Renting an Apartment
How to find the ideal apartment for rent
The search for the optimal rental apartment that meets your requirements is not so easy due to the increasing shortage of living space. And even after the decision has been made, there are some aspects that need to be considered. ZIEGERT supports you in every single step.
1. The search for the desired apartment
When selecting suitable offers, it is helpful to determine in advance which characteristics your future rental apartment should have. This includes size, number of rooms, location and type of property. Of course, the price also plays a central role. Our estate agents will be happy to answer any questions you may have about our rental apartments at any time.
2. Agreement on the date of the visit
The purpose of an apartment inspection is to give you your own impression of the property to be rented. Pay particular attention to the general condition of the apartment, especially with regard to heating systems, arrangement and number of rooms as well as windows and light or power distribution. Further aspects concern the surroundings, such as nearby shopping facilities, green areas and the number of doctors in private practice.
3. The issue of self-disclosure
Before you can sign the rental agreement, you must submit the self-disclosure form. In doing so, you provide information about your personal data as well as economic circumstances and about your rental behaviour in previous rental relationships. It is used to assess your creditworthiness.
4. Signing of the rental agreement
Once you have received the confirmation for your desired rental apartment and given your self-disclosure, the future tenancy will be recorded in the contract. Before you sign the tenancy agreement, check it with regard to the points it contains. Essential details include regulations on the amount of the rent and the deposit, repair and maintenance costs to be borne by the landlord, the possible possibility of minor conversion measures and animal husbandry.
Finding a flat to rent
The two main factors when it comes to finding a rental flat are availability and price. The latter is determined by the flat’s size and location, net rental rate, and additional costs and service charges in accordance with the German Regulation on Operating Costs (BetrKV). The number of prospective tenants is another key consideration when looking for a flat; will you be living alone in the future? As part of a couple? Or with an entire family? In Germany, rental properties run the gamut from home in the countryside requiring at least one car to multi-family urban dwelling in the heart of the city, with public transportation just out the door.
Location is everything: top-notch residential living with versatile infrastructure
To find the ideal location for your rental flat, you need to take a variety of factors into account, including personal preferences, occupational requirements, and family needs. These may change over time; most of us value different things when starting a family compared to when going into retirement. In the first case, you’ll privilege proximity to schools and kindergartens, maybe even higher education. In the second, good access to public transportation may become more important. If your mobility is restricted, living on the ground floor or having access to an elevator may be crucial to a high quality of life. Your immediate environment, moreover, may evolve over time; the retail, medical, and leisure infrastructure may become better or worse. Of course, you won’t have much say over changes like that. Neighbours will move in and out; the composition of your immediate neighbourhood will change. This means that as a tenant, you’ll need to accept certain conditions that may be out of your hands, including your landlord’s house rules.
Apartment size: the decisive factor for determining rent, operating fees, and energy costs
In Germany, flat sizes and prices are usually calculated in accordance with the Floor Space Regulation (WoFlV) passed in 2004. Alternatively, living spaces can be measured according to the standardised DIN 277 method, according to which a living space (and price per square metre) always corresponds directly to floor area. This method, however, can cause difficulties when used to measure some rooms – those with roof slopes, for example. Under DIN 277, they’d have the same calculated living space area as those with entirely straight walls. For tenants, calculations based on the WoFlV are thus slightly more advantageous and should be preferenced as the basis for any rental contract. In fact, depending on the method used, calculations can vary significantly, with differences in measurements reaching up to one fifth of the total apartment area. Rents and operating costs calculated through the WoFlV usually end up considerably lower than those calculated using DIN 277. Since net rent is determined by the overall apartment area in square metres, rent prices can be easily compared by comparing the price per square metre noted in the rental contract. Operational costs, on the other hand, are not standardised and thus harder to compare
Rental fees: factors to consider
Your total rent will be composed of a net rental price per square metre of living space plus additional fees, generally referred to as operational costs. Estimated annual operational costs are paid in advance in the form of a monthly lump sum, with a more precise final statement compiled by the landlord at the end of each year. Depending on the discrepancy between the estimated and actual fees, tenants will either receive a reimbursement at year’s end or may need to settle outstanding payments (in the case that operational costs ended up exceeding the sum of monthly payments already made). Local rent indices can provide an orientation for appropriate net rent price. If there are no indices, it might help to look at rents for comparable properties in the same residential area.
