Rent Apartment in Germany as a Foreigner: All You Need To Know

Two people high-fiving in a room with a slanted ceiling and a large yellow box.

Finding apartments in Germany is challenging, and almost everyone will agree with that statement. Rent in Germany per square meter is high but buying is way up thus, more than 50% of people live in rental properties. Consequently, there is a higher demand for houses than listings, especially in popular cities. Being a foreigner might make your new home search even more complicated.

If you are looking for private housing and currently don’t have a good credit report or job contact, you might face some additional hardship. However, in this article, we show you apartments for rent in the right place for, the cold rent process and maneuvering utility costs, how to acquire a tenancy agreement, and finally sign contracts. 

What To Do If Your Landlord Doesn’t Return the Deposit in Germany?

Long-term rent in Germany for foreigners

A photo of a street in a European town with old, traditional buildings, one with a black bird sign and another with a gray stone facade.

Renting an apartment is challenging for Germans, let alone foreigners, especially those who recently moved to Germany. People say that finding an apartment as a foreigner in Germany is even more difficult than finding a job.

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

Be aware that you will need liability insurance when renting in Germany. It will cover damages made to the property during the rental term. For this, we recommend an insurance company Getsafe.

How to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Germany with no SCHUFA or job contract?

A hand placing a wooden block with the letter T on a pyramid of wooden blocks spelling RENT.

It’s not a secret that in German cities like Munich, Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart, and Cologne, finding houses is hard for everyone, not only for foreigners. This is due to high demand and low supply. In these popular cities, people apply for an apartment almost the same way as they would for a job.

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

The biggest fears that 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 that German wouldn’t accept.

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

Two people looking unhappy and one holding a paper while talking to a third person at a glass table with papers and a laptop.
  1. Non-conclusive address data — when someone is registered under an address different from 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 in Germany. You can do it at the local tax office.
  3. If you just moved to Germany, you need to provide information on your plans and assure the estate agent you are renting long term.

Firstly, you have to reduce the landlord’s risk. This can be done by giving them a hefty security deposit. Deposits are usually three months rent in Germany, but you could propose, for example, 6 months’ rent. 

But, if you don’t want to pay a deposit at all, there is also a way around it. You can get one that can be used instead of cash. Kautionfrei.de is the best service for it.

What To Do If Your Landlord Doesn’t Return Deposit in Germany?

What do you need to rent furnished apartments in Germany?

A modern blue living room with a sofa, a coffee table, a dining area, and large windows.

1. Get registered in the city you are in

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

2. Open a bank account

A hand using a smartphone with a holographic display of app icons and a fingerprint scanner.

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

Furnished apartments

Another option would be to get a furnished 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 the 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 a hotel.

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.

Ask your friends

A group of people in casual clothes and backpacks standing in a wooded area and one is pointing to a certain direction.

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 a furnished apartment in Germany:

Request a SCHUFA report

German landlords often ask for SCHUFA (your credit score) to ensure you don’t have debt and other financial liabilities. German residents can get a SCHUFA for free once a year but it costs between 14,95 EUR and 29,95 EUR. However, SCHUFA check will do it free. 

Find (or at least try to find) a job

A hand filling out an employment application form with a pen.

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

Two people sitting on a couch with a laptop showing a house icon and text.

Finding an apartment might take several months. You need to search for homes online, write emails, and then viewing. The process becomes easier when you have a landlord’s recommendation. 

Best Websites To Find Apartments in Germany

Documents you might need to rent an apartment in Germany

A rental agreement in German with keys and euro bills on it.

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 report. To receive a SCHUFA score, you need to have a bank account registered under a particular address.
  3. Job contract (preferably open-ended): Landlords want to see that you are stable and secure in life. The job contract is the main way to provide this security. An explanation that you are looking for a job won’t be sufficient. Students have a hard time getting apartments, and usually, they have their parents as a guarantor.
  4. Recommendation letter from a former landlord.
  5. Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung: The proof that you don’t owe previous landlords money.
  6. Bank statement: Current bank statements can be falsified in many ways, so landlords want to see bank information from the 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.

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.

The type of your visa also plays a role

Hands holding a checkbook and a pen on a desk with a laptop, a coffee mug, a notebook, a phone, and a 10 euro note.

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 an apartment in Germany is challenging for foreigners?

A real estate agent showing a property to a potential buyer with large windows and a chandelier.

Renting an apartment is challenging for foreign nationals for various reasons. Most commonly, however, they aren’t able to provide all the 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 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, and foreign nationals – especially if their German language skills aren’t the best.  

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

Problems with Your Landlord in Germany: What To Do?

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

Best Websites To Find Apartments in Germany

A line graph on a newspaper showing inflation and unemployment rates from 1975 to 1985.

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?

A man and a child walking in an airport terminal with a backpack and a suitcase.

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 the last three months

From a law standpoint, the rental of an apartment by a 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 you a place on their behalf while officially they are still the primary 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 rent before moving in. All details about termination, deposit, and cleaning should also be covered in a contract.

Learn how to terminate your lease contract in Germany.

How Can You Terminate a Lease Agreement in Germany?

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