Because so many people who come to Germany aren’t necessarily fluent in the German language, but they rent property while they are there, translators are asked to translate a lot of rental apartment contracts. They are not always standard documents and many are vaguely worded while others are long encompassing a large number of restrictions.

A Guide to Rental Contracts in Germany

Overall, renting a property in German has been relatively cheap, so it is a favoured thing to do for both Germans and foreigners. However, recently as more people move to the larger cities there has been a shortage of rental properties and rents have soared dramatically. Rental contracts have as a result got longer and stricter making it more challenging for translators.

The Contents of a Rental Contract in Germany

The Mietvertrag is the German name for a rental property contract. It generally contains a certain amount of standard information that the translator needs to translate accurately such as:

  • The cost of the monthly rent;
  • If and when increases can take place; 
  • The rental contract length;
  • The amount of the deposit
  • A description of the rental property;
  • Furniture or other items that are included in the rental property; 
  • Who takes responsibility for repairs and if damage takes place;
  • Method used  to cancel the rental agreement or extend it
  • Details of renovation work
  • How the apartment should be left when vacated;
  • A list of the house rules;
  • A handover report.

Typical Extras to Include in a German Rental Property

The Cost of the Rent

It begins with Kaltmiete, which means cold rent which is precisely the basic cost for having a roof over you. On top of that is Nebenkosten which means extra charges like  Betriebskosten which are the building’s operating costs such as waste disposal, stair and elevator cleaning,  Strom- und Heizkosten which are electricity and heating costs. The rent and the additionally charges are generally estimated or calculated depending on the apartment’s size. The larger it is, the more that is charged.

Paying electricity, gas and telephone contracts are most often the responsibility of the tenant, who in some cases can choose who provides these services. Usually the landlord estimates in advance the charges and includes them in the monthly bill. When the year comes to an end the tenant should get a yearly statement for the operating costs, which is what actually is the cost. If too much has been paid the tenant will get refunded the amount.

Rent Hike Laws in Germany

In 2015, this was called the Mietpreisbremse and prevents rent increases from getting out of hand. More than 300 German cities have adopted this. A key rule is that any new rental contract is not able to demand rent which is greater than 10 percent of the particular area’s average price for a rental apartment. However, new apartments aren’t covered by this rule, and also modernisation of apartments does give landlords the chance to raise the price.

It is important that any new tenants find out what the previous tenant paid, even if the rental contract has been translated and signed. A landlord can only raise the rent by more than 10 percent of what the last tenant paid if modernisation has taken place that has led to an increase in the value of the property. Even if the rental contract has been viewed and signed it is still possible to get the rent reduced if the rent charged is more than 10 percent that the last tenant paid.

Staffelmiete, or stepped rent, means that any rent rises each year must be in line with current inflation levels.  The increase is locked in for a few years with no stated limit here but it could be 3, 5 or 10 years. The trap here is how long the tenant is required to stay in the rental property. 

The Length of the Rental Lease

It could be a fixed-term contract or for an unlimited period. A fixed-term contract is possible if the landlord has planned to use the property in the future, or if it includes furniture.  A fixed-term contract may be difficult to break early which limits the tenant’s movement. But it is possible to find a replacement tenant if the landlord is prepared to approve the new tenant.

The Kaution or Deposit

A landlord can ask for 3 months of rent for a security deposit. This money has to be stored safely in an escrow account which is separate from his/her personal accounts. If the money deposited gains interest, the tenant benefits. This amount is payable to the tenant when s/he vacates the property. The landlord is given a whopping six months to give back the deposit to the tenant, which includes all interest minus any outstanding debts if they exist such as damage or rental payments.