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.
- If you have searched for housing through a broker:
Does he or she charge a brokerage fee (called ‘Maklergebühr’, ‘Courtage’ or ‘Provision’) for his or her work? The costs for the brokerage may amount to a maximum of 2 net cold rents plus VAT.
- Do you have to pay a deposit to the landlord?
A security deposit serves as a safeguard for the landlord in case you are unable to pay the rent or damage is left behind in the apartment when you move out. A rent deposit may amount to a maximum of 3 net cold rents. In most cases, this money will be refunded to you after moving out of the apartment.
- How much is the rent in total? Are water and heating costs included in the rent?
Ask the landlord how high the additional costs (the so-called warm rent, “Warmmiete”) will be approximately. According to the statistic Betriebskostenspiegel 2020 of the Deutscher Mieterbund (DMB), 2.17 euros per square meter is normal on average. In most cases, the warm rent already includes water and heating costs as well as waste disposal fees. In addition, you also have to reckon with expenses for electricity, telephone, cable connection and Internet.
- 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. You usually may keep small animals such as guinea pigs or birds in your new apartment, but for many other animals the landlord's consent must be obtained.
Please also remember to register your new residence within two weeks following your move.
You can find more about first steps in Hamburg in our Newcomers section.
Read to find out which contracts you must conclude in addition to the lease agreement in our article: