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.
Congratulations on your rental! What’s next?
Read below to find out which contracts you must conclude in addition to the lease agreement:
Energy and gas supply:
In Germany, electricity and gas costs are paid in monthly installments ('Abschlag'). When leasing a new apartment, these are usually calculated on the basis of the square meterage and the number of people living in the apartment. There are various portals on the Internet where you have the opportunity to compare electricity and gas providers and check the services and prices. Some providers also offer the possibility to pay in advance for the whole year. But be careful! If a provider goes bankrupt, you may not get your advance payment back.
For electricity usage, the actual annual consumption is read from your electricity meter at the end of the billing period (usually a calendar year). This is also done, by the way, when you pay the budget billing to your landlord or landlady. Depending on your usage and the amount of the total budget billing payments, you will then receive a credit to your account or have to pay an amount in arrears to the provider. If you purchase gas, the procedure is usually comparable, but also depends on the company. By the way: It is often worthwhile to compare services and prices every year and to switch providers, because you can then benefit from many discounts and bonuses.
In most cases, you will have to sign a contract for the supply of household electricity yourself. Caution! If you do not conclude a contract with an electricity supplier, you will be assigned to the basic supplier. The contract is then concluded automatically. The conditions of the contract are not always to the consumer's advantage.
The tap water in Hamburg is of such a quality that it meets the standards for drinking it. So there is no problem at all when you drink the water or use it for cooking. You can find a lot of information about the water in Hamburg on the website of Hamburg Wasser (in German), which is the only provider for the water supply. Therefore you cannot choose the provider. The water costs are paid monthly by deductions and billed at the end of the year. If your payments are not billed through the landlord, you must contact Hamburg Wasser yourself. Whether you have to read your water meter yourself or whether this is done by a Hamburg Wasser employee varies from apartment to apartment. However, you may receive a meter reading card, which you then simply fill out and return to Hamburg Wasser.
Web and media access:
Have you already been able to clarify whether your landlord or landlady will provide a cable connection for television and perhaps internet, for example? Sometimes you can include this as an option in the lease. If this is not the case, you are free to choose between many providers. Take your time to check which offer is suitable for you and also use the possibility of consultation. Compare the providers with services and prices on the portals. Also pay attention to whether the monthly deductions are increased after a few months according to the contract. Sometimes initially favorable-looking contributions are increased after 6 months by almost a hundred percent. Do you then want to and can you still pay these premiums? In addition to these costs, every household in Germany is required to pay a monthly broadcasting fee.
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..