While making costly mistakes when renting apartments is a common occurrence anywhere, it is especially distressing when you are temporarily living in a foreign country. It makes you feel as if you have been taken advantage of, which you have. However, many of these mistakes are easily avoidable with proper planning and research.
Before You Sign a Contract – Before signing any contract with a prospective landlord in Germany, make sure you know exactly what you are getting, what services the landlord will supply, and what the landlord expects you to be responsible for. All of this should become a part of the contract.
Inspection of the Apartment“ Enough can never be said about inspecting the premises where you will be living. Every scratch, chip, and discoloration has the potential to cost you money. So, what do you do? Make a list, take photos, check bathrooms, electrical outlets, even dirty refrigerators or ovens if included, donâ€™t exclude anything! Insist on this list and the photos becoming an addendum to whatever contract you are required to sign, in order to rent the apartment.
Make sure that You and the Landlord are on the Same Page“ Landlords will sometimes expect you to pay additional fees when it comes to snow removal, cleaning of public spaces in your building, heating and kitchen furnishings, among others. Get everything in writing and ask for verification of the actual costs of these services.
Moving Out Expenses“ If you are to be responsible for repainting, carpet cleaning or any other repairs or cleaning when it is time for you to move out, this needs to be stated in your contract. Never try to do these tasks yourself or hire anyone else to do them. All the landlord has to say is that the changes are unacceptable, and then he can make you pay to have them redone, in effect costing you double. This means your deposit goes right out the window and perhaps even more.
Never Sign a Contract that You do not Understand or Cannot Read“ If your employer does not have a company attorney to assist you, then it would be well worth whatever small charge a local lawyer would expect for interpreting your rental contract for you. This is a far cheaper option than finding yourself paying for items, repairs or cleaning out of your own pocket.
Rental Kitchens or Furnishings“ If you are renting an unfurnished apartment, or an apartment without kitchen furnishings, and you will be renting the items that you need, then make sure to provide your landlord with a list of items and a copy of the rental contract, so that it can become a part of your apartment rental contract. This avoids disputes over property when your time comes to leave. If you should need rental furnishings or kitchens, contact Furniture Leasing Corporation. They can provide brand name, modern furnishings and appliances at competitive prices that can actually make a fully outfitted unfurnished apartment cost you less than a furnished one would.
Signing the Contract and Paying Your Deposit
Once you have everything spelled out for both you and the landlord, and you have agreed on the price, it is time to sign the contract and hand over the deposit amount. The deposit should only be handed over to the landlord at the bank, where there should be a special account for that purpose. This account should require signatures from both you and the landlord in order to deposit or withdraw the money from the account. Landlords should never place your deposit in their personal accounts. If you allow this, then you will have no legal recourse to have your deposit refunded, and no lawyer can help you recoup your losses. In Germany, the purpose of the deposit is to insure you against damage to the apartment, and cleaning fees when you move out. These are balanced against the deposit amount and you are refunded the difference. You are also entitled to any interest earned on the money while it is held in the account.
Remember that heat is not often included in your rental fees, even though electricity and water sometimes may be.
If you rent an apartment where telephone and DSL for internet are included, you can expect to pay substantially more for the apartment. Most apartments do not offer this option anyway, so take into consideration the cost of these services.
On another note, when you rent in the center of a German city, there are WiFi hotspots where you can access internet free of charge. Research this option before renting. It is better to rent an apartment where these services are included, because they, and their attendant hassles will be the landlord™s responsibility rather than yours.
If your employer is willing to hold the rental contract in their name, let them! This releases you from responsibility for deposits and damages.
While it is unusual, if you have paid attention and made sure to take care of all these details in writing, and a dispute arises regardless of your precautions, then you will have a legitimate claim in court. If you have not paid attention to the details, then you will have no recourse whatsoever in Germany.