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!

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)!

The real estate market in Berlin appears to be in full bloom. Over the past decade, property prices have doubled and the urban population is growing every year. If you already own an apartment in Berlin, there are situations in which you may have to move out: an addition to the family, for instance, or the need to relocate for work. So the question will quickly arise: should you sell your Berlin apartment or rent it out?

Doing two things at once is always a complicated adventure, especially for real estate investments. Keeping your previous home might seem profitable on the long run. But it also represent a commitment in time and money that you must be ready to deal with. Before taking any decisions, you should do some serious planning and consider all the elements. ADEN Immo walks you through a list of questions to determine if you should sell your Berlin apartment or rent it out. Remember: as with most real estate questions, these are not universally “right or wrong”! Once you understand the options and the current real estate market in Berlin, you can make the best choice for your situation.

Will the property produce a monthly profit or a loss?

The first element in deciding whether to rent out your apartment or sell it, is to make a financial estimation of the monthly outcome. You want to have a realistic idea of how much is left from the rental income after you deduct all of the expenses associated with it. Remember to add both running expenses and exceptional ones. Think about upcoming renovations in the building, also known as capital expenses!

Below is a list of all the common monthly costs endured by a landlord in Berlin:

  • Mortgage: what are your monthly repayments, and how long will it take before the total credit is reimbursed to your financial institution? Beware of the moment when your interest rates are being re-calculated after the Zinsenbindung. Take a look at our article on the mortgage system in Germany.
  • Taxes: all properties in Germany are subject to local land tax (Grundsteuer) which can be included in the rent. Real estate transactions are also subject to a number of punctual taxes. Take a look at our complete guide on the fiscality of real estate in Berlin.
  • Utilities: most utilities are reflected in the rent and therefore are covered by the tenants, such as heating costs, water supply, wastewater, garbage collection, street cleaning, etc.
  • Insurance: in Germany, all properties are required to be covered for fire insurance, but there are additional ones you can get (floods, water damages, theft, etc.).
  • Building management: usually accomplished by the Hausverwaltung (homeowner assocation)
  • Vacancy: in your calculations, keep in mind that between tenants your apartment may not be rented at all time. In Berlin, apartments can legally be left empty with no long-term lease for 3 months. Longer periods incur penalties.
  • Repairs: you might need to fix some things in the apartment, like water systems, floors and windows. These expenses are the responsibility of the owner. Keep them in mind when considering how much money you invest in your Berlin apartment!
  • Capital expenditure: houses and city buildings alike need frequent repairs, which can create large expenses for landlords. For instance, a facade renovation or a new roof can quickly add up in 6-figure bills. So it is important that you understand the way your building is managed (monthly deposits into a collective fund called the Rücklage, or punctual calls for cash called the Sonderzahlung). Take a look at the Guide to being a landlord in Berlin

Compile all these numbers in an excel file, and deduct them from your rental income. What you are looking for is a positive cash flow where the property produces a profit every month. It’s important to have all the elements in mind! Forgetting something –like capital expenditures– can prove to be disastrous for your finances. For instance, you think that your cash flow (profit) is going to be €2,000 per year. However, in two years you need to contribute a €5,000 sum to the co-property to renovate the roof… That’s not such a good deal, is it?

How much should you charge for rent?

In Berlin rents tend to be quite low. Discover more in our guide to Berlin real estate prices and trends in 2018. Keep in mind that there is a rental index, called the Mietspiegel, which determines what the rent of each property should be: you can calculate it online on the official website of the city of Berlin. And recently, a rental brake law was passed, the Mieterpreisbremse which curbs rent prices. Below is the Berliner Mietmap which shows, according to data collected in 2015 from online listings of apartments for rent in Berlin:

Average rental prices (Kaltmiete) in Berlin, organised by metro station.
Source: Immobilien Scout 24

What would your Return on Investment (ROI) be?

The next question is: how much would you profit if you sold your Berlin apartment today? Remember that most transaction costs (agent fees, taxes and notary costs) are at the charge of the buyer. So it is likely that you will make a profit from the sale compared to your initial investment, especially since real estate prices have been rising in Berlin. But would it be better to keep the apartment and rent it out? Rental prices are quite low in Berlin and there are many other types of investments that yield higher returns. For more information on Return on Investment from real estate, check out this guide to Analyzing Rental Properties.

Average real estate sale prices in the greater Berlin area (2017).
Source: Statistischen Landesamtes

Consider the Capital Gains Tax exemption

Property prices are increasing every year all across Germany, especially in urban areas in the past decade. Therefore, it is possible that the sale of real estate will generate extra income: this is called capital gains. Under what conditions is a capital gains tax levied in Germany for residential properties like your Berlin apartment?
If the apartment was your main residence for two complete calendar years (January to December), the profits will be exempt from capital gains tax.
Properties that have been owned for over 10 years are exempt from capital gains tax.
For all other cases, the capital gains are taxed as additional income.

Remember that ADEN Immo is not a tax advisor and provides this article for your information only. It is based on our experience as real estate brokers in Berlin, and may contain errors and omissions.

Are you willing to be a landlord?

Some tenants are easy to manage… But in other situations, renting out your Berlin apartment means significant time and patience to deal with. Aside from paying the rent on time, other problems can be created from the poor behavior of some tenants –disturbing neighbours, trashing your apartment, and much more. The internet is full of stories about “crazy tenants”! Of course, this is exceptional, but still something to be aware of. More in our Guide to being a landlord in Berlin.

Selling your Berlin apartment while it is occupied by a tenant: the discounted price

Furthermore, be aware that German law is very protective of tenants. Most rental contracts are signed for an unlimited duration (unbefristet). Once this is set, there are very few conditions under which you can legally ask a tenant to leave if you want to sell your apartment after a few years. Find out more about how to terminate a rental contract in our Guide to being a landlord in Berlin.

Most people on the Berlin real estate market are looking for empty apartments, precisely for that reason. They want to move into their own flat, quite naturally, instead of having to deal with asking the current tenant to leave. So in the end, those who willing to buy an already occupied apartments are investors looking for a good deal. They are looking for higher returns on their investment, and so they will only offer discounted prices for your apartment.

ADEN Immo has observed that, on average, an apartment sold while there is already a tenant are usually priced 30% lower than an equivalent property.

If you want to leave your current apartment and buy a larger one, for instance, that will accommodate your family, you should consider selling your apartment now instead of renting it out. It is likely that the returns from rental income will be quite low, and once you have tenants in your apartment, you may not have the same sale opportunity before long!

Our social networks

Find our favorites in preview and our real estate advices on our networks

  

Real estate experts in Berlin and Paris

ADEN IMMOBILIEN is an international team of experts focused on real estate in the German and French capitals.

ADEN IMMOBILIEN is your reference for properties in Berlin and Paris: sales, rentals, new development projects and buildings.