Renting a Flat
Getting Started Housing Living

Important Facts to Know About Renting a Flat in Germany

on
June 1, 2016

Renting a flat is one of the many points on the to-do list when moving to Germany, but how do you do it? Rafaela Scheinmann, real estate broker at Immobilier Düsseldorf, has graciously offered to share many of the important facts to know about renting a flat in Germany.


One of the first “missions” when I moved to Düsseldorf was to find a place where to live. I remember back then that I started my search on main online real estate platforms and realized one thing: most of them are all in German.

And I thought:

“how am I supposed to understand all these terms? What is important?”

In order to help English speakers understand some German real estate concepts, here is a small recap of the most important things to be aware before renting a flat:

 

What do “Kaltmiete”,” Warmmiete” and “Nebenkosten” mean?

German listing portals mention two different types of rent:

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The difference between “Kaltmiete” and “Warmmiete” is referred to as “Nebenkosten” (or “Betriebskosten”) i.e. ancilliary costs.

The “Nebenkosten” concern all costs related to the use of the property by the tenant. However, costs associated to administrative or management costs should not be part of the “Nebenkosten”.

 

“Nebenkosten” could include any of the following:

  1. Lift costs
  2. Common area electricity
  3. Garden tending
  4. Building cleaning
  5. Antenna and cable fees
  6. Real estate tax
  7. Caretaker cost
  8. Heating and hot water provision
  9. Waste disposal
  10. Property insurance and liability insurance
  11. Chimney cleaning
  12. Street cleaning
  13. Water supply and drainage
  14. Laundry fee (maintenance of the machine)

These costs are not listed on online listing portals. Nevertheless, if you are about to sign a rent contract you should definitely ask the lessor which charges are part of the “Nebenkosten”. He should give you a complete overview and breakdown of such “Nebenkosten”. Also, do not forget to ask if the heating costs are already included in the “Nebenkosten”!

For those of you who have already signed their contract, but are wondering what are in those mysterious “Nebenkosten”, you have the right to ask your landlord. Moreover, if you think that the “Nebenkostenabrechnung” (overview of the annual ancillary costs) is too high, you have 12 months to ask your landlord for a written justification of these costs. On the other hand, he also has 12 months to correct the invoice.

Last but not least, is there a way to avoid high “Nebenkosten”? One trick is to look at the heating system. In Germany, there are several types of heating systems. As mentioned above, this can considerably affect ancillary costs. When you choose a flat, avoid renting one with an electricity system (Strom) as it is very expensive.

Looking for a list of awesome websites to find the perfect apartment for your needs in Düsseldorf? Check out our list of apartment search engines with over 15 recommendations!


Questions about renting a flat? E-mail Rafaela! Any questions about living #LifeInDüsseldorf? Feel free to send us an email with your questions at hello@lifeinduesseldorf.com. If you have tips you’d like to share with others, we’re also accepting guest posts which include the author’s name, bio and photo. 

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10 Comments
  1. Reply

    Karen

    January 23, 2017

    Is that all? Why not explaining more about the different types of heating system? I heard that the oil one is also very expensive but don’t know exactly why.

    • Reply

      Jenna Davis

      January 23, 2017

      I’m certain that isn’t all, then again we’d probably need to write a 5,000-word post to fit all the tips to renting flats if we wanted to include it all haha. However, that is what I am hoping the comment section will help with. If you have additional questions after reading the post – ask in the comments section and the community can help answer the questions too (I’ll post it on our Facebook page to see if we can get a few answers).

      While I’m not 100% certain either, I do know that oil heating is quite expensive in comparison to natural gas. Germany puts a lot of their focus on creating renewable energy, but the costs of oil and natural gas heating are constantly on the rise. Oil takes up a lot more energy to heat and circulate the hot water through the radiators which could be why the cost is significantly higher.

    • Reply

      Jenna Davis

      January 23, 2017

      Karen, here’s a really good answer from Facebook user Ann-Katrin B:

      “Oil is expensive, requires transportation as well and is terrible for the environment, hence there is extra cost due to that as well (thankfully!). The gas heaters are getting more and more efficient, the oil heaters are generally old. Several countries are working hard to get rid of the remaining oil heating systems, and it is also not allowed to use it everywhere – because of fumes etc.”

      • Reply

        Karen

        February 27, 2017

        Thanks for the reply Jenna!

  2. Reply

    Mirjam

    January 23, 2017

    I would have gone a bit more in detail how the ‘Nebenkosten’ are just an advance. It doesn’t really flow to where the ‘Nebenkostenabrechnung’ is mentioned.
    Once a year the final invoice is calculated and the monthly advances subtracted from it to get a remaining amount due or to receive back. This can also influence the monthly advance.

    • Reply

      Jenna Davis

      January 24, 2017

      Good point Mirjam! Thanks for adding this tip! 🙂

  3. Reply

    Fernanda

    July 2, 2017

    She could come back to say a bit more as in a part two! ☺️

  4. Reply

    Welcome to Dusseldorf

    October 5, 2017

    Probably the most important aspect that is missing here is your credit rating. In most cases, you will have to have documents, and I mean real documents, to prove that you are able to pay your rent. German landlords commonly want to see a “Schufa” rating, which is impossible to have if you don’t have a bank account, any type of loan and/or a mobile phone account. Having said that, there are many “WGs” – short for “Wohngemeinschaften”, i.e. shred accommodation. These are more informal and don’t go via estate agents, your future flatmate(s) will assess you and decide whether you’re good to go.

    • Reply

      Jenna Davis

      October 6, 2017

      Great note Heike! Thank you so much for your input, this definitely helps expats make the right decision when looking to rent a place out in Düsseldorf. ????

      All the best,

      Jenna

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