Find apartments in Germany (Berlin: A step-by-step guide)
If the post you see mentioned “mit WBS”, that means you need to have the WBS certificate ("Wohnberechtigungsschein") to be able to rent this kind of state-subsidized apartment / flat. It’s for low income people so the rent is lower than the average price. Without WBS, you are not eligible to rent it.
*Mit EBK: refers to Einbauküche ( has Built-in Kitchen)
Warmmiete = Kaltmiete + Nebenkosten+ Heizkosten
(Warm rent = cold rent + Running costs + Heating costs)
Nebenkosten = Running costs, such as water, maintenance, cleaning of common areas, garbage disposal, cable TV, insurance of the building, ground tax etc. Usually the running cost is approximately 2.5 Euro per square meter. You can calculate the total running cost as 2.5 X Area of the apartment in square meter.
Heizkosten = Heating costs
Total monthly housing related expense
= Warm rent + Parking if any + Electricity* + Internet* + Radio Broadcasting fee per apartment* + Annual extra usage of heating and water, calculated in early next year and pay the difference or refunded by then.
*Electricity, Internet, and Radio Broadcasting fee are usually paid separately directly to the providers.
Security deposit (= Kaution, in German):
The deposit paid to the landlord at the beginning of the lease is normally 3 months of cold rent, and by law, it must not exceed this amount. It will be paid back after moving out but it may have some deduction due to some apartment damage caused by the tenant. The landlord can take up to 6 months to return your deposit.
Take these two advertisements for example:
Kosten (A), the monthly warm rent paid to the landlord will be: 600 € + 288 € = 888 €. Heizkosten is included in the Nebenkosten.
Kosten (B), the monthly warm rent paid to the landlord will be: 591.75 € + 207.28 € + 104.93 € = 903.96 €
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Get all the paperwork ready beforehand
Be prepared and have following documents ready for your apartment visits.
The earlier you apply and the more completed documents you prepared, higher chance to be picked by the landlord.
- Bewerbungsbogen: Application Form, provided by the landlord online or during the visit.
- aktuelle Schufa: it’s a credit rating report. The Schufa is a central credit bureau in Germany. The report can be applied online through the apartment search websites or the link below. Landlords usually request a SCHUFA document when visiting their apartments.
- Personalausweiskopie: copy of your ID or passport, (visa/residence permit).
- Einkommensnachweis der letzten drei Monate: Income statement/pay slips for the past 3 months. (For students, scholarship certificate will do.)
- Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung: Confirmation from your current landlord that there are no rent dues.
Apartment Visits / Viewing
- Apply online and then call the landlord or property manager directly to show your interest and request a visit, if his/her contact information is provided.
- Sometimes the landlords will announce an open viewing schedule on the advertisements (please refer to the snapshot below). Add the viewing schedule to your calendar so you won’t miss it. Be prepared to see a queue of 30+ people for the same apartment viewing.
- On the day of apartment viewing, remember to bring your documents with you.
The apartment search website also provides a link to apply for SCHUFA credit report.
Questions to ask during your apartment viewing
- Ask questions about the apartment and reconfirm the total rent and security deposit.
- Average heating and water costs in the past (to get a sense of how much you’re likely to pay in the future).
- Check what furnitures are included. If it's unfurnished apartment, pay attention that kitchen may not be included. Then you will need to buy from the previous tenant or buy on your own.
Lights, curtains, and some other things in the apartment may also belong to the previous tenant and need to buy from the person or get new ones.
- Ask about the neighbors, neighborhood, grocery shopping places, schools, parks etc.
- Check with the landlord or property manager if there is any plan to renovate the building, that may lead to an increase in the rent.
- If the current tenant is there, ask how long he/she lives there and why decides to move out.
saurabh2590 last edited by saurabh2590
This is a really good information for finding the apartment.
Berlin has active Free your Stuff community on Facebook. It is possible to get some stuff for the apartment for free of cost from the community.
Final Check before signing the rental contract:
Before agreeing and signing a tenancy agreement, you should make sure you know all the relevant details. The following checklist is edited based on one of BAMF’s documents, "Welcome to Germany (Willkommen in Deutschland)".
- How much the rent is.
- How much the Nebenkosten cost or total cost is () (particularly important are the heating costs).
- How much the deposit is.
- Check if the rent is a stepped rent (Staffelmiete) (this is a rent that is automatically increased on a regular basis).
- The length of the tenancy (for a fixed term or unlimited period).
- Check if there are any obligations on the tenant to redecorate the accommodation.
- If you are subleased from someone, let the person know you need to do “Anmeldung” (Residency Registration) and make sure he/she can sign the confirmation Letter from Landlord (Wohnungsgeberbestätigung).
- Check if there are any brokerage fees (e.g. from the estate agent).
- Please note that in 2015, Germany passed a new law: the agency's commission will be paid by the party who hires the real-estate agent. If you as a tenant do not hire the real-estate agent, then you don’t need to pay the apartment rental brokerage fees, but the landlord should (usually it’s 2 months of rent). In the past tenants need to pay for it.
In addition to the tenancy agreement, you often have to sign a handover certificate (Übergabeprotokoll) when you move into new accommodation. This records the condition that the accommodation was in when you moved in and you confirm this when you sign it. Please read through it carefully because your landlord could later claim that you are responsible for some defects that are not explicitly noted in this certificate. Another way is to take photos too as a record.
If you feel frustrated when finding apartments, remember that,
- You are not alone. Many people have the same feeling.
- Spend enough time, and then you will find one.
- Set a time frame, up to certain days then decide which apartment to take. Remember that we are looking for an apartment to rent, not to buy. So it doesn’t need to be perfect. No place is perfect and each place has its pros and cons. And you can always find a new place to stay if you realize it's below your expectation after moving in.