the keys to the apartment, the tenant and the landlord must inspect the apartment together. They fill in an Übergabeprotokoll which defines the condition of the property. For instance, holes in the walls, defects on the floor, issues with the electricity must be indicated, as well as the state of the furniture or appliances (kitchen, bathroom etc.).

Therefore, at the end of the lease, a new Übergabeprotokoll is made and compared to the old one. If there are damages beyond normal signs of usage, the tenant is given a reasonable amount of time to do some repairs. Only after this, the landlord can retain part of the deposit if the repairs have not been duly conducted.

When preparing a new rental agreement for an apartment, there are many things to look out for! Is the square footage of the flat accurate? Have the monthly expenses and side costs been adequately calculated? Was the rental brake law, the Mietpreisbremse, been taken into consideration? ADEN Immo details all these questions in the Guide to being a landlord in Berlin and renting out an apartment (PDF)!

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