Renting In Berlin – The Ultimate Guide

Congratulations! You have embarked on the journey for a new home in the incredible city of Berlin!

The process of finding your next home should be enjoyable. While we know it can be daunting, we hope this guide will bring you a sense of confidence and comfort in navigating the process. Our aim is to equip you with all the tools and information you need to succeed in your journey to renting in Berlin.

Step 1: Getting organised

Before you begin searching through property listings, we first need to make sure you have all the correct documents in place, so that once a property has caught your eye, you have everything in place to begin the application process.

Time is of the essence. The quicker you can arrange a viewing and submit an application, the much higher chance you have of being successful.

🔎 Brief overview of the process: 

  1. Find a rental listing you like.
  2. Send a short intro message with important information about yourself such as net income, your job, who is moving in and why you’re interested in the apartment.
  3. You are (ideally) invited to a viewing.
  4. Attend the viewing and decide whether you would like to apply for the place.
  5. Submit your cover letter and documents, either via email or via a digital platform specified by the landlord or rental agent.
  6. Wait to be notified as being accepted or not.

📄 Key documents you will need:

  1. Selbstauskunft – A completed self-disclosure form. This will be provided by the landlord or rental agency.
  2. Passkopie – A copy of your passport
  3. Aufenthaltstitel – A copy of your visa/ residence permit if you are not a EU citizen
  4. Meldebescheinigung – A copy of the registration confirmation. You may also know this as your ‘Anmeldung’ document. This document proves the address at which you are registered and is issued by the Bürgeramt.
  5. BonitätsCheck  – The most common German credit certificate requested is SCHUFA. Your SCHUFA certificate should not be older than 3 months. You can purchase it online here.
  6. Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung – Signed declaration from your current landlord confirming that you have no outstanding rent payments.
  7. Einkommensnachweis – Proof of income. Each landlord or rental agent has a preference on what proof of income documents they require, so double check the listing or ask them directly. If you are employed by a company this is usually a copy of your last 3 payslips, or if you have just started a new position, your work contract.

Tip for Freelancers: A Betriebswirtschaftliche Auswertung is often key to show the status quo of your finances. This is a statement from your tax advisor that gives an overview of your income from the last 6 months. Your last Steuerbescheid (tax assessment notice) can sometimes also be used as evidence of recent earnings. If you need additional support to prove financial stability, you can also provide a Mietbürgschaft (Guarantor).

Step 2: Introducing Yourself

First thing, you need an intro message. This will be your first contact with the landlord or rental agent, so it’s crucial to have all the important information. Write a little personal note about yourself and help the property manager to quickly grasp the most important information. This should include:

  1. How many people will move in.
  2. Your net income, job and optionally your employer.
  3. If you are a non-smoker, don’t have pets or don’t play an instrument, highlight that. Otherwise leave it out and instead tell them about a hobby like reading! 😉

You should also tell them why you are interested in the apartment and the area. It really helps to express your genuine interest and enthusiasm for living there! If there is anything “special” in the listing, you should reference it, for example if the lease is only for three years, you should mention that this is not a problem for you).

💡 Domi’s Top Tips:

  • A great way to boost your chances of success is to also include a cover letter with your documents. First impressions count!
  • Submit your documents in one single PDF so the landlord has a quick overview and doesn’t have to open up several files.
  • If you don’t have all the key documents, finding an apartment is tricky, but doable! Sublets are a short-term option, but beware of scams. A more stable option is to secure a furnished apartment for your first flat until you have all your documents in order.

Step 3: Finding the perfect apartment

It’s a match! Just as much your landlord is looking for the perfect fit, it’s important that the apartment fits you! Here’s a list of key terms and tips to help with identifying the right place for you.

🏢 What apartment type should you look for – Neubau or Altbau?

  • Neubau (New buildings) – These have concrete walls and floors meaning that they are better insulated and you don’t hear your neighbours as much!
  • Altbau (Old buildings) – Often have high ceilings and hardwood floors, however, you may want to make sure that it has been renovated (renoviert).
  • Mit Einbauküche or EBK (With fitted kitchen) – These usually come with a stove, a fridge and even a dishwasher.
  • Unmöbliert (Unfurnished) – In Germany, apartments do not usually include appliances, curtains, light fixtures or a furnished kitchen (stove, fridge, sink). You either need to buy your own, or sometimes there might also be the possibility to buy them from the previous tenant.
  • Zimmer (Room) – In Germany, the living room counts as a room. For example, a studio flat is a “1-Zimmer-Wohnung” whereas a 2 bedroom apartment with a living room is a “3-Zimmer-Wohnung”.
  • Renoviert (Renovated) – Usually most places have been renovated in the last 20-40 years, but there are still some flats that are “renovierungsbedürftig” (Need for renovation).

🏢 Which floor level should you choose?

