In Germany, a lease is considered valid as soon as both parties agree. This means that it is possible to enter into a lease contract ‘with a handshake’. Still, it is highly recommended to only agree to written lease contracts; this way, both parties are fully aware of the terms and can always look up the rights and duties included in the rental agreement.
An overview of the rights and duties that may be included in a lease, and what you do or do not have to tolerate can be found by visiting the Mieterverein online (German only).
Here are some key questions to have answered before entering a lease:
- What is the rental period? You should check whether it is a permanent or short-term let. Please note that in some cases there may be a minimum rental period.
- What is the total monthly rent? How much is the sole rent for the dwelling itself (Kaltmiete) and what are the additional costs for maintenance work, waste management and utilities (Nebenkosten)? Are water, energy and heat supply included in the utilities? If not, you can ask your landlord about the estimated additional costs. As of 2018, normal monthly additional service charges are about €2.17 per sqm.
- Does the rent increase automatically after a certain period of time (Staffelmiete) and how is this stated in the lease agreement? If so, you should check whether you can afford the rent in the long run.
- Are you agreeing to any duties or chores? Some leases may oblige you to take turns cleaning the common stairwell or pulling weeds in the yard. If you don’t feel like doing that, you can ask your landlord if another kind of arrangement might be met.
- What about your doggo or kitty-cat, your pet tarantula or teacup pig? You should check whether your landlord allows pets. The same applies if you consider getting yourself an animal companion after moving in.
Congratulations on your rental! What’s next?
In most cases, the so-called Warmmiete covers water and heat supply as well as waste management costs. On top of that, you may expect additional costs for energy and web and media access.
Energy and gas supply:
In Germany, energy and gas supply costs are due through monthly instalments (Abschlag). When initially renting a new flat or house, these instalments are usually calculated by the total square metres of the dwelling and the people living in it. These are many websites to help you compare the services and prices of different energy and gas supply companies. Some companies may also offer paying a full year in advance, but be careful – if an energy or gas company goes bust, you may not get your full advance payment back.
The meter readings will be taken and your individual use will be assessed after every twelve month-period (Verbrauchszeitraum), unless your lease is cancelled within that period. This also applies if you pay the instalments directly to your landlord. If your consumption was significantly lower or higher than the total instalments, you will get a refund or be required to pay a compensation to the supplier, respectively. It can be beneficial to check and compare supply companies’ services and rates every year, so you can profit from special offers and discounts.
Tap water in Hamburg meets drinking water quality standards, so it’s no problem to drink or cook with water from the tap. You can find more information on the tap water in Hamburg on the website of the Hamburg Wasser waterworks (German only). Water supply and disposal is managed only by Hamburg Wasser, so you cannot choose another supplier. Still, the monthly water supply costs are also calculated by instalments and they are offset against the actual consumption at the end of the year. You will be notified whether you are supposed to read your water meter yourself, or whether this will be done by a Hamburg Wasser employee. If required, you will be sent a form to fill in the meter readings and return to Hamburg Wasser.
Web and media access:
In some cases, cable or digital access to landline phones, internet or TV are already covered by the Nebenkosten payments to your landlord; if not, it may be possible to make such arrangements in the lease contract. Otherwise, you can choose between a wide range of media access supply companies. Feel free to take your time in order to check many different offers to find the solution that best suits your personal needs. You may want to make use of personal consultation and compare the different service and pricing offers on online comparison portals. Don’t forget to keep an eye on the monthly instalments: some may rise after only a few months, depending on the contract. Also keep in mind that in Germany, every household is required to pay a monthly public service broadcasting fee (Rundfunkbeitrag, formerly GEZ).
Please also remember to register your new residence within two weeks following your move.