Your first own flat

Here are the top nine questions and answers about your first flat, compiled for you in cooperation with the Berliner Mieterverein.

The Berlin housing market is very tight and many flats are allocated through personal contacts. Therefore, you should inform your friends and acquaintances about your flat search.

We recommend the website www.inberlinwohnen.de, where the six municipal housing companies place their housing offers. These housing companies are bound to moderate rents and a socially oriented rental policy by a cooperation agreement with the Berlin Senate. In total, the municipal housing companies have about 330,000 flats.

Social housing built with public subsidies is also relatively cheap. The starting rent for newly built social housing is between 6.50 and 8.00 euros per square metre net cold. To rent a social housing flat, you need a Wohnberechtigungsschein (WBS), which you can apply for at the responsible housing subsidy office. Unfortunately, there are only about 90,000 social housing flats left in the city, so you will need a bit of luck to get hold of one.

Furthermore, cooperatives are committed by their statutes to a socially oriented rental policy, so renting a cooperative flat can generally be recommended. However, the waiting lists are long, and some even have an admission freeze. And to become a member of a cooperative (a prerequisite for renting a flat later on), you first have to buy cooperative shares.

Of course, studierendenWERK's halls of residence should not go unmentioned as a good alternative. Unfortunately, the waiting lists are long here, too. In addition to studierendenWERK, there are other providers of student housing. You should take a closer look here, as some providers use furnished rentals under the guise of student housing to charge completely overpriced rents.

That leaves the private landlords and housing companies, who offer the majority of flats. Because of the great competition with other flat seekers, it is important to stand out when applying for a flat. It may be worthwhile to make personal contact with a representative of the company. It is certainly advantageous to have a kind of application folder ready, in which all the documents relevant to the landlord are collected (proof of income, a few sentences on why you are applying for the flat, a friendly photo, a credit report and information on when and with how many people you would like to move into the flat).

Here you can find more information from the Berlin Tenants' Association on types of flats.

Here you can find more information about the Wohnberechtigungsschein. 

The tenant is the person who signs the tenancy agreement. Whoever signs is liable for all obligations under the tenancy agreement, regardless of whether the flat is actually used or not. This question is interesting when several people rent a flat. There are two possibilities here: Either you sign the tenancy agreement as the main tenant and at the same time ask your landlord for permission to sublet to the other persons. If permission is granted, you then sign a sublease with your flatmates, i.e. you take on the role of landlord vis-à-vis your flatmates. Towards your landlord you remain the only contractual partner, i.e. you owe the full rent even if one of your flatmates does not pay the rent.

Another option is to all sign the tenancy agreement together. The only thing to note here is that the landlord's permission is usually required if one of the tenants wants to move out and be released from the tenancy agreement. The landlord is not obliged to give this permission or can make this permission dependent on their own terms. If the landlord refuses permission to change the contract, the only option is either to leave everything as it is, with the consequence that the person moving out remains a contractual partner and is liable for the debts. Or all tenants must jointly terminate the tenancy agreement and the remaining tenants must hope for the conclusion of a new tenancy agreement.

Here you can find more information from the Berlin Tenants' Association on concluding a tenancy agreement.

 

Usually, tenancy agreements for residential space are agreed for an indefinite period, i.e. they run for an indefinite period until they are terminated by notice. But here, too, it is worth taking a closer look at the tenancy agreement: Often, the ordinary termination is excluded for a certain period of time. This is possible and permissible if this exclusion of termination applies to both contracting parties and does not exceed four years in pre-formulated tenancy agreements. Furthermore, termination without notice for cause must not be covered by the exclusion of termination.

A fixed-term tenancy agreement is also conceivable. In regular tenancies, however, special conditions apply here: The fixed term requires a qualified reason for the fixed term, which is regulated by law (own need or the intended structural change or demolition) and which must be expressly stated in the tenancy agreement.

If there is no reason, the time limit is invalid and the tenancy agreement runs for an indefinite period.

Please note: These strict conditions for a fixed term do not apply to student halls of residence. Here, fixed-term contracts are common and permissible.

Here you can find more information from the Berliner Mieterverein on fixed-term tenancy agreements.

 

A security deposit can be agreed in the tenancy agreement, i.e. the tenant is obliged to pay a security deposit amounting to a maximum of three net cold rents. This security deposit is intended to serve as a collateral for the landlord, e.g. if the rent is not paid or damage is caused in the flat. If the rental security is paid as a cash deposit, the landlord must deposit the money in an insolvency-proof deposit account separate from their own assets. It is also possible to pledge the claim from a savings book to the landlord. A guarantee, e.g. by the parents, is also possible. Banks also offer a guarantee. The advantage is that you don't have to come up with the money yourself, but on the other hand, the banks will of course charge you for the guarantee, so the bank guarantee is the most expensive option and not recommended.

Here you can find more information from the Berlin Tenants' Association on security deposits.

 

The landlord is obliged to rectify the defect within the scope of their maintenance obligations. On the other hand, as a tenant you are obliged to notify the landlord of the defect. This notification should be combined with a request to remedy the defect within a set period of time. Furthermore, the defect should be documented, as there is basically an obligation to prove the defect.

A rent reduction is only possible if the defect is substantial and does not only affect the living environment insignificantly. A small inconspicuous water stain on the wall or a dripping tap will not suffice for a rent reduction. The situation is different, for example, in the case of heating failure in the winter months or clearly visible mould.