The following are some examples of operational costs in accordance with the BetrKV ordinance:
- property taxes
- fresh water supply / maintenance of wastewater systems
- heating and hot water
- waste collection
- street cleaning
- garden maintenance in a residential complex
- winter road clearance
- chimney sweeping
- elevator maintenance
- installation/maintenance of a communal antenna/cable connection
- building insurance
- additional costs depending on the specifics of the property and your individual rental situation
Souterrain or maisonette? Choosing the right style of apartment
If you’re in a position to choose your ideal style of flat, you can opt between the following:
- standard apartment
- maisonette or duplex
- souterrain apartment
When choosing your ideal apartment type, the main factors to consider are existing fixtures, furnishings, and amenities, as well as options for modification or expansion to suit your lifestyle. Someone living with a disability, for example, will have different needs than someone committed to energy efficiency, who, in turn, will have different needs than someone looking for a multi-room family home that can accommodate two, or even three generations. Wheelchair users should probably avoid souterrain or maisonette apartments, opting instead for a home with a ground-level entrance or wheelchair accessible elevator, as well as customised door frames inside.
Partitioning and floorplans usually determine a rental flat’s overall usability. Living spaces – especially the living and dining rooms – are of particular importance here, along with kitchens, corridors, restrooms, entry halls, and additional spaces such as master bedroom, nursery, or study. Amateur chefs might prefer a spacious kitchen and dining area, whereas those operating a home office – increasingly common these days – will privilege a spacious working room with strong internet connectivity that can service all other rooms in the home. Each living space should have its own entryway; connecting rooms are not ideal. And while rectangular or square rooms might not sound particularly exciting at first, they really do provide the best basis for optimal furnishing.
Moving house: what to keep in mind
When in doubt, remember that your definitive legal framework is your rental contract. Ideally, moving should occur without too much overlap between tenancies; every day that you’re paying double counts! Termination periods for tenants and landlords may vary significantly. According to the German Tenants Association, tenants are entitled to a notice period of three months, regardless of how long they’ve been renting the property. For sound legal support, contact your local tenants association, or “Mieterverein.” As a rule of thumb, you should never terminate your current rental contract before making sure that your new contract is, in fact, legally binding – only the case once both parties have signed it.
What you should know before signing a lease
Though by no means exhaustive, this tentative list includes some of the most important elements to consider when moving into a new flat. Make sure you have the answers to these questions before signing any lease!
- Have you arranged a fixed move-in date, including a specific appointment for handing over the keys?
- How high is the security deposit? In Germany, the legal maximum is three times the net rent.
- Which payment method have you chosen for the deposit [cash, wire transfer, etc.]?
- How and when are you expected to pay for running expenses, such as operational costs?
- What type of heating are you paying for [fossil fuel or renewable energy system], and how high are the advanc
monthly heating fees?
- Can your landlord produce a valid energy certificate? [This is a legal requirement.]
- How well insulated are the windows [single, double, or triple glazing]?
- What condition is the building in when you move into your flat? [Do you see mould anywhere?]
- When was the building last modernised?
- Are pets allowed?
- Can you get a look at the current house rules?
- ….. and many more questions, depending on the specifics of the property and your individual rental situation.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about our rental apartment.
Preparing for a viewing: key documents
In addition to a positive first impression, landlords expect the following documents from prospective tenants:
- a completed application form with information about your current income
- a statement from your current landlord certifying that you’re not behind on your rent
- a credit check (in German, “Schufa”) including your “Schufa” score [this is only relevant for expenses, not earnings]
- a valid form of ID including proof of current residence
- proof of income including your employment contract [though not every landlord will ask for this, most will be interested in knowing whether prospective tenants rely on public aid or can produce proof of a regular earned income]
The following should be included in your rental contract
Once a prospective tenant has been chosen by the landlord, the two parties must sign a valid rental agreement. The landlord will usually produce a customised contract based on a standardised template.
All rental agreements should include:
- the official commencement date of the tenancy agreement, including written clarification on whether the agreement covers a limited or unlimited period of time
- number and type of rooms included in the agreement, as well as their respective sizes in square metres
- overall net rent and net rent per square metre
- additional costs including a breakdown of monthly running costs
- written clarification on whether or not the rent will be subject to gradual increases over a given period of time
- written clarification on whether or not the tenant is financially responsible for small cosmetic repairs in the apartment and, if so, up to what amount
- a waiver of the right to termination on the part of the landlord [in accordance with § 573 of the German Civil Code, or BGB] for a set period of time
- ….. additional provisions depending on the specifics of the property and the individual rental situation
Once the contract has been reviewed by both parties, two copies of it should be signed by both tenant and landlord, usually in person. Each party will receive a signed contract to take home.
At this point – and not a moment earlier – tenants can feel free to terminate their existing rental contracts!