  • Erdgeschoss or EG (Ground floor) – In Germany, there is the ground floor, then the first floor. On the ground floor, people on the street can often see inside your apartment, however some ground floor apartments have the privilege of a nice garden, and you don’t have to worry about those dreaded stairs!
  • Lower/Middle floors – These floors get a bit more sunlight and are optimal for reducing your heating/ bills.
  • Upper floors – These tend to get more sunlight and less street noise. Check if there is an elevator in the building as moving in will be a little harder without one.
  • Top floor – Quieter because no one lives above, but they can be harder to cool down in the summer. You are also treated to stunning views of the beautiful city! If you’re super lucky, you might even have access to the rooftop!

💡 Domi’s Top Tips:

  • Invest as much time as possible in your search at the beginning of the month because most new listings are published then.
  • Be fast but don’t forget to add a personal touch to your message. This means setting up an automatic alert for new property listings and having prepared different text elements, for example why you want to live in a specific neighbourhood.
  • Everybody should know that you are looking for a flat – your grandma, your colleague and even your “Späti guy” 😉 Many people in Berlin find their new home through contacts.

💶 What fits my budget?

When applying for a property, be aware of all the rental costs you will have to pay:

  • Kaution (Deposit) – No matter where you live, you will need to pay a deposit at the start of your contract. Don’t stress though! You will get your deposit back when you move out as long as you haven’t damaged the apartment! Usually, the deposit is 3 times the cold rent (Kaltmiete).
  • Kaltmiete (Cold rent) – The cold rent is the basic rent you pay for the residency before utilities (Nebenkosten).
  • Warmmiete (Warm rent) – The warm rent is the total amount of rent you pay to your landlord every month: Warm rent = Cold rent + Nebenkosten (Utilities).
  • Nebenkosten (Utilities) – This monthly fee typically covers supply of hot water, central heating, garbage collection, and maintenance costs. It does not include electricity for lights and appliances. Nebenkosten are adjusted every year during the Nebenkostenabrechnung and each year, you receive a Betriebskostenabrechnung. This shows how much hot water and electricity you really used. If you used more than you paid for, you will be sent an invoice. If you used less, you will get some money back.

💡 Domi’s Top Tips:

  • Your income should be at least 3 times the warm rent – so if you earn 3.000 € a month, the warm rent should be a maximum of 1.000 €. If it’s lower, it’s usually not worth applying.
  • At the moment the prices for heating and living costs are rising quickly. Make sure to put aside a little more money for this to avoid an unpleasant surprise at the end of the year when your utility bill (Nebenkostenabrechnung) is due. 
  • Your rental budget isn’t that high, but you have time and are handy with tools? Keep an eye out for apartments on offer that need to be renovated, as they are often cheaper than other places in the same area.

Step 4: Attending viewings

When you are invited to attend a viewing, remember you are trying to impress the rental agent. Accept the time they suggest, thank them for the invitation and show your excitement about the opportunity!

It’s viewing day! Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get to the viewing. If you turn up late, you may miss your appointment and be out of the race.

  • You want them to remember you! Ask a few questions about the property, making it clear how much you’d love to live there. 
  • You should ask the rental agent for their preferred method of receiving the documents – some may prefer via email, and some may use software solutions where you can upload your documents after the viewing. If this is the case, you will usually be sent a link to this platform either just before or after the viewing. 
  • If you like the apartment, apply as soon as you can! Send your application preferably immediately after the viewing, or at the very latest, the next day. If you submit your application via email, state again how much you like the apartment and the area, and also provide your phone number in case they want to get back to you with questions.

If you are applying to a small housing agency/private landlord, you may follow-up with a phone call or an email 2 days after the viewing. 

💡 Domi’s Top Tips:

  • Be clear about what you’re looking for – the rental market may be tough, but don’t spend time applying for things that aren’t a fit for you. The agent is also choosing based on compatibility.
  • First impressions count! Landlords and rental agents are influenced by their gut feeling in their decision making process. So, let them know a bit about yourself and leave those sweatpants at home when you’re invited to a viewing.
  • If your German is limited, bring a friend who knows German or engage a relocation service.

Step 5: Registering your address

Well done! You’ve signed the lease and your new home awaits! But wait, there’s one last thing! 

Once the contracts have been signed, you will receive 3 important documents:

  1. Mietvertrag – Your signed rental contract. Once you’ve signed the contract the apartment is now yours. You will need to pay the rent and the deposit before you move-in. But beware – do not pay anything until you sign the lease and see the apartment!
  2. Wohnungsgeberbestätigung – Signed letter from your landlord or property manager confirming that you have moved-in. You will need this for your Anmeldung process – the registration of your current address with the local government registration office (Bürgeramt).
  3. Übergabeprotokoll – Report summarising the condition of the apartment when you move-in. An apartment inspection is usually organised as part of the handover of your apartment keys.

Obtain your Anmeldung by registering your new address at the Bürgeramt within 14 days of moving in.

And that’s it! It’s not so scary after all. Now you’re ready to venture into the world of renting, the city of Berlin awaits!

For help on choosing where to live, check out our guide to the Best Places to live in Berlin and Why.

Good Luck! ✌

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