Renting an Apartment in Germany as a Foreigner: All You Need to Know

Finding an apartment in Germany is challenging, and almost everyone will agree with that statement. Renting an apartment instead of buying is extremely common. More than 50% of people live in rental properties. Consequently, there is more demand than the offer, especially in major cities. Being a foreigner might make your apartment search even more complicated.

To rent an apartment as a foreigner, you need to provide the following documents to the landlord:

  • ID, residence permit or passport
  • SCHUFA
  • Job contract (preferably open ended)
  • Bank statements
  • Three recent payslips
  • Recommendation letter from former landlord

If you are looking for a private apartment and currently don’t have a solid SCHUFA (credit score check) or job contact, you might face some additional hardship. However, in this article, we explain how renting an apartment can still be possible even in such a situation.

Long-term rent in Germany for foreigners

Renting an apartment is challenging for Germans, let alone foreigners, especially those who recently moved to Germany.

People even say that finding an apartment as a foreigner in Germany is even more difficult than finding a job.

Generally, renting a short-rental like AirBnB or hostel for your first three months in the country is recommended. You will spend this time searching for a suitable apartment on the web, applying and writing emails, as well as visiting properties.

Moreover, you also need to prepare a set of documents, which might take some additional time.

If you are thinking about renting a long-term apartment while still abroad (before coming to Germany), you should forget about this idea. German landlords won’t rent their property to someone who they haven’t even seen.

Besides that, you might get scammed while trying to rent an apartment from abroad.

How to rent apartment in Germany with no SCHUFA or job contract?

It’s not a secret that in large German cities like Munich, Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Cologne, finding an apartment is hard for everyone, not only for foreigners.

The reason for this is high demand and low supply. In these cities, people apply for an apartment almost the same way as they would for a job.

To be successful in your apartment search, you need to understand the landlord’s point.

The biggest fears which landlords have are:

  1. The tenant doesn’t pay rent on a regular basis or at all
  2. The tenant devastates the apartment and can’t pay for the damage

As a foreigner, you are also at risk of landlords breaking rental laws, assuming you don’t know tenant rights in Germany.

Where some might try to impose some completely illegal clauses on you which German wouldn’t accept.

Typical treats of a bad tenant that you should avoid at any cost:

  1. Non-conclusive address data — when someone is registered under an address different to the actual address where the person lives.
  2. Non-conclusive information about the income – if the person can’t prove their source of income, for how long they have been receiving it, etc. For example, a person stating to be self-employed, but isn’t registered in the respective databases for businesses or crafts.
  3. Short stay in Germany – when the person hasn’t been living in Germany for a long enough time and can’t adequately prove their future plans in the country.

What to do instead

  1. Refer to only one address in all papers.
  2. If you are self-employed – register your self-employment properly in Germany. You can do it in the local tax office.
  3. If you just recently arrived to Germany you need to provide information on your plans and ensure the landlord that you are going to rent his/her place for a long time.

Every landlord is looking for in his tenants is safety. The reason for this is that German laws protect mostly tenants and not landlords. So if the homeowner has any issues with you as a tenant, they barely will win you over.

Therefore, every landlord does his best to make sure that his potential tenants are able to pay the rent, hence, are in a stable financial position.

For instance, would you, were you a landlord, rent your apartment to someone who has no job, no financial stability, and has debt in Germany? The answer is probably not, so that’s why it’s hard to rent an apartment in Germany.

Firstly, you have to reduce the landlord’s risk. This can be done by giving them a hefty security deposit. Deposits are usually around 2-3 monthly rents in Germany, but you could propose, for example, 6 monthly rents.

BUT, if don’t want to pay deposit at all, there is also a way around it. You can get a rent deposit guarantee which can be used instead of cash. Hence, you will keep the money to yourself. Kautionfrei.de is the best service for it.

Alternatively, you could offer to pay for the six months upfront. It will give the landlord more security.

What do you need to rent the apartment?

1. Get registered in the city you are in

The first requirement for everyone new in Germany is to get registered at the local city hall. For this, you’ll need a copy of the rental contract and ID.

2. Open a bank account

A bank account is necessary to pay your monthly rent as well as to make a security deposit. You can open an account online or in the branch. You’ll need ID, visa/residence permit, and registration from the city hall.

BUT what should you do if you don’t have a rental agreement yet?

Alternative options to get a rental contract

Serviced apartment

Another option would be to get a serviced apartment for your first year in Germany. There are plenty of offers in large and smaller cities. By renting a serviced apartment, you can register in the city hall.

While these options will be expensive for an initial year, they will help you understand the rental market and build up your SCHUFA in the meanwhile.

Airbnb

Airbnb is very popular among tourists but also foreigners who can’t find a home in Germany can take an opportunity of monthly rentals on this platform.

When you book a place for longer than several weeks, you will receive a discount. But, yes, Airbnb is by far one of the expensive options, but still cheaper than staying in the hotel.

Yet, only a few owners of Airbnbs will agree to conduct a rental agreement with you (so that you can get registered).

WG or shared apartment

Another option is to rent a room in the shared apartment (WG) for the first 3 months while you are looking for your own place. WGs are very common in Germany and can be found everywhere, including villages and towns.

Furthermore, not only students prefer this type of accommodations but also working individuals who, for example, can’t afford an apartment or just want to live with other people.

By renting the room, you will conduct a rental agreement with the owner or sub-lender of the apartment with an almost 100% guarantee. Hence, you can use this contact to register yourself in the city hall and do a SCHUFA check for further apartment search.

Ask your friends

Alternatively, you can ask your friends in Germany to write a rental contract for you. So that you can at least register yourself in the city hall and open a bank account.

