Whether you rent an apartment or a house, a rental contract must be signed. In most cases, this contract is a pre-printed version of the document recommended by the Tenants Society of Germany (Deutscher Mieterbund e.V.). The contract should include:
- Name of tenant and landlord
- What has been rented (apartment address, number of square meters, and other extras, such as built-in kitchen, garage, etc.)
- The amount of the rent
- A stipulation, if any, regarding rental increases
- The tenancy start date
- Utilities, individually specified
- The number of people moving in
- Other rental conditions (in case of breach, conditions for subletting, etc.)
- The landlord's bank account details
- The condition of the property when you moved in (i.e. renovated or unrenovated)
- An inventory of what is included in the rent
- The landlord's consent to keep pets
- The amount of the security deposit (usually three months' rent)
- How the security deposit should be paid
Be aware that most rental agreements stipulate that the tenant renovates the apartment - returning it to its original state - when the lease expires and prior to departure. Make sure the contract specifies this, i.e. what needs to be painted, replaced, sanded down and re-varnished, replanted and repaired.
The duration of all rental contracts is unlimited with a three-month cancellation period. There are, however, some exceptions to the rule. German rental law is complex, and signing a contract without a clear understanding of your rights and responsibilities can be a costly experience. It is advisable to have the contract checked by your company or a lawyer.
If you do have trouble with your landlord, you might want to consult an English-speaking attorney. You can also contact one of the several tenant advisory centers in your region, which offer legal advice and representation. The membership fee of 50-70 euros also includes legal insurance. Note that there is a three-month waiting period after you join before the legal insurance takes effect.
To find an advisory center contact:
Deutscher Mieterbund e.V.
Littenstraße 10, 10179 Berlin
Tel: 030 / 2 23 23 - 0
Fax: 030 / 2 23 23 - 100