Moving to Germany is… tough. If you’re planning to move here, there are some things you just have to accept: you will need a lot of paperwork, you won’t question rules, and you will probably call your mum crying once or twice. Trust us, it all pays off.
Before finding your flat, here’s everything you should know beforehand. If you already have accommodation but still have some doubts about Berlin, you can download our Berlin City guide for more tips!
1. WG or Flat?
The housing market in Germany is difficult and saturated. You have three different rental options:
- Renting a room in a WG (Wohngemeinshaft = shared flat)
- Renting a studio in a student residence
- Renting a whole flat by yourself
If you’re not living in Germany yet, the first option is probably the best one for you, since it’s the one that requires the least bureaucracies. It’s also the best way to get to know new people in a new city!
When choosing a tenant to rent a whole flat, German landlords will ask for a bunch of different documents: proof of income, Schufa (credit score), Anmeldung (proof of residence), etc. It’s all to figure out if you’ll be able to pay rent. In this case, the more money you make, the better.
On the other hand, when renting a room in a WG, your future flatmates will be the ones to choose whether or not you get the room. In this case, they usually don’t look so much at how much money you have, but instead look at your personality. This is reflected in them conducting dozens of interviews (aka WG Castings) in order to find the perfect fit. It also means you will probably get rejected a lot. The best part about Uniplaces is that it allows you to skip all those visits and rejections.
To sum up: renting a whole place is usually a matter of whether or not you can afford it, and renting a room in a shared flat is a matter of whether or not your flatmates like you.
The first German words you’ll learn? Hallo, wie geht’s, some curse words, and the dreaded Anmeldung. It essentially means registration; in this context, we’re talking about registering yourself in the city you’re living in, at the Bürgeramt.
The first step is making your appointment at your local Bürgeramt (see a list here and choose the closest to you). As soon as you secure your accommodation, we advise you to make an appointment — you can schedule one online, just click on the button on the right “Termin berlinweit suchen” and choose a date, time and location. Since it usually takes around one month to get an appointment and because it’s a mandatory registration within 14 days of relocating to your new German address, you should make an appointment as soon as possible.
Here’s what you need to take:
- Your ID car or passport;
- Tenancy or sublet contract. If you’re temporarily staying at a friend’s, a host family or a relative’s while looking for something more permanent, have them write and sign a letter stating that you’re staying with them. Here is a draft you can use;
- Bring a confirmation from your landlord stating that you have moved in (document here);
- Fill in the “Anmeldung bei einer Meldebehörde” form that you get at the entrance of any Bürgeramt or here.
You will leave with your Anmeldung or Anmeldebestätigung, meaning proof of registration. This little piece of paper is essential and you absolutely cannot lose it. Whether you want to set up a bank account, apply for health insurance, get an internet contract or even sign up for a gym, chances are you will need to show it to prove you legally live in that city.
Here are some tips:
- If you’re absolutely desperate for your Anmeldung, forget the appointment. Go there and line up;
- Most Bürgeramt update their availability in the morning, so make sure to check the website at 7am to get the most options;
- You’ll be asked what your religion is. Be aware that, depending on your religion, you can be eligible for an extra tax in case you decide to stay longer. If you declare on the Anmeldung form that you have no religion, this tax won’t be charged.
3. Cash or card?
Don’t ever expect to be able to pay with a card. Going somewhere to get a document that you’ll have to pay for? Take cash with you. When it comes to paying for your accommodation, cash is, however, not the way to go.
Most landlords only accept rent payments via bank transfer or direct debit (if you book with Uniplaces, you pay us the first month’s rent and we transfer it over to the landlord). If your landlord wishes to process the payments via direct debit, you will likely need a German bank account to provide your IBAN/BIC.
There are different options when opening a bank account. You can either go for a more traditional bank, which provides you with an EC card (or EC-Karte), or you can save some time and stress and go for a more modern option like N26, which is free and 100% online.
Keep in mind that some places in Germany only accept payment with EC-Karte, and you can get one if you have an account with a bank like Berliner Sparkasse, Berliner Volksbank, Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, Postbank, among others.
However, while N26 doesn’t provide you with an EC-Karte, it also doesn’t ask you for your Anmeldung to open an account. Since it might take you a while to get an Anmeldung, it might be easier for you to choose an online bank like this one if you’re looking for a fast solution. Also, if your landlord asks for you to pay rent with a German bank account, you’ll likely need it before you have your Anmeldung.
Regarding your new apartment’s security deposit, it must also be paid via bank transfer, normally before you move in to your new place. Most landlords won’t accept cash or cheques as a form of payment. It’s also common that landlords request 3 months of “cold rent” (Nettokaltmiete, which stands for your rent without utility costs) as a deposit. It’s the maximum amount that can be requested by law. Luckily, if you don’t wish to pay the deposit in one take, it’s your legal right to pay it in 3 installments.
Of course, the landlord will return your deposit after your stay as long as there are no damages or adjustments to be made in utility payments. If there are, that amount will be deduced from your deposit, and the rest will be transferred back to you. However, keep in mind that this transfer can take a while: it usually takes from 3 to 6 months for you to get your deposit back, but in certain cases it can take over a year.
The Schufa, or as the tongue-tying Schutzgemeinschaft für allgemeine Kreditversicherung, is a private institution that collects information about your credit score so the landlord knows if you have any debt. Unfortunately, only German citizens can get this document for free in specific situations. In case you don’t have German nationality, you have to pay around €30.
You can get this document online or at any Postbank in Germany. This is a document for you to share with your future landlord. It does not contain any sensitive data, but only information on whether or not you have a good score. If you have never lived in Germany before, there will naturally be no record of you and you will, therefore, have no Schufa.
Another document that your landlord might ask for is a confirmation of your Liability Insurance (Bestätigung über Haftpflichtversicherung). Not all landlords ask for this, but this is simply an insurance that covers damages that are your own fault. There are a million different providers; you usually can ask for it online and they cost around €50 per year.
If you’re a non-European, you’ll need to get a health insurance, as this is mandatory in Germany. If you come from a foreign country within the EU and have a private insurance in your home country, this will also be valid for your Erasmus in Germany.
And remember, when you’re packing, make sure you can still fit a great deal of patience in your luggage. You’ll need it. But don’t fret! Make sure to check out our other articles about Berlin, like this one with some random facts about the city, and start packing!
Now that you know everything you need before moving to Germany, it’s time to find your next home! That’s the easy part. Whether you’re going to Berlin, Cologne, Munich or another city, Uniplaces is here to help you.
Thanks for reading this post!
Have any funny stories about German bureaucracy? Let us know in the comments. And remember: if you need student accommodation, you’ll find the perfect student home on Uniplaces.