Next steps in getting an apartment in Germany:

Request a SCHUFA report

German landlords often ask SCHUFA (your credit score). This way, they ensure you don’t have debt and other financial liabilities.

German residents can get a SCHUFA for free once a year. Otherwise, it will cost you money, usually between 14,95 EUR and 29,95 EUR for the request.

However, some online providers will do it for free, such as SCHUFAcheck.

Find (or at least try to find) a job

Job is another bonus (or must have) when looking for an apartment in Germany. By having a job, you can show your stable income to the landlord. Otherwise, you need to have some sort of income.

Even a minimum wage casual job is a good starting point for the apartment search in Germany.

Start apartment search

Finding an apartment might take several months, so plan your time accordingly. You will need to set several free hours firstly to search for homes online, write emails and secondly go and see flats.

Apartment search can be notably more challenging for someone not white or with no or limited German language skills.

The whole process will become easier with time, and if you decide to change apartment, you will have better chances later on since your previous landlord could write you a recommendation letter.

Documents you might need to rent an apartment in Germany

These documents landlords might request from you after or before visiting the apartment:

  1. Your ID, residence permit or passport.
  2. SCHUFA: shows your prospective landlord your credit score. To receive a SCHUFA score you need to have a bank account registered under particular address.
  3. Job contract (preferably open ended): Again landlords want to see that you are stable and secure in life. Job contract is the main way to provide this security. Explanation that you are looking for a job won’t be sufficient. Students have hard time getting apartments, and usually they have their parents as a guarantor.
  4. Recommendation letter from former landlord.
  5. Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung: The proof that you don’t owe previous landlords money.
  6. Bank statement: Current bank statement can be falsified in many ways, so landlords want to see bank information from last three or six months.
  7. Payslips: Usually three recent ones to prove that you are earnings are enough to pay the rent. The rent shouldn’t exceed 30% of your monthly net income. But also proof of savings may be accepted.
  8. Mieterselbstauskunft: An application form giving the prospective landlord more information about you, such as your date of birth, how many people will live in the property, information about your job, hobbies, etc.

Plus, a guarantor (Bürgschaft) can be an option. It’s beneficial if you are missing some of the before mentioned documents.

A guarantor must confirm to pay your rent if you are unable to pay it. The guarantor should be German, but it can also be your parents.

Type of your visa also plays a role

Being a foreign national (non-EU), you will have some type of residence permit in Germany. The type of this permit influences the landlord’s decisions too.

For example, people with permanent residency have higher chances of getting a flat than someone on 6 months visa, and for obvious reasons.

Why renting apartment in Germany is challenging for foreigners?

Renting an apartment is challenging for foreign nationals for various reasons. Most commonly, however, they aren’t able to provide all needed documents.

Main problems foreign home seekers face:

1. The German bureaucracy. As an applicant you have to present a solid folder of documents before you can rent a place. It commonly includes, a verification of your credit background (SCHUFA). Landlords want to see that you don’t have debts.

Also, your last three paychecks from the job, recommendation letters from the previous landlords, and others such as bank account statements. As you can see, renting an apartment in Germany looks like a big deal.

2. Discrimination towards immigrants, expats, foreign nationals – especially if their German language skills aren’t the best.

In the end, landlords have to pay for their mortgages, so they are looking for financial security in the tenant.

Some apartments are advertised for open viewing on a fixed date. Expect to be there with many other people. If you don’t bring the necessary documents with you to the appointment, you probably will never hear back from the landlord.

Check this article if you are experience any problems with your German landlord.

However, in many cases, you should send documents to the landlord via email when writing them regarding the listing.

Depending on your employment status and how long you’ve been in the country, you may have difficulties providing mentioned securities. This is by far the biggest reason why foreigners struggle to get an apartment in Germany.

If you would provide all the needed documents, you will be given the same chance as anyone else in this country.

Are you looking for your own place in Germany? Check out the best websites to rent an apartment.

Can you rent a long-term apartment in Germany without a job?

Is it possible to rent an apartment if you haven’t found a job yet or lost your previous position in Germany? Finding a new apartment without a job is extremely difficult because you aren’t financially secure at the moment.

Financial security is the first element landlords are looking for in their tenants.

Nonetheless, unemployed people, as well as students still, can and do rent their own place.

However, if you receive unemployment benefits in Germany or have enough savings, you will more likely get an apartment.

Moreover, having a guarantor (Bürgschaft) will help as well. It can be a German friend or your parents.

Can a tourist rent an apartment in Germany?

Tourists or people on a tourist visa can also rent an apartment in Germany. However, they might need to prove all before mentioned documents, such as:

  • Job contract (in Germany)
  • Bank statements
  • Pay slips for last three months

From the law standpoint, the rental of an apartment by the tourist isn’t prohibited; the same applies to Airbnb. Your situation will depend on the landlord and their willingness to do it.

It’s easier to find a sub lender who will rent out you a place on their behalf, while officially they are still the main tenant.

Furthermore, someone who sublets their apartment is liable for any damage caused by you. Yet, they have all rights to demand compensation from the subtenant.

For that reason, you will be asked for a deposit of at least one or two rents before moving in. All details about termination, deposit, and cleaning should also be covered in a contract.

Nonetheless, your best bet will be to find an apartment or room on Airbnb.

If you don’t want to pay a deposit (Kaution) you can get a rent deposit guarantee which can be used instead of cash. Hence, you will keep the money to yourself. Kautionfrei.de is the best service for it.

Learn how to terminate your lease contract in Germany.

Recommended products and services in Germany:

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Anna

Anna is an enthusiastic expatriate with experience of living in Germany, Austria and Greece. She shares her passion for living abroad on this website.

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