Prior notification of defects is also a prerequisite for a rent reduction. In addition, a reduction should only be made in an appropriate amount. Caution! If you reduce the rent too much, you may end up with a rent arrears that could lead to termination. Therefore, it is always best to seek advice beforehand. A rent reduction is not possible if you caused the defect yourself or if you were aware of the defect when you signed the contract without taking any action.

Here you can find more information from the Berlin Tenants' Association on remedying defects and rent reduction.

Subletting requires prior permission from the landlord, otherwise you risk termination of the tenancy in the worst case. On the other hand, you may be entitled to sublet if you have a legitimate interest. A legitimate interest is recognised if you want to sublet part of your flat to reduce your running costs or simply do not want to live alone anymore.

Subletting the whole flat (e.g. for the duration of a stay abroad) is usually not a legitimate interest, and the landlord can refuse permission in these cases. However, if you leave some of your furniture in the flat and keep a key and thus the power of disposal, it is assumed that you are subletting a part of the flat, for which a legitimate interest is given.

The inclusion of close family members (parents, spouse, children) in the joint household does not constitute subletting, so that no permission is required and the inclusion only has to be reported. However, taking in a partner to whom you are not married is treated as subletting, so permission must be obtained in advance. However, taking in a partner is a legitimate interest, so permission must actually be granted. If this does not happen, the permission must be sued for if necessary.

If the landlord has approved the regular subletting, this approval usually refers to the person of the named subtenant. If this person changes, a new permission must be obtained. Short-term subletting to changing holiday guests is also not covered by the regular permit.

Here you can find more information from the Berlin Tenants' Association on subletting.

The rent cap is currently in force in Berlin. According to the rent cap, rent increases are prohibited until 31 December 2021 and after that only possible to a limited extent (maximum 1.3 per cent per year). Nevertheless, some landlords demand the consent to a rent increase without demanding the actual payment of the rent increase. Whether this procedure is permissible is highly controversial and has not yet been clarified by the highest court. The ban on rent increases also affects graduated or index-linked rent agreements.

Should the rent cap expire after five years or be overturned by the Federal Constitutional Court, the conventional BGB regulations on rent increases would apply again: If a graduated rent is agreed, the rent increase takes effect after the time and at the amount agreed in the rental agreement. In the case of an index-linked rent, the rent increases according to the development of the consumer price index, whereby the corresponding announcement by the landlord is required. In the case of tenancy agreements without a graduated or index-linked rent agreement, the landlord must also comply with certain conditions in order to increase the rent. The rent may only be increased up to the local comparative rent for the specific flat, which in turn is derived from the Berlin rent index. The so-called capping limit, according to which the rent may not be increased by more than 15 per cent in three years, must also be observed. Furthermore, the rent increase must be formulated as a request for consent, so the landlord cannot simply set the rent level. The rent must remain unchanged for 12 months between two rent increases. In addition, the tenant has two full calendar months after receipt of the rent increase request to review the rent increase before it becomes due on the first of the following month.

Here you can find more information from the Berlin Tenants' Association on the rent cap.

Click here for more information from the Berlin Tenants' Association on rent increases.

Tenants generally have a three-month notice period, whereby the notice must be received by the landlord on the third working day of a month so that the tenancy ends at the end of the month after next. For example, if the tenancy agreement is to end on 30 June, the notice of termination would have to reach the landlord by 3 April at the latest.

Before that, you should check whether an exclusion of termination has been agreed in the tenancy agreement. Ordinary termination can be excluded for a maximum of four years in pre-formulated tenancy agreements, but the prerequisite is that this exclusion of termination applies to both contracting parties.

A reason for termination is not required for the tenant's ordinary termination. However, the notice of termination must be given in writing and signed by hand by all tenants. A notice of termination by fax, email or Whatsapp is not valid.

If the landlord wants to terminate the tenancy, they need a reason for termination. The permissible reasons for termination are regulated in the German Civil Code. According to this, a termination due to own need, a breach of duty on the part of the tenant or due to prevention of economic exploitation is conceivable. The landlord must also give notice of termination in writing and, in contrast to the tenant, give comprehensible reasons for the termination. In addition, the landlord must observe the notice periods. The notice period is generally three months, but is extended by three months for the landlord after five and eight years of tenancy. If the tenancy lasts longer than eight years, the notice period would be nine months.

Here you can find more information from the Berlin Tenants' Association on giving notice to the tenant.

Here you can find more information from the Berlin Tenants' Association on the termination of the tenancy by the landlord.

Installations made by the tenant must be removed and the original condition restored if the landlord requests this. Exception: It has been expressly agreed that the fixtures can remain in the flat at the end.

Whether you are obliged to carry out cosmetic repairs depends on whether the tenancy agreement contains a valid agreement and whether there is a need for renovation, i.e. the work is necessary. If the cosmetic repair clause agreed in the tenancy agreement is invalid because it contains, for example, an impermissible colour specification, the obligation to carry out cosmetic repairs does not apply and you only have to return the rooms broom-clean. It is therefore worth checking the tenancy agreement before starting work. In principle, only painting and wallpapering work in the interior of the flat is covered by the cosmetic repairs.

Damage to the rented property, for example deep scratches in the parquet flooring, a broken tile or a broken window handle, must only be repaired if the landlord can prove that you caused the damage.

Here you can find more information from the Berlin Tenants' Association on cosmetic repairs.

Here you can find more information from the Berlin Tenants' Association on moving out.