Introduction to renting an apartment in Berlin

Renting an apartment in Berlin can be both amazing and frustrating. With a wide range of apartments for different styles and budgets, the Berlin real estate is diverse and dynamic, but finding an apartment is getting harder and harder these days, and knowing your rights and what to pay attention to is often overlooked.

When you’re looking for an apartment in Berlin, you obviously need to first figure out your budget. While Berlin is still very affordable in comparison with other European cities, prices are rising and the rules for German apartments can differ a fair bit from other places. It’s important to understand rental lingo like warm and kaltmiete and Nebenkosten (extra expenses). “Warm” often means all-inclusive: heat, water, trash, electricity (Strom) and TV and internet may or may not be included in this, but that will depend on the owner and the apartment. Each apartment and contract is different, though, so you have to read the contract thoroughly to understand what exactly is included in the warm rent. Kalt, on the other hand, is solely what you pay the owner per month for the apartment itself, utilities not included. You will then pay the gas, water, heating, trash on your own. The Nebenkosten is highly variable on the apartment. This can include a fee for local taxes, elevator repairs, janitorial service etc. There will also be the Kaution – the deposit, which can range from 1-3 month’s rent, and the painting fees upon move out.

Once you have all that figured out, and an understanding of the costs, then you can start looking at the neighborhoods you’d prefer to live in. It’s good to have an idea of the general rental costs in the different areas. Take a look at our price map!

There are specific things you should look out for as well. Are there plans for renovations, which will make the rent go up? And is it the apartment owned by a private investor or a property company. If it’s the former, there is the unlikely, but still possible, event that they will cancel the contract in order to use the apartment themselves. Once you find an apartment and submit your application, you’ll then most likely work with the Hausverwaltung (property manager) rather than the landlord, so you’ll want to understand what they do and also get an idea of if they are reliable and trustworthy. It’s best to call and speak to someone or meet them personally rather than go back and forth with emails. Once you do take an apartment, it’s the Hausverwaltung that will collect rent, handle issues with the apartment like plumbing or repairs.

Both before and after you move into an apartment, you’ll want to contact and join a Mieterverein (tenant’s association). They will read over a contract before you move into a property to help you understand the conditions of the contract, and one you’ve found a Berlin apartment and have moved in, they will help with any issues that may arise with the owners and Hausverwaltung i.e renovations, raising rent etc. While Berlin currently has a lot of rules around raising rents, there are still many places that will try to take advantage of legal ignorance.

Renting an apartment in Berlin can be a bit confusing at first, but having a good understanding of the basics and working with trustworthy professionals will make the experience a lot easier and manageable, so you can better enjoy your life in the city.

Fun fact: If you’re moving into an apartment in Berlin for the first time, many of them do not come with kitchens. You will be required to purchase your own dishwasher, stove, and refrigerator. If you’re working with an agency (Makler), when searching for a Berlin apartment, you can ask to only see apartments with kitchens.

By Alice Bauer

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